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W. R. Swagerty

Professor of History and Co-Director of the John Muir Center


Phone: 209.946.2527
Email: wswagerty@pacific.edu


PhD, History, University of California at Santa Barbara

BA, History, The Colorado College

Curriculum Vitae 

Teaching Philosophy

My primary goal is mentoring students in researching important questions in the social and environmental sciences.  I have never championed memorization for memory's sake and consider the best tool that any university can offer its citizens is its Library.  Students in my classes learn to use library resources and gain valuable analytical skills in formulating and evaluating research questions.  I also believe that education should be fun and integrate many audio-visual materials in all of my classes. Finally, my teaching is student-centered. I ask each class member to share research with each other in the form of oral presentations, most illustrated with Powerpoint or video technology.  Students learn from each other in this manner, get to know each other, and form lasting collegiate friendships.  At Pacific this is possible with our small classes and the one-on-one contact between professor and student.

Scholarly Interest

Most of Swagerty's work centers on the fur trade of North America. 
He is also interested in the prehistory of North America, historic epidemiology, and dynamics of human economics and subsistence.In 1992, as part of the Columbus Quincentenary, Swagerty curated "America in 1492" at The Newberry Library. He has also been a Visiting Scientist at the National Museum of Natural History, a fellow of the Ford Foundation and the National Park Service, and is currently a Fulbright Senior Specialist. His current project, "John Muir and Native Peoples" will take him to New Zealand and Australia during a development leave during spring term, 2007. Swagerty has served on Pacific's Academic Council, on the Library Affairs Committee, and is co-chair of the Public Safety Review Committee. He has been an officer in the American Society for Ethnohistory and Rupert's Land Research Centre.He has also served as chair of several committees of the Western History Association and has given public addresses and papers at over sixty gatherings of fellow social scientists since 1977.    


History 52    John Muir's World: Origins of the Conservation Movement
History 120   Native American History
History 124   History of the American West
History 130   History of California
History 136   American Environmental History
History 160   The Capstone (Pacific History Seminar)
History 193   ST: Contemporary Environmental Issues
Pacific Seminar II and III


Pacific and the Swagerty family have a long association, going back to the 1930s when two of Bill's relatives, Clem and Floyd Swagerty, played football under coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. Other Swagertys who have attended Pacific include basketball-star Keith Swagerty, swimmer and Olympic medalist Jane Swagerty-Hill, and teacher Donna Swagerty-Shreve. Bill's mother, Eunice Thomas-Swagerty, attended in the 1940s. In all, thirteen relatives have claimed Pacific as their alma mater.

In addition to teaching, his position includes organizing bi-annual conferences, publishing a newsletter, working with visiting scholars interested in John Muir's Papers in the university library, and serving as liaison with Muir family descendants to promote the good name and message of the father of the modern conservation movement.

Swagerty has been a visiting scientist at the National Museum of Natural History and is currently a Fulbright Senior Scholar, visiting New Zealand and Australia in 2007 following John Muir's Trail from his 1903-04 World Tour. His recent courses have focused on the history of California, the North American Conservation Movement, and the American West. In addition, Swagerty teaches regularly in the Pacific Seminar series for freshmen and is active in the annual freshman orientation trip to Yosemite National Park each fall.