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AQ History Alumnus Receives “Dream Job” at University of Alabama Birmingham

“I love learning the history of my environment, and keeping up-to-date as a citizen,” said Andrew Demshuk ’02, Aquinas alumnus and avid learner of history and the German language. Recently, Demshuk was appointed as assistant professor of German history at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In the fall of 2011, he will begin teaching “Western Civilization Since 1648” and a master’s course on genocide and ethnic cleansing in twentieth-century Europe. As a passionate learner and researcher, he looks forward to sharing the fruits of over a decade of education, which began at Aquinas in the fall of 1998.

A Coldwater, Mich. native who spent the majority of his high school career in Lansing, Demshuk made the trip across state to Aquinas for many reasons. “I was drawn to Aquinas’ strong interest in liberal arts education, the small class sizes, its Dominican heritage, and, of course, the trees!” he said. As Demshuk began his education, he quickly gained an interest in both science and history. “I simply relished the three required science core classes,” he said. However, his long-held passion for history soon became his primary focus as he declared a history major at the end of his sophomore year.

By the time Demshuk had earned junior status, he had also gained an interest in writing and German and was heavily involved in a myriad of campus activities including the presidency of Phi Alpha Theta; the history honors society, the history club, the medieval banquet, the Insignis Honors Program, and the Model United Nations. In addition to his classes and extracurricular activities, Demshuk also held part time positions from sacristan and security lock-up at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish to archivist assistant to Sr. Jean Milhaupt, O.P. He also had the opportunity to spend a summer in Tübingen, where he solidified his interest in German history.

“Every important event in European history had some influence in Germany, or emanated from there,” said Demshuk. His passion for travel also grew as he explored the unique topography of the country by bicycle. “In Germany, I bicycled from Tübingen to the sources of the Neckar and Danube rivers, then made my way to a sleepy Hohenzollern town named Sigmaringen. I also biked to Stuttgart, as well as various castles and cathedrals.”

Amidst his extracurricular activities, part-time work, and travel, his interest in both history and higher education grew. With the assistance of Dr. Chad Gunnoe, Provost, Dean of Faculty, and Professor of History, Demshuk served as a student representative for the Aquinas Historical Association at the Central Michigan University Phi Alpha Theta conference in the spring of 2002. At this and other events, he learned more about university administrative processes and focused on his future goals.

“I greatly expanded my abilities as a critical researcher and writer of historical essays,” said Demshuk. “By my senior year, I was convinced that I wished to follow an academic path and become an historian at a university.”

After graduation from Aquinas in 2002, Demshuk pursued his master’s degree at Marquette University and later, his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois. During his dissertation research abroad, he continued to pursue his love for biking along the Lahn, Rhine, and Elbe rivers in Germany.

As he prepares for his new position at UAB this fall, he is excited to share his extensive knowledge of modern German history obtained through research, travel, and a commitment to the classroom. “After 12 years of post-secondary education and two grueling years in a terrible job market, those stars have aligned,” said Demshuk. “I will be accepting my dream job where, I hope, I can inspire and equip students as my mentors in history have equipped and inspired me.”