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Rebecca Jacobs-Pollez

Instructor, History
Murray State College, Tishomingo and Ardmore, Oklahoma



Studying history is like travelling through time (minus the smells, which is probably good). Historians study everything associated with people!! History helps us understand why people did what they did and what results came from their decisions. Basically, why is the world the way it is today? And since people are often exceedingly strange, historians get to delve into the most fascinating issues. History is just plain cool!!! The only bad part is that there is so VERY much that is interesting and I won’t live long enough to study it all. Quite distressing.

Contact Information:
105B Hall Classroom Building

History Student Handbook.pdf

Biography and Other Information:

I was born in St. Louis, Missouri and immediately began traveling the world. Because my father was a member of the US Air Force, our family moved regularly, lived in several states, as well as France, and Spain. I owe an immense debt of gratitude to my parents who believed that since we lived in another country, we were obligated to respect the history and culture of that country. Many weekends we traveled to various sites surrounding the base where we lived. As a child in France I was awed by the beauty and grandeur of medieval gothic architecture, which led me to study medieval history as a woman d'un certain âge. One of my fondest childhood memories is dancing in in a pool of brilliant colors created by the sunlight flowing through the stained glass windows in one of the first medieval churches I ever visited, in Beaugency, France. As the colors covered me, I felt like I was a part of the church. Much later I learned about the powerful medieval women Eleanor of Aquitaine and Joan of Arc and the importance of Beaugency to their lives.

Because I was good in math and sciences in high school, I was directed toward an engineering degree, rather than the history or archaeology degree I wanted to pursue. As a college junior I took what I expected to be a temporary position in Houston as a programmer to help pay for school. It turned into a nearly thirty-year career. I contributed to the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station programs as a contractor for the Johnson Space Agency (JSC), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). I have written code (software) for the Shuttle Mission Simulator (SMS) and helped design the maintenance and operations systems for the Space Station Training Facility (SSTF). The SMS was the most high-fidelity simulator and was used to the train Shuttle crews in system interactions. (At NASA you can’t say an entire sentence without using an acronym.) My last job at JSC was in the procedures office. Space vehicles are too complex for any single person to memorize all the operations so procedures provide the crew and flight controllers the instructions needed to accomplish various tasks. Procedures can also be validated using the simulators to make sure they work properly.

I have a BS in Mathematics and an MA in history, both from the University of Houston – Clear Lake (UHCL). In 2012, I earned a Ph.D in History from the University of Missouri, Columbia. I have been extremely fortunate in my academic advisors. Dr. Angela Howard at UHCL, first my instructor and now my friend, convinced me that an engineer could also be a historian. My PhD advisor was Dr. Lois Huneycutt, whose advisor was Dr. Warren Hollister. Dr. Huneycutt is an amazing advisor, mentor and friend. And through her I am the academic grandchild of one of the greatest medieval historians.

My Master’s thesis documented the history of the eclectic Houston monument that Jeff McKissack built to honor the orange: The Orange Show ( My dissertation examined Vincent of Beauvais’ guidelines for women’s education in the context of political changes in France. I was fortunate to receive grants to travel to Paris, France and Brugge (Bruges), Belgium (, in Flemish) and examine manuscript copies of Vincent’s work (fourteenth-century manuscripts – cool!). While in Paris, I visited Royaumont (, in French), a monastery founded in about 1228 by King Louis IX (St. Louis), who invited Vincent to live there. While I have literally walked in Vincent’s footsteps, I have no plans to write the world’s largest encyclopedia, as he did in the thirteenth century. My current research examines late medieval women’s education, women and literacy, as well as the theory and practice of medieval education. In 2014 I was elected to the Governing Council of the Western Society for French History and as of the Fall of 2015 I became a scholar for the “Let’s Talk about It, Oklahoma” program.

Some of my students have asked how difficult it is to get all those degrees. While it is not easy, and can be stressful, if you love the subject you are studying, it can be pure joy. You can immerse yourself in learning about something that fascinates you and in the case of history, learn all those fun details about people (it can almost be like overhearing gossip from the past). Very few people are privileged enough to do nothing but learn. And my research often requires that I travel, sometimes to fascinating and beautiful places, like Paris. (Thank heavens I had to walk a lot or I would have come back 300 pounds heavier. When I retire I want to take another tour of Paris and eat my way through the city.) I can’t lie, though, getting an advanced degree is a lot of work!!! It normally takes two years to get a master’s degree and then another five to six to get a PhD. If your major is history, you will read and write constantly. Generally you will read a book a week for each of your classes and write the equivalent of a twenty to thirty page paper for each. You will take several exams to determine your competency. The worst are comps (comprehensive exams) that you take right before you start writing your dissertation. But, your advisor will make sure that you are ready for each exam. And the sense of accomplishment at completing each step is a wonderful feeling. Sadly, once you do all that work, getting a job will be difficult and you will not be paid as much as others with a doctorate. Our culture does not put a premium on understanding how we got to where we are today.

I am married to Alain Pollez. We have four furry children: three cats and one dog. I am very grateful to my husband. Without Alain’s willingness to change careers, I would not be here. We like to travel, usually to sites with some historical significance. Since my husband’s family still lives in Belgium we visit there every couple of years. I like to cook, although I’m not very talented, and I am very interested in the history of food and the ways in which food and culture are related. I have a few other hobbies that I have not had time to practice in many years (getting a PhD and teaching keeps one busy), but I hope to return to at some future time. For now, I think I’ll be occupied enough with teaching and restoring the house we purchased in Tishomingo.

Please see my CV (PDF), for details about my degrees, scholarly interests, the courses I teach, etc.

Interesting Websites, mostly History:

Here are a few interesting and reputable history websites, mostly Medieval, in no particular order. Explore them and see what you find that is interesting. Come back to see what new sites I’ve discovered!

And for the adventuresome:

I hope I see you in my class soon! Yes, you will have to study, take tests and write papers, but we do talk about all that the cool and bizarre stuff that people do. And you might learn something fun!