Celebrating 110 years of Student Journalism

Touching Base: Dr. Sabrina Thomas

JOHN WITCZAK ’21 | STAFF WRITER • The Bachelor had the opportunity to sit down with BKT Associate Professor of History, Sabrina Thomas for another segment of ‘Touching Base’.

Q: How long have you been at Wabash?

A: This is my fourth year at Wabash.

Q: What courses do you teach?

A:Currently I teach courses in U.S. history including the survey – HIS 241, 242, 243 and topics classes ranging from The Vietnam War, to the History and Politics of Hip Hop, Sports War and Masculinity, and the History of Mass Incarceration in America.

Q: What drew you to the field of History?

A: I have always been fascinated by history – the factors in our pasts that shape the people we are, the events in national histories that shape nations and governments. My own families history is so diverse and I can see the roots of who I am in the lives of my grandparents and I love that!

Q: What is your favorite historical time period or event and why?

A: I enjoy all history post 1600 basically but my own research focuses on more recent history – the post Second World War era. This period is fascinating for U.S. history as Americans begin to hold themselves accountable by force to the values written into our founding documents: equality, justice, opportunity etc…It’s a period in which black and brown Americans, women, the youth begin to push for access to these rights and also a time in which the resistance to those rights results in more creative ways to take them away, like mass incarceration. This dance between equality and inequality is interesting and is the only way progress ever happens in this country – one step forward and two steps back. We are seeing that again right now.

 

Q: Have you taught anywhere else? If so, how is Wabash different?

A: Yes, I taught at Arizona State University and Middle Tennessee State University before coming to Wabash. Almost everything is different here mainly because both were larger state institutions. My classes at ASU were quite large and I very rarely knew the names of more than 5 of my students in each class.

Because of the size I lectured without much student interaction or discussion. MTSU was a bit smaller but the population catered more to commuters so many students were underprepared or overworked which hindered their ability to really perform in the classroom. I could not really assign the readings or documents at either campus that I can now at Wabash. The investment in education that most of the Wabash students have is incredible and really allows professors to push students (and challenge ourselves) to think at higher levels!

Q: Is there a history-based movie or book that you think Wabash students would enjoy?

A: There are so many good movies these days so this is a tough question.
I tend to use the movie Crash as extra credit in some classes so I would suggest that. Also I think Babel would resonate well and any one of the thousands of films on the Vietnam War – except for Forrest Gump- despite what most students think, it is not historically accurate.

Q: What are some of your hobbies outside of the classroom?

A: I like to work out, binge Netflix/Hulu films, listen to podcasts, go bowling, listen to live jazz, and I ride horses – it really keeps me sane.

Q: What was it like leading the Vietnam immersion trip last semester? What were some highlights?

A: The immersion course was incredible. I really enjoyed leading

the trip- we had a wonderful group of Wabash men who engaged with the class completely and were so interested in learning about Vietnam, the Vietnamese perspective of the war, and the history of the country. I was proud of them every day of the trip.

There are numerous highlights
and I know the visit to the orphanage really affected the students. I think the War Remnants Museum in Saigon
was equally powerful. The Museum exposed the fallacy of America’s strategy to “win the hearts and minds” of the South Vietnamese during the war. The photographs and testimonies of the

civilians injured or killed by our weapons and soldiers were very hard to see and read, as was the evidence of the global protests against the U.S. involvement in the war.

I think for many of our students it was one of the first times they confronted arguments and evidence against America’s moral global superiority, humanitarianism and exceptionalism. While we believe ourselves to always be the good guy, this museum reminded us of the cost of that narrative. The museum gave us perspective on how other countries see us.

Q: If you could have your pick as to where your next immersion trip would be, where would you go and why?

A: I definitely plan to return to Vietnam in the near future and to do that trip better. However, I also hope to lead a trip to Cuba at some point. US-Cuba relations during the 20th century are fascinating and a critical yet undervalued tension within the Cold War.

Q: Other than History, what academic fields are you interested in?

A: I’m interested in lots of things as long as they don’t have numbers or equations. I’m very interested in political science
– which fits well with my own focus on foreign policy and I admire the eloquence of the written word and so English would be another.

Q: Does Crawfordsville have any historical significance you find interesting or that isn’t well known?

A: Yes I think Crawfordsville is very historically significant. Historically it contains all of the social, economic, political tensions that define the entirety of our nation’s history.

Elite education in a rural community. Pro-slavery/Confederacy sentiment amidst an underground network of escaping slaves and a very rooted African American community. Farms and factories surrounding a campus where students

passing of our brother Evan Hansen ’19 as she made herself available to students all across campus and was ready to help wherever she could. This love and compassion that Pittard showed during this difficult time is what makes our College so special and unique.

Pittard shows her love for the traditions of this campus as she
is almost always in attendance at Chapel Talks. She enjoys that the Sphinx Club is able to bring in such a wide array of speakers each week. Pittard would like to see the chapel full each week with students and faculty so we can all partake in this great Wabash tradition together. Through her passion for our College, Pittard truly is some Little Giant.

are prepped for 21st century business. A small town caught within the unstoppable wave of globalization, demographic shifts, and technology. It’s a rather interesting microcosm of larger historical divisions and conflicts and points of unity.

Q: Is there anything one can get out of a study of history that non-professionals may not realize?

A: Yes! The absolute best thing that history teaches is how to think critically and empathetically and to contextualize those thoughts to understand the roots of an idea, event, action, reaction – something that appears to be on the decline in our society – and to write.

The ability to think through an argument, to put that on paper in a coherent, convincing format and to use evidence – actual evidence – to support that argument…is one of the most valuable skills anyone can possess.

I see the absence of this more and more in our everyday discourse and it saddens me. Specifically I am disturbed by those who appear to think critically but fail to use verifiable evidence or to incorporate all of the different perspectives and who miss the empathy boat entirely.

In essence they fail to consider the history. Regardless of the topic – policy, money, society- we are human beings and history reminds us that humans are flawed and humanity is critical to our survival.