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Jillian Bjerke, Ph.D.

An historian who brings the past into the present in engaging ways to show its relevancy today.

Curious | Multifaceted | Bold
Jillian Bjerke wants all of her students to discover their passion for History, just as she unexpectedly did while pursuing a master’s degree in Physics. Knowing it’s never too late to learn, Bjerke pivoted to pursue a second master’s degree and a Ph.D. in History. With classes like Medieval Women and Ancient World to Early Modern Europe, Bjerke shows her students that history is everywhere we look, and it never goes out of date.
What’s your background? Where were you before McDaniel and when did you start here?
I grew up in a suburb of Detroit and went to college at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Even though I had always loved history, I didn’t see it as a viable career path because I thought that history was just memorizing dates and facts. I majored in Physics and completed a Spanish interpreting program instead. During my graduate work in physics, a friend told me about a Medieval Studies conference, and I decided to go on a whim. I had a total epiphany! I realized that history was a living field, and that people were making careers researching, writing, and teaching about the past, and I knew that this was what I wanted to do. I took Latin and graduate English courses while I finished my M.S. in Physics and then went on to Western Michigan University to do an M.A. in Medieval Studies. From there, I went to the University of Colorado Boulder and got my Ph.D. in History in April 2021. I began at McDaniel in the fall of 2020!
What have you enjoyed most during your time at McDaniel?
I have most enjoyed interacting with students at McDaniel. Whether it’s nerding out over the connections between Greek and Roman mythology and Harry Potter or gushing over beautiful 13th-century chapels, I love sharing my passion for history with my students. It brings me great joy. I have also enjoyed being a part of a supportive and welcoming department. My colleagues have made my transition into full-time teaching much smoother through their mentorship and support.
What do you hope students take away from your courses?
I hope students leave my courses with the understanding that the premodern past can be engaging, fun, and relevant to today. I also hope that they find some element of history that is meaningful to them, no matter the subject matter or time period.

About Prof. Bjerke

Lecturer in History
Subject: Medieval History
Department: History