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Faculty in Focus: Kevin Mummey

Visiting Assistant Professor of History Kevin Mummey has been part of the St. Olaf community for two years. Before arriving on the Hill, he studied history at San Francisco State University, and received his doctorate from the University of Minnesota where he taught history as a graduate student and also worked in admissions.

Before studying at San Francisco State University, Professor Mummey spent much of his time working as a professional musician.

While performing in California, Mummey found that he had a lot of down time as a traveling musician. In his free time, he often read history books from nearby university libraries; he would find out what books different history courses were currently reading and he would begin reading them as well. After meeting his current life partner, Mummey was encouraged to attend college, where he took a medieval European history course. The professor of this course has since become a great mentor for Mummey. At a point between his decision to go to college and his decision to become a dad, Mummey felt it was best to pursue a steadier profession and decided to become a college professor.

Mummey has taught seven courses at St. Olaf, including Arthur’s Britain, Gender in Medieval Europe and Medieval Synthesis, a part of the Great Conversation program. Of the seven courses he teaches, he affirmed that Arthur’s Britain, which is a hybrid film and reading course, has been his favorite to teach thus far.

While Mummey enjoys teaching interim courses such as Arthur’s Britain and Great Con, he likes semester-long courses even more. One of Mummey’s goals is to create a community within the classroom, which he has found difficult to do over the interim period.

Besides the obvious size difference between the University of Minnesota and St. Olaf, Mummey thinks that students at St. Olaf are much more attuned to performance of all sorts and are more comfortable with the idea of performance in general.

“I never had classes before where people were not shy about getting up and acting or singing to convey their point to the class,” Mummey said. What has stood out most to Mummey about St. Olaf is the flexibility of its students. He has found that most students here embrace nontraditional activities and classroom settings. This willingness to try new things allows him to take risks in the classroom, something for which he is very grateful.

“I am able to try things here that I most likely couldn’t try at any other college campus,” Mummey said. He also appreciates the encouragement he receives from the history department to take these risks.

One of his most memorable experiences at St. Olaf was when the Great Con students set up a Greek play festival.

“I was amazed at how well the students were able to act out the plays. It was something that would only happen at St. Olaf and it was really striking to see the kinds of ideas students came up with for the plays.”

Something that sets Professor Mummey apart from most other professors is his teaching style. Rather than lecturing in front of the classroom, Mummey allows his students to teach the class. Student-led discussions are a major aspect of each class period. This has not always been the way Mummey has taught classes, however.

“It took me a while to figure it out, but now I know that all students should start acting like teachers,” Mummey said.

Mummey said that he unfortunately has not had the chance to participate in many non-academic activities at St. Olaf. However, when he is not on the Hill, Mummey said his favorite activity in the entire world is being a dad. He also enjoys being the goalie for his soccer team and performing in a band with a fellow St. Olaf faculty member.

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