Karl Brown is an Assistant Professor of History at UW-Whitewater
What’s your educational background?
I got a PhD in Modern European History from the University of Texas in Austin. Prior to that I went to Lawrence University. I graduated in 1994 with a BA in History and a lot of work in the Russian Language.
What courses do you teach here?
I teach a lot of GenEd 120- Historical Perspectives. I also do a couple of courses on this History of Europe, like a History of Russia this semester. I’m teaching a course in the Film Studies minor next fall on Russian Cinema, and I do a course on the History of Beer that is strangely popular. I’m probably teaching that next spring.
What are your research interests?
My research is on everyday crime in early Communist Hungary. Scholars tend to look at the statistics for crime, which are significant for the population, and see it as a straightforward example of state oppression. What I do is unpack those numbers a little bit more, and look more broadly at what crime tells us about this historical context.
How long have you been teaching?
I came here as a lecturer two years ago, and this is my first year on tenure track.
What inspired you to become a professor?
My dad was a prof, and it just seemed like a really good job. You get to work in an academic environment with other people who are interested in asking and answering questions. I’ve always enjoyed being a student- which is good because being a grad student is 5-8 extra years of that. I’ve also always wanted to study history- since the 6th grade or so.
What’s your favorite part about teaching?
Nowadays I like in my upper-level classes how students tackle a term paper as a substantial portion of work- we scaffold it throughout the semester, so they’re building up to a pretty significant accomplishment on their part. What I’ve found is that I’ve gotten some really good papers, and I can just see these students getting better at the writing process. That’s really rewarding both because they put out a good product, and I’ve had a direct hand in helping them along.
What do you like most about UW-Whitewater?
I love my colleagues. I’ve taught at a number of places, and the departmental politics can be awful. But they aren’t here, and we all get along very, very well. I also like my students a lot. If you don’t like teaching you don’t go into being a university prof. Students here are enthusiastic and willing to do the work. I like being in the classroom- it’s fun teaching. The town of Whitewater is also great.
What are some of your interests outside of teaching?
Outside of teaching I do a lot of home brewing. I actually helped set up a craft brewery here in town- Second Salem, which is doing well. I also enjoy Frisbee golf, playing with my children, and parenting… well most of the time I enjoy that.
What’s your favorite book?
Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus, and Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco.
What is something that your students may be surprised to learn about you?
About me and a lot of other profs here- we’re a lot cooler than you think we are. I have colleagues that have been to Dead shows and some other crazy stuff, I canoed down the Yukon when I was in my 20s.
Who inspires you and why?
I think figures like Ghandi and MLK, and just people who see something wrong and figure out how to change it without causing harm. The whole notion of with the right ideas and right organization, people can take to the streets and make effective and significant changes in their lives.