Get to Know Dr. St. Jean

November 25, 2019
Wendy St. Jean

If a student is ever looking for a history class that offers a truly unique experience, they should look no further than a class with PNW’s Dr. Wendy St. Jean. Dr. St. Jean is an Associate Professor in the Department of History & Philosophy who looks for new ways to engage students in historical perspectives on present-day issues such as human rights and environmental concerns. Her classes are always popular, and students come away from them with a better understanding of the material and period of history they’re studying. While Dr. St. Jean takes the educational process very seriously, she is also determined to make history something more for her students so that they can understand and appreciate the material in new ways.


Dr. St. Jean is originally from a small, predominantly French-Canadian town in Connecticut. Her parents were working class and held education in high regard. They worked hard so that she could take music lessons and attend summer camps to further enrich her life. Dr. St. Jean saw college as an escape from the economically depressed community in which she was raised, and ended up attending Yale University.

While at Yale, Dr. St. Jean found a passion in studying English and history. She soon realized though that studying English meant a lot of critiquing of other people’s work, where as she preferred to produce her own content and ended up gravitating toward history. She took the majority of her classes in European history but colonial historian John Demos really made American history come alive for her. He took her and her classmates on a series of excursions to visit museums and historical cemeteries. She also made the most of her college experience by studying abroad in France during her junior year. Dr. St. Jean came to realize early on in her studies that she wanted to be a college professor and was determined to find the academic success necessary to teach at the collegiate level.

Dr. St. Jean’s next academic stop was at the University of Virginia, where she earned a Master’s Degree with a specialization in American history. It was also at this time that she began her work in Native American history. Following the completion of her master’s degree, Dr. St. Jean began work on her doctorate at the University of Connecticut. After finishing her course work there, and while working on her dissertation, she began work as a full-time, visiting professor at a series of colleges including Springfield College, Boston University, Tufts University, and Dickinson University. Upon the completion of her dissertation, Dr. St. Jean began a summer fellowship at the Newberry Library in Chicago. It was there that she met the Department of History & Philosophy’s Dr. Joseph Bigott, who told her about Purdue Northwest and helped her get a campus interview. Dr. Bigott and the other faculty members were warm and welcoming and made her confident that this was the right place for her. Soon thereafter, Dr. Wendy St. Jean was a part of the faculty at PNW.

I have learned so much from my graduate students, many who are local teachers, that I wonder who should be paying for the class credits, them or me.

Lessons Learned

Becoming a part of the team gave Dr. St. Jean and her family a chance to settle down in a “culturally rich community” that had a close proximity to Chicago. She has taught a variety of history classes with topics ranging from LGBT History to historical Natural Disasters to Colonial America. She’s even begun teaching classes that cross disciplines with her Big History class, which mixes science, biology, and history. Dr. St. Jean is always experimenting with her classes and often incorporates role playing games and reenactments to help students further understand the course material. When applying the lessons learned from her class, she wants her students to be able to say, “Not only did I learn this, I’m using it to make the world a better place.”

Dr. St. Jean enjoys traveling and making music with her two daughters in her spare time. During her high school years, Dr. St. Jean was a church organist, but now she only plays the piano to accompany her daughters’ singing. Dr. St. Jean also works with local schools and libraries to offer science programs to kids. Her book, Remaining Chickasaw in Indian Territory, was published in 2011 and is available on Amazon. In addition to all of her class responsibilities, Dr. St. Jean is also the academic advisor for PNW’s Master’s Degree program in History. Through the Master’s program, Dr. St. Jean teaches several 500 and 600 level classes and said, “I have learned so much from my graduate students, many who are local teachers, that I wonder who should be paying for the class credits, them or me.” Dr. St. Jean has worked hard to get to where she is today. The Department of History & Philosophy is privileged to have this accomplished woman on our team.