Dr. Stefanie Wichhart sees history in the story of her life.
The associate professor of history at Niagara University has spent 20 years in her academic career and has had a passion for history since her childhood.
“When I went to college, I took a Middle Eastern course and I said to myself, ‘This is what I love,’” says Dr. Wichhart. “I love learning and I want to help other people learn.”
After she earned undergraduate degrees in history and French from SUNY Geneseo, she began graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin. While studying history, Dr. Wichhart chose the Modern Middle East and British Empire as research areas.
During her second year in graduate school, Dr. Wichhart met her future husband, Ryan. After their wedding, Dr. Wichhart needed to go to England for her research. So Ryan quit his job and the newly married couple traveled to England, which opened a lot of opportunities for them.
While Dr. Wichhart was working on her research, Ryan attended cooking school, a longtime dream of his. After one year, Dr. Wicchart’s research brought her and Ryan to Egypt, where they settled in Cairo. Studying Middle East issues there provided Dr. Wichhart with an invaluable base of knowledge and experience.
“We were staying in Cairo and I was astonished by the hospitality of the Arab culture,” Dr. Wichhart says.
After two years spent researching abroad, the couple came back to the U.S. and Dr. Wichhart continued graduate school. It was during this time that Dr. Wichhart gave birth to her first baby. However, she did not take a break from her studies. Ryan took care of the baby and Dr. Wichhart continued her education. Dr. Wichhart spent 10 years earning her graduate and doctoral degrees in history.
“When you have family obligations, things take longer,” says Dr. Wichhart, who was unwilling to give up on her career. “I accepted that it would take longer.”
In 2007, Dr. Wichhart earned her Ph.D. and started in a full-time faculty position at Niagara University. While working at NU, she had two more kids. Consequently, Ryan switched to a part-time job to further support their family. Ryan is not only a supportive husband, he is a careful dad and a professional cook. Dr. Wichhart agrees that taking care of kids is a very big responsibility and her husband being a cook is very helpful.
Dr. Wichhart says that explaining the Middle East to her students can be challenging at times, especially today. When students display an interest in Middle East issues, Dr. Wichhart is quick to share her positive experiences with Arab cultures.
A lot of things have changed for Dr. Wichhart in the last 20 years. Today, she is a history professor, wife and mother of three children. However, two things have remained the same: her passion for history and love of learning.