Thom Copeland

Assistant Professor of History

“A liberal arts education is so very important. The challenge of the university is to awaken students from their dogmatic slumber. I believe the social sciences provide an excellent platform to accomplish this.”

When Thom Copeland graduated from Henderson State with a B.S.E. in Social Sciences and started teaching high school history, he realized that the more he taught, the more he wanted to learn.

“Within a few years, I enrolled in Henderson’s Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) program, which proved to be a great fit for me,” Copeland said. “The MLA program really influenced my way of teaching history, and I caught fire in my classroom.”

Citing Copeland’s interdisciplinary approach to teaching history, the Arkansas Association of College History Teachers named him History Teacher of the Year.

Copeland went on to earn his Ph.D. in history at the University of Mississippi.

“While at Ole Miss, I wrote an integrated curriculum that accompanied a documentary film I created on women who grew up in rural Mississippi during the Great Depression,” he said. “The university provided the curriculum and documentary DVD to every secondary history classroom in Mississippi.

“While finishing my dissertation, I was offered a job teaching history at a high school again, and I did some adjunct work at the college level. When the opportunity to teach history and work with the social science education majors at Henderson came my way, I didn’t think twice.”

Copeland joined the Henderson State faculty in 2017 as an assistant professor of history. He also works with most of the university’s social science education majors.

In the classroom, Copeland is passionate about his profession.

“Students don’t need mediocre teachers; they need innovative, passionate teachers. This places a large responsibility on anyone considering or possessing a degree in social science education,” he said. “I really enjoy those moments when I see may students make connections and put the pieces together.

“Teaching at the college level is especially enjoyable because students are being challenged in other classes to think in new ways.”

Copeland said he wants his students to think about complex issues dealing with power, class, identity, gender, race and change.

“When my students take a class discussion in a new direction or bring in a new perspective, the class becomes very organic and exciting,” he said. “I feed off that energy. That’s when the magic happens.”

In his history courses, Copeland promotes thought about continuity and change over time.

“We use historical evidence to develop arguments about the past,” he said. “I want my students to develop the skills to locate and evaluate a wide variety of historical sources.

“I want them to leave my class with the ability to think critically about sources of information, to support a particular position with evidence, and to communicate that position effectively. Most of all, I want my students to welcome diversity and appreciate the discourse it brings.”

Copeland said he didn’t “fall in love” with history until he took a history course as a general education requirement while attending Henderson.

“A history degree is much more versatile than people often think, but I knew I wanted to teach,” he said. “The B.S.E. in Social Sciences I earned from Henderson was the best way to achieve that goal.”

When asked what he would likely be doing if he wasn’t teaching, Copeland said: “Teaching is a part of my identity; it is embedded in my DNA. I cannot separate myself from being a teacher any more than I can cut myself in half.”

When he’s away from the classroom, Copeland enjoys playing disc golf.

“Years ago, when I was more active in the sport, I competed in a number of Southern National and professional tournaments,” he said. “Now, however, I just play recreationally – as often as I can.”

When traveling, Copeland says he takes a bag of discs with him “in hopes of getting the chance to sling plastic somewhere new.

“But I’m still waiting on my first hole-in-one to happen.”

Social Sciences

Contact Info:

Degree and School:
Ph.D., History, University of Mississippi

- Southern History
- Arkansas History
- Women's History
- Oral History

I've been at Henderson since: