Michael Lower

Associate Professor, History

Michael Lower, in glasses and suit, stands next to a bookcase and an upper story window.

Michael Lower’s large lecture classes are proof that bigger can be better. A scholar of Latin Christendom and the medieval Muslim world, he unites students from all walks of life—and academic majors—by first dividing them.

His course on the history of soccer shows how it works.

He divides the class randomly into teams that take the names of prominent soccer clubs and compete in class as if in a league. Students who may share neither ethnicity, country of origin, nor mother tongue strive together in class to produce high-quality work that will raise their team in the standings. Teams whose standings drop emulate the better-performing ones, and peer learning goes through the roof.

My research explores how medieval people from across the Mediterranean world confronted many kinds of diversity; my classes make constructive engagement with difference the central project for every student who enrolls.

Lower seeks always to guide his students as they encounter and learn to deal with difference. In courses like Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Middle Ages and History of the Crusades, his students come to understand how humans have succeeded or failed at meeting this challenge.

He has also promoted new writing standards and led the process to identify and certify history classes for the Liberal Education requirements. Over his career, he has developed nine new classes.

‘He possesses qualities I value most in an advisor—compassion, enthusiasm, and a world view that is truly open-minded and accepting,” says a former student.