Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Amber Handy

Photo by Braxton Maclean

Photo by Braxton Maclean

Chris Richardson


Dr. Amber Handy, an assistant professor of history, discusses her passion for teaching, which she says led to her new position at The W. The university has just started a new Center for Teaching and Learning, and she is the center's director.

Q: Where are you from?
A: "Well, I'm actually not from Mississippi, if you can guess it from my accent. I grew up in the Midwest, in Michigan and Wisconsin. I spent a few years in Massachusetts for my own undergrad, and then I actually lived in Ireland for a couple years when I started graduate school." 

Q: How did you hear about The W?
A: "This is actually the first job I got after I finished my Ph.D. So I got that from the University of Notre Dame and applied for a job that [The W] had advertised, and I came down here, and I really loved the mission, really loved the campus, really loved the faculty that I met, and I've been here ever since."

Q: What is your new position on campus?
A: "My new job is that I am the director for the Center for Teaching and Learning."

Q: What do you like most about this campus?
A: "You know, I think probably the best thing about this campus is how you can get things done so quickly, which has to do with how friendly everybody is and has to do with how open they are to ideas. It's - it's kind of insane that this is my fifth year on campus. I came here four years ago and was hired to do this job, and this center is something that I started advocating for [during] my second year on campus. I led a few committees and pushed this way and that way, and got involved in things, and lo-and-behold, not only did they create the Center, but they put me in charge of it. That doesn't happen at most universities.

"And you know, the fact that it happens here is a testament to the fact that we listen to ideas that come from within and that we have a fantastic faculty that are doing wonderful things all over this campus. I know I'm relying on them for this - the Center - and we just need to give them a chance to share that and give them some more resources, and I'm really excited to see what's going to happen now that we have this resource available for them."

Q: What legacy do you plan on leaving here?
A: "Wow... um, that's a big question. Uh, it's hard to think about legacy. And legacy just took on a whole new - I have a four-month-old daughter. I just had a baby, so nothing like doing new things, too, all at the same time, right? So legacy has taken on a whole new shade to me of meaning these days. I guess, as a historian, I am always interested in seeing how things change and seeing the trajectory of change over time and how things developed, so what I would really like to see is a combination of things. I'd like to be remembered for teaching. You know, I love teaching. I just actually was really honored - the faculty just elected me [to be] the Mississippi Humanity Council's Teacher of the Year for The W, so that was really kind of them. That's always been my first love, which is why I'm doing the Center, because teaching is so important. And pedagogy and learning - pedagogy is the study of teaching and how people learn - is so valuable, and I think that this campus is so unique in Mississippi, in terms of the dedicated faculty we have, the make-up of our student body, the mission that we've always had for helping to serve people who are usually under-served by college educations and really making a difference.

"And I'd like to see that continue to grow and shape and develop. I'd like to do more study-abroad trips. I'd like to, you know, get some more funding into faculty hands so people can do - people are proposing such amazing ideas, and I don't have enough money to give them, so I want more money, so I can give them more things, so they can do more good things for all of the students. Yeah, I would just like that, when I leave The W - whenever that is - many, many years from now, I would like to see this center be something that people just take for granted."