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Professor Jarbel Rodriguez smiles during the seminar he teaches on The Black DeathFaculty Snapshot
Inspired by King Arthur
Assistant Professor Jarbel Rodriguez traces his fascination with the medieval world back to childhood. "There's a certain romantic aspect to the field," he says. "I had a castle when I was 5. My dad told me Arthurian tales. When I got into the ‘Lord of the Rings' and Monty Python movies," he says, smiling,"I was doomed."

An entry-level class in Western civilization inspired him to pursue both his bachelor's and master's degrees in history at the University of Miami, and later a Ph.D. at Princeton University. Today his areas of expertise are 14th- and 15th-century Spain, pre-modern slavery and medieval Muslim/ Christian relations -- knowledge that he enjoys sharing.

"Teaching is my favorite thing," says Rodriguez, who took on his first teaching position when he joined the SFSU faculty four years ago. "I love being in front of a class when the students are really engaged, asking lots of questions. It's a rush."

His favorite class is a seminar on the Black Death, "probably the single most important event in history," he says, pointing out that the epidemic accelerated changes in sanitation, education, religion, spirituality, law and economy -- and that the population of some European regions did not recover until well after the 16th century.

History Chair Richard Hoffman says Rodriguez "really is an extraordinary, phenomenal teacher. He's very energetic and alive, has a wonderful sense of humor. He knows the past well and can select interesting ways to share it with his students, many of whom are young and straight out of high school."

Senior Kevin Mummey has taken four of Rodriguez's classes and believes the professor is one of the reasons the History Department is ranked fourth in the nation for sending master's degree students on to doctoral programs. Mummey says that Rodriguez is more than knowledgeable. "He's encouraging and always available."

And he's clearly not stuck in the Middle Ages. Mummey says, "I couldn't believe it when I found out he was into heavy metal. Dr. Rodriguez likes Metallica."

-- Adrianne Bee

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