Thomas Velek is a professor of History and director of the Ina E. Gordy Honors College. He holds two doctorate degrees in law and modern educational history and a masters in international affairs.
Q: How long have you been at the W? Also, how long have you been head of the [Ina E. Gordy] Honors College?
A: “Seventeen years… I think it was 2009 I became head of it. I’m starting my sixth year.”
Q: What made you choose Columbus and the W?
A: “I wanted a smaller school. I applied for big schools, but there was a preference for smaller schools. I got two interviews in the same month. I go to New Hampshire, and the second day I’m there, there’s this snowstorm, and they actually have to cut my interview short and emergency drive me from New Hampshire down to Boston because they were afraid the roads were going to close. I’d be stuck there, and I’d miss my flight and everything, and I’d just spent one winter in Minsk. So I come down here the second week in March and it was beautiful! No one told me what summer was like. So part of it was this was a history position, and I really wanted to teach history. It was a choice between New Hampshire and Mississippi, and Mississippi won.”
Q: Which area of history is your favorite?
A: “I’m a modernist. Most of what I really look at and do is 20th century.”
Q: What made you want to start teaching history?
A: “For me, history was always important because it allowed people to better understand the situation that they’re in. Without understanding that situation that they’re in and how they got to that point, they can’t really make good decisions about ‘what do I do now?’ History is also a very flexible degree. For me, history has always been a degree that if you do it and do it well, and you have those basic talents that go with it. There’s a whole lot of stuff that you can do.”
Q: Do you have anything to say for students who might be burned out or for new students who may be overwhelmed?