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FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: David Perry

Release Date:
2/8/2012 10:24 AM
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University of New Haven: David PerryHow long have you taught at UNH, and what courses do you teach?

I started teaching at UNH in 2001 as an adjunct while I was still a public high school principal. When I retired in 2006, I came to UNH as a practitioner-in-residence. At that time, I was only teaching graduate education courses. However, my lifelong passion has always been history. So, in 2006, I began teaching U.S. History and Western Civilization. One of the interesting and most productive approaches to teaching and learning at UNH has been the new Living/Learning Communities initiative. I am one of the founding members of a program that teams two professors from different departments to teach their courses after establishing common objectives and goals. For example, I am always teamed with a member of the English department. We teach our courses separately, but collaborate to establish a common theme and goals for our courses.  As a history professor, this allows me to draw on the writing skills of the English department who then work with our students to write better research papers.  Beyond this, I have taught courses in World War II, French and Art History in France and England during the summer. This program is now taught on the graduate level, and we work in school systems in France, England, and the Netherlands. 

What is your educational background?

I have a B.A. in history from UConn and a doctorate in Education Administration from Columbia University, Teachers College.  In between, I started a Masters program at Trinity College in Hartford, and finished the degree at Hofstra on Long Island when I moved to New York.  Professionally, I was a private school headmaster for thirteen years and a public high school principal for twenty-one years.  Throughout my career in administration, I always knew that I wanted to finish my career in the classroom. 

How would you describe your role as an advisor and mentor?

As a mentor and teacher, I tell my students that what they learn in my classes can be applied to any program here at UNH and ultimately to a successful professional career. I try to make history fun and exciting. I also tell them that the history they are learning is really just a vehicle to learn the analytical skills they will need to be able to write a good history research paper. For example, students learn that the reasoning and critical thinking skills needed to take a position and write a research  paper on the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 are the same skills that will enable them to analyze complex issues in their professional lives and make good decisions for themselves.

What are some fun facts about you?

I’m basically a “history nut” who enjoys every time period and every battle fought from the Spanish Armada to the present day. However,  as a high school principal, I was selected as the U.S. representative of an international team of educators commissioned to evaluate  school systems in Russia and many of the Russian republics. I evaluated teachers and their programs from Siberia to Crimea and everywhere in between.  I made friends with a Russian high school principal, and we developed a joint project between our schools that ran for many years.  In May 2012, I will be taking my fifth group of UNH students to Europe for three weeks to study the delivery of special education services there.  Our base of operations, our “campus” is a 16th-century French chateau in Dieppe, France. Historically, I am an American historian specializing in the Civil War. I have been interviewed on National Public Radio and the Academic Minute on WAMC New York. I have recently published three academic journal articles on Abraham Lincoln, and am now involved in a book project on the foreign policy of the Lincoln administration. In July, I participated in a Civil War reenactment in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Great fun! 

What advice would you give to parents of prospective students?

I would tell parents that UNH is very unique because it takes advantage of its small size. Students aren’t numbers here.  I am always amazed and still surprised that the students here are so well known to their professors. Classes are generally small, and professors have the opportunity to get to know their students and their individual academic needs. This is not true of all colleges and universities.  As a high school principal, none of my staff knew the names of all of the students.  At UNH, I always have the feeling and perception that the students here are the first priority. I would tell parents that there are many unique programs designed to ensure a successful learning and residential experience here at the University of New Haven.