The work of professional historians isn’t all glitz, glamour and high drama, as fictional accounts such as “The Da Vinci Code” and “The Historian” would lead readers to believe.
“It is interesting work, but it also can be painstakingly slow,” says Christine Worobec, who is among the world’s leading historians of tsarist Russia.
Worobec has conducted pioneering work on women, folklore, peasants, family, social life, religion and even witchcraft in Russia and Ukraine during the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s a labor of love that has required frequent trips to distant countries, poring over centuries-old, hard-to-read handwritten Russian documents and overcoming uncooperative archivists and the bureaucracy of foreign governments.
By sharing her experiences with students, Worobec makes history come alive and piques their interest in cutting-edge scholarship that is sometimes so fresh it hasn’t yet reached the textbooks.
Worobec will discuss ways to incorporate research into the classroom during the inaugural Board of Trustees Professorship Seminar from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 28, in the Capitol Room of the Holmes Student Center.
All are welcome, and refreshments will be served prior to the presentation, titled “Scholarly Witchcraft: Research and Mentoring In and Out of the Classroom.”
Worobec was one of three professors named to the first group of NIU Board of Trustees Professors in 2008. The professorships recognize outstanding faculty, especially those who have earned national or international acclaim for their scholarship and continue to engage students in their research and professional activities.
“I try to give students a glimpse of what it’s like to be a professional historian,” Worobec says. “Students will ask, ‘How much are you paid to do book reviews and write articles?’ When you say, ‘Zero,’ their eyes open wide.”
Worobec retired in August but continues to work on research topics with students and scholars alike. She has written and edited books that have become widely adopted in classrooms across the country and world.
“Throughout her career, Christine Worobec has done an exemplary job of using her own research experiences to engage, captivate and mentor students of history,” NIU Provost Ray Alden said. “We’re thrilled to have her share her talents, experiences and the secrets to her success in this first Board of Trustees Professorship Seminar.”
In addition to being a top scholar and educator, Worobec has mentored countless students and junior faculty — not only at NIU but at universities nationwide.
She and her husband, David Kyvig, a distinguished research professor of history who also recently retired from NIU, frequently opened their DeKalb home to graduate students. Each, in fact, conducted graduate-level seminars from their home this past spring.
“Mentoring takes time and patience,” says Worobec, who previously served as director of graduate studies in the Department of History. “In my field of Russian history, I benefitted from the mentorship of several scholars who were very generous in helping younger faculty members. I feel it is important to carry on that work.”
During her seminar, Worobec also will talk about her latest research project. She was named a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Paris and spent the summer there collaborating with other scholars. The project focuses on the dissemination of the latest research and primary documents on witchcraft among the Eastern Slavs at the dawn of the modern era.