Alumnus James Dupey Thriving as Assistant History Professor at Arizona State

James Dupey went from graduating from a Master of Arts in History program to helping run one.

The Arizona State University clinical assistant professor laid the groundwork for his successful academic career as a graduate student at Eastern Washington University (EWU).

“I originally intended to pursue a Ph.D. in philosophy,” he said. “I was talking with a friend who was getting a Ph.D. at Brown University about the various components of a graduate degree, and I was expressing some of my reservations about philosophy.”

His friend suggested that he study the history of the world’s great thinkers instead, an idea that Dupey found brilliant.
“I reached out to universities that had a terminal master’s degree program,” he said. “I decided on Eastern because of the faculty; I wanted to work with a couple of people at the university.

“My wife, Tanya, and I are also from the area. It was a nice place to be close to family and an excellent experience.”

After graduating from the on-campus M.A. in History program in 2010, Dupey earned a Ph.D. from ASU and then returned to EWU to teach for one year.

“I tell my students that getting a job in academia today is like winning the lottery,” he said. “Everyone works hard; everyone is smart, but it requires a little bit of luck, too.

“A lot of my working hard and being smart was built at Eastern. I was prepared for the coursework when I entered the Ph.D. program at Arizona State.”

Change in Philosophy

Dupey was born in Spokane, but he also spent some of his childhood years in New Mexico before returning home. In 2005, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Cascade College, where he also played soccer.

“I’ve done a lot of things, but teaching was always the natural route for me,” he said. “Both of my parents, Dan and Teri, are teachers.

While enrolled in the master’s degree program at EWU, Dupey received a lot of support and encouragement from his family and friends.

“They were definitely excited,” he said. “Most of them knew a couple of years into my undergraduate degree that I wanted to go to grad school. This was always the goal. I took a meandering route to it, but it worked out for me. I am really fortunate.”

In fact, Dupey zeroed in on a career in education after he made a low grade on an essay during his freshman year of college.

“I realized how much I loved learning,” he said. “I had never got a ‘D’ on anything in my life. It startled me into realizing that I would have to work to get good grades in college.

“I started reading the text for the philosophy course, which I hadn’t done before, and fell in love with it. The mysteries of intellectual engagement excited me. From then on, I realized how much I enjoyed learning, and I knew I wanted to teach.”

Several faculty members in EWU’s history department, including Dr. Michael Conlin, Dr. Larry Cebula, Dr. Bill Youngs and Dr. Laura Phillips, who is now retired, helped prepare Dupey to achieve his academic aspirations.

“One of the things that I remember most fondly about Bill, who was my thesis adviser, is the first time we met after I produced a piece of writing for him,” Dupey said. “It was the most criticism I had ever received as a student.

“It was an eye-opening experience for me that all students should go through. An editor who’s willing to do that in a way that is constructive, thoughtful and considerate at the same time and really challenges you to be better is about the best thing you can have as a young writer.”

The course on 19th Century America, taught by Dr. Conlin, was one of Dupey’s favorite courses in the MA in History curriculum.

“It was a historiographical look at the institution of slavery in the antebellum United States,” he said. “I am a 19th century historian now. That course was central for thinking about the period that I wanted to study as a Ph.D. student. Dr. Conlin was excellent.”

Sun Devil of a Time

Dupey is in his second year at ASU and stays plenty busy. He teaches several courses and advises students, which he said the M.A. in History program also prepared him to do.

“It’s an excellent job at ASU,” he said. “I am director of the North American track for the online M.A. in History, a job that my time at EWU helped prepare me for. I am excited for Eastern’s program to go online and for future EWU students to benefit from the excellent faculty there.”

Dupey, who enjoys reading and playing basketball, is part of a band called Grunge Bob SquarePants with some of his neighbors. He plays guitar and sings. Although he lives and teaches in Arizona, EWU holds a special place in his heart.

“I absolutely got great value out of the M.A. in History program,” he said. “I consider Eastern my alma mater. It was a fantastic time.”

Learn more about EWU’s online M.A. in History program.

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