News Details

February 06, 2015

Veteran Professor Works to Grow School of Fine Arts and Humanities

“Fine arts and humanities is the heart of the College.  One thing Wesleyan gives students that sometimes larger schools cannot is the core of literature, art, music, history, philosophy, and the like.  Students get a firm grounding in the liberal arts here.”

Director of the School of Fine Arts & Humanities and History Professor Dr. Stephen Cresswell has been a staple at West Virginia Wesleyan College since he began his tenure in 1986.  An avid traveler and writer, Dr. Cresswell began his duties as Director of the School a little over a year ago with high hopes of expansion and growth.

Dr. Cresswell earned his bachelor of arts degree in English from the University of Virginia (UVA).  After obtaining his master of arts in United States history from Catholic University in 1981, he returned to UVA to attain his Ph.D. in the same field.  Throughout his studies, Dr. Cresswell worked as a library reference assistant at Georgetown University and as both a teaching assistant and instructor of history at UVA.

An expert in Mississippi and the post-Civil War period, Dr. Cresswell has had three books published on the subject:Mormons and Cowboys, Moonshiners and Klansmen: Federal Law Enforcement in the South and West, Multiparty Politics in Mississippi, and Rednecks, Redeemers, and Race: Mississippi after Reconstruction. The latter book is one volume in a twelve-volume series commissioned by the Mississippi Historical Society that accounts the power and race struggle in a post-Civil War society.

Although his teaching experience is in United States history, Dr. Cresswell wishes to see the School of Fine Arts & Humanities expand to include more international studies.

“The School is working on finding candidates to help expand our international expertise,” he stated.  “We are beginning to grow groups of key people that have the experience within the international scope.  This will benefit our students greatly.”

A minor in Latin American Studies is in the works, and the School just hired its first full-time Spanish instructor in over a decade.

“Manuel Soto from Venezuela came on board this year,” commented Dr. Cresswell.  “He is teaching Spanish, but he is also lending his expertise to our Latin America courses.  The minor would be an interdisciplinary minor between our School and the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences.”

Dr. Cresswell’s interest in the subject stems from an experience he had during his graduate studies.

“I had a really inspiring professor in grad school who loved Latin American history,” Dr. Cresswell commented.  “I was hired as his assistant, and he was a wonderful mentor that made me want to follow in his footsteps.”

He has even done some personal research on Latin America through his own travels to the region.

“As a person who teaches Latin American history,” he began, “this has been a nice way to incorporate personal experiences into my teaching.”

During his travel, Dr. Cresswell began taking photographs of butterflies and dragonflies in the Latin American region, collecting and documenting information on small creatures and insects that dwell in the region’s rainforests.

“I would like to eventually complete a guide to all the fascinating creatures I have found there,” he stated.

Dr. Cresswell is happy in his current role as School Director and finds joy in the liberal arts offerings of Wesleyan.

“One of the nicest things of being the Director of this School is visiting all the wonderful concerts, readings, and plays Wesleyan has to offer,” he said.  “We have talented teachers who bring in talented students.  I always look forward to the arts presentations.”

For students who are looking for a liberal arts college, Dr. Cresswell offers this advice:  “The best thing about Wesleyan is that our professors insist on active learning.  It is all about learning together, digging into documents, and doing the work.  We learn by discussion.  We have moved away from the podium and are breaking out of the traditional teacher-lecture model.  Wesleyan ensures that students are involved every week they are here.”

For more information on Dr. Stephen Cresswell or the School of Fine Arts & Humanities, please contact him at or visit

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