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Edie Sparks

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education & Associate Professor of History


Phone: 209.946.2323


Wendell Phillips Center 220


PhD, History, University of California at Los Angeles, 2000

MA, History, University of California at Los Angeles, 1996

BA, English Literature, University of California at Berkeley, 1991

Curriculum Vitae 

Teaching Philosophy

I believe that good teaching is about creating opportunities for discovery.  It is about pushing students to explore themselves, their beliefs, their ideas, and their capacities while investigating a particular subject.  I believe that well-designed courses and thoughtfully presented classroom material engages students in solving problems, asking questions, forming opinions, imagining situations, debating actions, creating arguments, and thinking independently.  Facilitating this kind of learning rather than simply delivering knowledge about a particular subject is what I strive to do in my courses.

In U.S. history courses, one of the challenges to accomplishing such an inquiry-based model of learning is that many students are uncomfortable with the destabilizing idea that history is interpretation and that they should be able to form an opinion about history when they feel they know so little.  I overcome these obstacles by engaging students' imaginations, putting them "on the ground" with or "in the shoes" of the people we are studying.

To accomplish this, I have created re-enactments of the past and role playing activities using court cases and demographic data, used original historical documents such as census data, photographs, songs, and letters, asked students to prepare individual and group presentations analyzing and responding to primary sources, examined the text of laws and speeches to reveal ideals and expectations of the past, assigned provocative questions about course reading material including its present-day relevance, and simulated debates using present-day materials to encourage students to historicize current events. 

To really understand how history is created, students need to understand how it is practiced.  The best way to accomplish this is through original research assignments.  In most of my courses I create assignments that ask students to utilize archival material to come to their own conclusions about the past.  In many courses I have successfully connected such assignments to local resources.  These projects have included engaging students in conducting oral history interviews with Japanese American residents of Stockton forced into relocation camps during WWII.  Or researching historical buildings of Stockton and presenting their findings to the community.  In my spring 2015 Women and War course, students will prepare "Site Bulletins" addressing research questions developed by the ranger at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park (in nearby Richmond, California) which the park staff will actually use to inform their tours and exhibits for visitors.  Such projects engage students in meaningful historical research with relevance to the world in which they live at the same time that they foster content learning.  I strive to make such connections in the classroom and in my courses as much as possible. 

In the study of U.S. History, in particular, I believe that students must engage questions about nation, patriotism, civic responsibility, and collective memory.  As the authors of History on Trial: Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past (1997) submit: "the past we choose to remember defines in large measure our national character, transmits the values and self-images we hold dear, and preserves the events, glorious and shameful, extraordinary and mundane, that constitute our legacy from the past and inspire our hopes for the future."  Thus, I approach the study of American history as a lesson for the present and the future as well as an examination of the past.

Scholarly Interests

My special area of interest is the history of women in business in the United States.  Related areas of interest include women and the law, women and family and women and work more generally.  The history of women in California is also an area of interest as both site and subject of research. Why women in business?  For me, the key questions are what drives women to entrepreneurial enterprise, why and how do they pursue it and what obstacles have they faced?  These are fascinating questions to ask about businesswomen even today, as popular books such as Sheryl Sandberg's 2014 book Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead highlights.  When applying them to the past, the questions reveal the ways in which a variety of women sought innovative ways to extend their spheres of opportunity and influence in the face of trenchant gendered restrictions on how and where they worked and what they did.  


History 20: U.S. History I
History 65: Women and War
History 135: Women in Time & Place-Contemporary Women's Issues in Historical Perspective
History 160: Senior History Research Seminar (Capstone)
History 1: Chair's Seminar
History 93: What will you do with THAT major?
Pacific Seminar I (required freshmen seminar)
Pacific Seminar III (required seminar for seniors)
I have also taught:
Intro to Gender Studies
U.S. Women's History
Immigration History
U. S. History II
History of Women in Business
Mentor II (precursor to Pacific Seminar II)