Thursday, May 23

History: the apple of this professor’s eye


Tuesday, April 9, 1996

Joyce Appleby’s sees study of past events as window to societyBy
Karen Duryea

Daily Bruin Staff

History Professor Joyce Appleby recently recalled her first day
as an assistant professor at San Diego State University in
1967.

The then 37-year-old Appleby was a 1950 Stanford graduate, and
had continued her studies in history to obtain her masters and
doctorate degrees at UC Santa Barbara and Claremont Graduate
School, respectively.

"There was such a difference between women and men then,"
Appleby recalled. "Now there isn’t that divide."

When she was hired in the late ’60s, Appleby was one of three
women on the history staff at San Diego State. She considered
herself "bold" at the time, breaking free from the examples her
sister and mother had set by choosing to become housewives. Appleby
felt the need to be heard in a male-dominated society.

"At the first faculty meeting, I remember seeing all of these
pant legs, and thinking, whatever happens, I have to speak up at
this meeting," Appleby said.

Appleby was heard, and was promoted to associate professor and
eventually professor of history at the university within only seven
years. Appleby then accepted a position at UCLA in 1981 and has
taught various history courses ranging from introductory to
graduate classes.

Despite her natural talent for writing, which landed her a
reporting position at both The Pasadena Star News and Mademoiselle
magazine , the birth of her first child convinced her that
journalism wasn’t for her.

"I realized it was incompatible with a family," Appleby said.
For this reason, she was led back to her interest in history.

"Studying history is a way of studying society … how decisions
are made," Appleby said, claiming that literature, art and politics
all interact when studying past societies.

She became very involved in teaching, which she claimed is very
compatible with her personality.

"If you like your field and you like to think, it is very
intellectually satisfying," Appleby said.

During her career, Appleby has studied such topics as the
emergence of a new kind of human nature in the 18th century and the
origins of American social thought. Appleby took these thoughts and
research and applied her writing skills, eventually authoring and
editing five books.

Her first book, "Economic Thought and Ideology in 17th-Century
England," was published in 1978 and won the Bershire Prize. Her
most recent book is titled "Knowledge and Postmodernism in
Historical Perspective," which Appleby edited along with others and
published in 1995.

First-year psychology student Tina Ying read Appleby’s book for
the history course titled the same name. Although she isn’t
majoring in history, Ying said the book provided her with a better
understanding of both history and philosophy.

"I’ve never been interested in history, but I was actually
intrigued by her writing," Ying said.

Ying has yet to take one of Appleby’s courses, but said that she
plans on it in the future. She recalls one time when Appleby
visited her class last quarter.

"I’m not kidding, it was like you could feel an air of knowledge
breathing through the room," Ying said.

Third-year history student Andrea Martinez remarked that she
also has a great deal of respect for Appleby.

"She’s definitely at the top of her field," Martinez said.
"She’s renowned not only for her knowledge in American history, but
also for her work in facilitating students’ minds and
thinking."

In addition to her long list of almost 40 publications, Appleby
has been an active member on 49 committees, some within and
surrounding UCLA.

As a member of the Undergraduate Council, and the Senate’s
Subcommittee on Innovations and Long-range Planning, Appleby is
involved in evaluating the quality and intellectual life out of
class at UCLA.

The committee’s goal is to determine whether or not students are
taking advantage of recreational activities the university offers
to supplement education, such as guest lectures, or becoming
involved in social issues. The committee is also attempting to
discover whether or not UCLA provides enough of these activities
for its students.

Among other things, Appleby has been a member of the Council of
the Smithsonian Institution, The National Council for History
Standards, and more locally, the Ad Hoc Committee on landscaping,
which serves as a watchdog over plans to urbanize the campus.

The committee’s most recent influence helped shape the
landscaping in front of the Public Policy Building. The plan was
revamped to accommodate more landscaping rather than the proposed
cement plaza.

When asked how she manages all these activities, in addition to
her work as a professor, Appleby replied, "I just make the
time."

In her 15 years as a professor at UCLA, during which she took a
year off to be a Harmsworth Professor of American History at Oxford
University and guest lecturer at New York University, Appleby has
noticed many changes that she says the average student may not
notice.

"The university was diverse (in the past)," Appleby recalled.
"Now, there is a great deal more interaction and informality."

Several students at UCLA have approached Appleby with complaints
that ethnic groups are exclusive, and that there is minimal
interaction across racial barriers. Appleby recalled holding office
hours three years ago in which no matter what subject was
discussed, it would ultimately trickle down to an issue of ethnic
relations.

"There are a lot of people for or against it, but there is a
tremendous amount of interest," Appleby said.

But Appleby said she has noticed a gradual relaxation in race
relations over the years. The ease in the way members of different
racial groups speak to one another is a change, in Appleby’s
opinion.

"Before, students with dramatically different backgrounds were
very stiff with each other. It’s been a very impressive but very
subtle change," Appleby said.

Despite the rise in interest in ethnic diversity, Appleby has
noticed a decline of student involvement and interest in politics.
She said very few of the recent rallies, with the exception of
recent efforts against affirmative action, have drawn together the
large groups that once formed in an enormous rally to end
apartheid.

Appleby encouraged students to take part in social issues and
extracurricular activities that students gravitate toward.

"Here, you are away from your parents, and can make decisions
and find out who you are," Appleby said. "It’s a wonderful
smorgasbord of ideas to sample."

FRED HE/Daily Bruin

Professor Joyce Appleby has been teaching history at UCLA since
1981.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.