Dr. Laura Cruz

She walks into class, and the students sit back and think, “What will she do today? Will she be dressed up like a clown? Will she play a song? Will she bring in a pet rabbit? How will she surprise us?” Dr. Cruz is an assistant professor in the history department. With a master’s degree from Purdue, and her doctorates in European history from the University of California Berkeley, Dr. Cruz is an eccentric professor with a creative way of teaching. She specialized in Dutch history but very rarely gets a chance to show off her knowledge of the Netherlands. Dr. Cruz came to Western Carolina University because she wanted to teach at a public school. Being a product of the public school system herself, she felt it was important to contribute to the system. She was attracted to the small classroom sizes and the intimate atmosphere that Western provided. She teaches a variety of classes ranging from 18th Century Europe to the History of Capitalism to the History of Death and Dying. And when taking her class, a student can always look forward to learning things in a new and interesting way. Dr. Cruz emphasizes the use of finding new methods of learning that will “stick” in your mind. She looks for new ways to look at a history that’s already been extensively explored.”There is always a sticking point,” she explained. “There is always something that you can remember, something that makes it sticky.” She pushes her students to look at things in a new way and come up with original thoughts on their own. She does this partly with the use of unique learning tools. She has been known to dress up as a clown to make a point about serial killers. She brings animals into the classroom to question the change in human thought. She uses movies like Lord of the Rings to show techniques used in warfare. And there is almost always a song that relates to the subject she is teaching. She tries to use as many different techniques as possible to make sure her students remember her class, making her one of the most original and unique professors on campus. Even though her classes are original, they aren’t easy. Dr. Cruz wants her students to analyze history and explore it. She expects her students to come up with new ideas and argue for them. She explained, “There are no right answers in history. You can argue for anything.” Students who take her classes know that they must back up everything they say with proof in order to do well. Dr. Cruz stays busy not only with her work in the classroom but with her work for the university, as well. She is the assistant director of the Coulter Faculty Center where she helps teach others how to teach more effectively. Dr. Cruz’s passion is in coming up with new strategies and tactics for getting people to learn. And she spends a lot of time looking into new methods of teaching and helping other teachers do the same thing. She is also very active in helping out students. She sponsors students and encourages them to try new things. She is very involved in student life and helping the school create a better atmosphere for its students. Dr. Cruz’s creative style of teaching makes her a very popular teacher in the History Department as well as on campus. Students come out of her class learning not only history, but new ways to examine it. Her knowledge and personality make her a professor that many people want to take again, and again, and again.