By: Alberto Jones
In December students from UC stood on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, where 71 years ago the D-Day invasion occurred.
The honors history course “A Global History of World War II” gave them this opportunity.
The course taught students about the war with emphases on its comprehensive impact not only on the battlefield but also on the intellectual, cultural, and political life of belligerent states. Among the most important of these states were Germany, the Soviet Union, Japan and the United States.
To engage students the seminar included text-based discussions, theater and play acting, debates, art analysis, and other active learning exercises.
The course culminated with a study tour of London, Paris, and Normandy. Here students enjoyed a more personal encounter with locations and artifacts to grasp a better understanding of them.
Dr. Jeff Zalar, assistant professor of Modern German History, taught the course.
According to Zalar, the seminar is important to teach, because The Second World War endures in the minds of contemporaries today.
“The war is alive. Its impact is everywhere, including in popular entertainment. Understanding our world requires a serious academic introduction to the war and its consequences.”
Mikala Stokes, a second-year History major, participated in the course.
“I have always been interested in WWII. Both of my grandfathers served,” said Stokes.
Stokes initially found the seminar to be challenging, but later realized that the knowledge she attained would have an impact.
“From this course, I gained some awareness of mankind’s capacity for both stunning valor and abysmal destruction,” said Stokes.
The study tour was the first time Stokes travelled out of the country. It was significant to her to walk on Omaha Beach.
“This was an awesome and emotional experience, because I got to retrace some of the steps that my grandfather took over 70 years ago. He was part of the Normandy Invasion at the end of WWII,” said Stokes.
Natalie Pfister, whose son Trenton also participated in the seminar, commended Dr. Zalar and the course in a letter to the Director of the University Honors Program.
“Dr. Zalar and this course is a shining example of honors education; a course which leaves a student with deep understanding of a subject,” said Pfister.
Based on her son’s experience, Pfister highly recommends the course.
“The combination of intellectual understanding, along with the experience of visiting the major sites gave our son insight and perspective that comes from high-caliber honors experiences,” said Pfister.
Debbie Brawn, Director of the University Honors Program, also commended Dr. Zalar on his teaching.
The vision of the University Honors Program is that students become global citizen-scholars who lead innovative efforts toward solving the world’s complex problems, according to Brawn.
“The transformational approach that Dr. Zalar takes to teaching brings this vision to life, offering a life-changing learning experience that challenges students to think about themselves as leaders in a global context,” said Brawn.