Dr. Michelle Orihel, associate professor of history at Southern Utah University, is known for her use of contemporary popular culture in class like “Assassin’s Creed,” Disney’s “Pocahontas,” and “Hamilton: An American Musical” to generate students’ interest in the early American past. She is also a fan of bringing history into the present with projects like translating the letters of John and Abigail Adams into a series of social media posts.
With a lifetime love of history and books, it was a natural choice for Orihel to study history in college. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in history, a master’s degree in British history and a Ph.D. in early American history. Orihel credits the support of family, professors, and mentors for her success, saying “I could never repay it back, but I can pay it forward by mentoring and supporting students now.”
She loves the opportunity to be engaged on a daily basis in the process of learning. As an associate professor of early American history at Southern Utah University, Orihel teaches the following classes:
- HIST 1700 American Civilization
- HIST 2921 International Week
- HIST 3921 International Week
- HIST 4710 United States 1607-1789
- HIST 4720: The United States, 1789-1845
- HIST 4760: The History of Gender in America to 1865
- HIST 4770: The History of American Journalism
- HIST 4890 Internship
Orihel believes the field of history is not static, but very dynamic. According to Orihel, our knowledge of history is always expanding based on new research, new sources, and new experiences to study. She finds understanding of the present day through the understanding of history and the very beginnings of our nation.
“The study of history provides us with powerful tools for navigating the present,” said Orihel. “While the study of history doesn’t solve every problem, it does give us a wide range of experiences, perspectives, and knowledge to draw on when we are making decisions and facing challenges.”
When asked if she has any advice for students, Orihel hopes to remind students that they don’t have to have an exact plan.
“It’s good to have goals and plans and ambitions, but you don’t have to have everything figured out at the beginning of your education. Know that life is unpredictable and you never know what is going to happen.”