Bethel recently welcomed its new Vice President of Student Life, Dr. William Washington, who comes to us after having spent many years in leadership roles at Trinity International University. William holds a PhD in higher education from Loyola University Chicago, but his undergraduate major at Trinity College was History! He shared a bit about his interest in history (and history-related travel) at his first chapel address in early September, but was kind enough to answer a few more questions from us.
Growing up I was always intrigued by issues relative to the past. In my early formative years I was amazed by the technology and ingenuity of the Egyptians in building the pyramids, Alexander the Great in conquering portions of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, Socrates and Plato, and the growth and influence of the Roman Empire.
In my high school years American history, specifically the Civil War, became my dominant passion. Abraham Lincoln’s resolution to maintain the Union, coupled with his complex and sometimes controversial political and social journey in freeing African Americans, was also interesting.
We often tell students that you can do almost anything with a History major — but the path from degree to career might have a few turns in it. What was your path from majoring in History to serving as a VP of student development at a Christian university?
I initially thought that because of my interest and love with history I was destined to pursue teaching or perhaps a path in politics. During my collegiate experience my love for history did not wane, but my love for working with college students significantly increased.
I have discovered that my history background has provided a unique perspective on how I serve in my current capacity. History surveys past events, circumstances that impact culture, social norms, and society. In the same way, student affairs professionals utilize these attributes in working with faculty, administrators, students, and other constituents. I have found that my liberal arts education and my degree in history has complemented my student affairs career path and greatly enhanced how I view circumstances and situations.
Team of Rivals, written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, is a book that I’ve read three times. I absolutely love how she took primary and secondary resources to construct her book. I was intrigued with Lincoln’s leadership skills and strategic thinking. Another theme in her book centers on the complexity of the men who served on his cabinet. This has been extremely helpful for me to understand and appreciate the importance of having gifted, talented, and ambitious men and women who serve side-by-side with me. Lincoln was confident and secure in his own skin and abilities and did not allow his ego and insecurities to dissuade him from his ultimate goals.
Historical movie? You’ve guessed it: Lincoln.
And a history site that I have recently visited is the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA.
Thanks again, William! If you’re interested in how a History major can lead to a career in higher education, you might also read our interviews with college librarian Kevin McGrew ’88, student life dean Meloni Rudolph ’94, football coach and admissions counselor Scott Kirchoff ’03, and Bret Hyder ’04, Bethel’s own admissions director.