Beyond the classroom

Getting to know an ASU professor in a new light

By Aubree Bailey
On January 18, 2018

Photo Contributed by Dr. Kathryn Ostrofsky

A Note from the Managing Editor: As you may remember, last semester the Ram Page ran a weekly feature on ASU alumni in the community. In Behind the classroom, an ASU professor will be interviewed each week. E-mail us the name of your favorite professor, and he or she may just be featured!

ASU is the first university Dr. Kathryn Ostrofsky, a professor in the history department has taught at. She currently teaches U.S. History survey classes and occasionally will teach special topics courses. One of her favorite classes to teach is History of Communications and Media, which covers "from Gilgamesh to twitter in the Arab spring," as she puts it.

Upon starting school at Bowdoin College, Ostrofsky originally planned to study political science. "I volunteered for political campaigns and realized that what I actually was interested in is how we got here to this situation, not how it works these days. I was interested ideas about race and racism and how we got to where we are with those because they are different in America from any other countries and are constantly changing. "

After graduating with a degree in history, she began attending the University of Pennsylvania. "I started graduate school doing early modern empires in colonial North America to figure out how race and class and gender ideas that we take for granted today as normal operated then."

However, Ostrofsky’s focus soon changed. "I was doing that for five years then I was home sick from class one day, and I was watching Sesame Street. I realized I wanted to write about Sesame Street and did a whole dissertation on that."

Although that might sound like a radical change, she says it contains the same concepts she was studying before. " It’s some of the same ideas about how people identify themselves and learn about who they are and project who they are to other people."

Ostrofsky is married to another history professor at ASU, Dr. Wongsrichanalai. "I think understanding that schedule helps with compatibility and how everyday life works," she explains.

The couple very much enjoys traveling in their spare time. "It’s good because we go on our Spring Break, or on the way up to see friends and family, we will stop at national parks and historical sites."

One of the places they have recently visited is Poverty Point, where they picked up an artifact shaped like an owl, "This guy is a little owl from Poverty Point-the earliest major civilization in North America- today’s Louisiana. They were an urban hunter-gather society which is really rare," she explained.

Ostrofsky says her favorite part of being a professor is "always learning from all the littles pieces of being a professor. The different pieces of being a professor are teaching, research, and service, but they all help you think about the things you’re interested in from different perspectives."

A piece of historical advice she gives students is to, "think of everything as a primary source. Learn how to analyze and think about every piece of media, every object you own, as a primary source."

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