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The study of history generates compassion, empathy and humility

Arlin stands in front of a campus building and looks down smiling at the camera.According to Whitworth Professor of History Arlin Migliazzo, studying the "hows," "whys" and "whats" of the past helps us better understand the present and our place in it.

"Studying history sharpens students' critical-thinking, reading and communication skills that any employer would value," Migliazzo says, "and it also cultivates the essential ability to appreciate the experiences of other communities separated from us in space and time."

To engage fully in historical study, Migliazzo says students must strive to identify with past cultures as completely as possible, and from as many different viewpoints as possible. "Such cultural identification generates compassion for other times and peoples, empathy for the struggles they faced, and humility for the task at hand—the attempt to make sense of their choices. This does not mean that historians find good in all the decisions humans have made over time, but it does mean that any moral judgment of those from the past must be balanced by a deep recognition of the conditions under which they lived."

Migliazzo notes that, "careful historical study reassures us that although things might look pretty grim in the present, they have also looked that way in the past—and humans survived, even thrived in spite of it all."

The Whitworth History Department offers specialized courses that focus on a wide variety of geographical regions, including Latin America, the United States, Europe and East Asia. The department's professors are dedicated to educating students to develop an historical consciousness that informs their moral vision for civic and global responsibility.

Migliazzo, who has taught at Whitworth for more than 30 years, specializes in modern American history and the colonial South. He has been awarded numerous grants from organizations including the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Fulbright Commission. He holds an M.A. from Northern Arizona University and a Ph.D. from Washington State University.