Written by Craig Schreiner | Photos by Craig Schreiner
In WHY I TEACH, Tony Gulig, an associate professor of history at UW-Whitewater, says his students remind him of himself, 40 years ago. As an undergraduate student at UW-Eau Claire, Gulig met teachers who taught him how to walk the paths of history in someone else’s shoes. He began to see history as complex, divergent paths. As a classroom instructor at UW-Whitewater, Gulig teaches subjects ranging from American Indian studies, Indigenous law, history of film, environmental history, Wisconsin history, Great Lakes tribal history and historical perspectives.
“In all of the courses I teach, I hope to get students to understand the world from the perspectives of others. If they can see how others view the world, it’s my hope that they can grow in empathy and understanding for others. We learn the past not to predict the future, but to understand who we are by understanding from where we’ve come — individually, as a community and as a global people. That knowledge gives us a stronger sense of identity and, in that identity, we can lead lives of service and compassion.”
On a golden fall day on a hill overlooking campus, Gulig, left, teaches with assistant professor Josh Mabie, second-to-left, as students in Gulig’s environmental history course and Mabie’s environmental literature course listen. Gulig and Mabie connect history and literature by reading Aldo Leopold’s “Sand County Almanac” — with the occasional oak leaf floating down around them.
Gulig was one of the architects of the UW-Whitewater Native Lands Acknowledgement Statement, now read at every official university function. The statement acknowledges that, for thousands of years, native peoples were stewards of the land on which the campus now resides. Gulig listens in the audience as the statement is read for the first time on Dec. 5, 2019, at a UW System Board of Regents meeting on the UW-Whitewater campus.
“The most rewarding experiences come from those instances when the students with the narrowest of views and perspectives coming into my classes begin to see that not everyone sees the world as they do. Once in a while I’ll get an email (or better yet an actual letter or card) from a student from some years ago telling me how a class they took changed their mind, opinion or view on some topic. It’s rewarding when students begin to see that there are many perspectives and options — if they can find value in and honor those differences, even if they can’t align themselves with those alternate views, we’ve made progress.”
WHY I TEACH is a series about the dedicated faculty at UW-Whitewater’s two campuses who make every day a teachable moment — and every place a learning place — by their expertise and example.