It was Sam Mitrani's childhood, split between time with his father and mother, that sparked his curiosity about history.
"I lived part-time in Vermont with no running water or electricity with my hippie father, and part-time in New York with my mother," he said. "In New York, I saw rich and poor areas and ways of life, and the racial segregation of that city, while in Vermont I saw the remnants of the counterculture and people with a very different outlook on life. I wanted to know from a young age what caused the differences in wealth, way of life, and attitudes that prevailed in these different places and how they had evolved and changed over time.
"In high school and especially in college, I came to appreciate history as the most satisfying discipline for seeing the human world in its process of constant evolution, to try to understand how and why we got to where we are."
Before coming to College of DuPage, Mitrani taught as an adjunct at the University of Illinois-Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Purdue Calumet, Morton College, Saint Xavier University, and American Public University System. He also worked as an independent researcher at the Center for Labor and Community Research in Chicago and taught SAT and ACT prep at C2, a competitor of Kaplan in Schaumburg.
Mitrani loves being in the classroom, and he enjoys sharing what he's learned and his perspective based upon his own past. Since history is the study of human beings, he is inspired by the ordinary people who have struck out, often at great risk to themselves, to improve their world -- the people who made the American revolution, fought to end slavery, won public education, fought for Social Security and the eight-hour day, and smashed Jim Crow. And Mitrani hopes his students find a similar fascination with these people.
"The most important broad lesson my students can take from my classes is to see history as a process that is still unfolding and that they can play a role in shaping," he said. "Things will not remain as they are, they never do -- though I certainly don't know how they will change. I don't just mean technology, but the broader society, economic structures, political system and culture. Many people take the current world as given, somehow a product of human nature, but if there is one lesson in history, it is that humans have lived in extremely diverse ways, and that human societies are constantly changing, sometimes very slowly, but other times very quickly.
"The more that students are aware of this, the more I hope they will be able to help shape a world they want to live in, rather than simply go along for the ride and see only their narrow, individual horizons."