It's about upsetting what students think. I want to engage students on the level they're on to spur their interest in the topic.

John Enyeart

In his American Identities course, which deals with issues such as race, immigration, naturalization, citizenship and deportation, Professor John Enyeart wants students to come away with a greater understanding of immigration law and the contradictory nature of a nation built on immigration passing immigrant restriction laws.

He also wants them to learn from each other and the different perspectives and backgrounds that they bring into the classroom.

"Each student comes in with a different level of understanding these experiences, from zero to having lived it in the modern time," says Enyeart, a recipient of Bucknell's Presidential Award for Teaching Excellence. "What students take out of a class is going to be different for each of them. I start with trying to challenge them with an awareness of the way things are for others who may not fit the typical demographic of Bucknell students, and foster conversations that will enlighten us all."

Enyeart's own interest in labor, political and immigration history took root during his undergraduate days. He originally planned to pursue economics, but was intrigued by a labor history course that focused on the stories of individuals whose lives were impacted by potential strikes. Those stories resonated with Enyeart, who grew up in the economically depressed, blue-collar town of Youngstown, Ohio, and was a member of the Teamsters union while working his way through college.

"I couldn't believe that I could write about ordinary people. Instead of thinking about strikes in terms of numbers, I could talk about people confronting exploitation in the streets," he recalls. "That was more appealing to me than drawing graphs and charts."

Enyeart remains focused on telling the stories of others. He wrote his first book on the workers of the Rocky Mountain West, who used political activism and protest to foster better working conditions, including the implementation of the standard eight-hour workday. He was awarded a 2018-19 Fulbright grant to Slovenia in relation to another of his books, a biography of 20th-century labor journalist and social justice champion Louis Adamic.

And Enyeart continues to support Bucknell students in research — where he teaches them research methods, as well as the practice and craft of history writing — and in the classroom.

"In some ways, each class is different," he says. "It's about upsetting what students think. I want to engage students on the level they're on to spur their interest in the topic."

Posted September 2018