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Browning receives Duncan Faculty Enrichment and Teaching Fellowship

BOONE—Associate Professor Judkin Browning from the Department of History at Appalachian State University has received the 2014 Wayne D. Duncan Appalachian State University Faculty Enrichment and Teaching Fellowship. The award is presented by Appalachian’s University College.

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The $3,000 fellowship is given to a full-time faculty member in recognition of his or her innovative and successful teaching in the general education program. The fellowship may be used for travel, equipment or other approved purposes for the enhancement of the faculty member’s teaching and/or scholarship or creative activity.

Browning plans to use the award for travel related to his research. A member of the faculty since 2006, he is an expert on military and civil war history and the author of four books, three of which focus on Union occupation of eastern North Carolina. He also has been published in Civil War History, The History Teacher, Journal of Southern History and the North Carolina Historical Review.

He currently is researching the long-term effects of battle on soldiers, families and their communities and compiling research for a book on the environmental history of the civil war. He will co-author the book with Tim Silver, a professor of history at Appalachian.

Browning’s teaching style includes activities to help students become critical thinkers, especially in understanding the different perspectives of historical events. He has students in his American military history class participate in a “wargame,” which takes place on campus in Durham Park, in which the two opposing sides elect officers and develop, refine, prepare for and execute a strategy to defeat their opponent using water balloons as weapons.

Afterward the students write a history of the battle, using journals and other pre- and post-battle correspondence that the students created to help them understand how historians practice their craft.

This approach, according to one nominator, helps students understand all the problems involved in writing military history: different observers see different things; accounts can be biased in favor of one side or the other; each individual has a limited perspective; and one has to read all the sources and look for corroboration among them before deciding what happened.

“History is at its heart a good story, a narrative of a past event, but that narrative can be different depending on what one chooses to include, exclude, emphasize and discount as one tells the story,” Browning wrote in his philosophy of teaching. “I stress that what we think we know about the past changes constantly and that conflicting interpretations of the past shape the present. Therefore I teach students how to be critical of what they read and of the value in only presenting one side of an issue.”