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Big Bend Community College William C. Bonaudi Library

William C. Bonaudi Library's Down the Research Rabbit Hole | Issue 18 | Jody Quitadamo, History/Political Science Faculty | Energy of Authenticity

by Rhonda Kitchens on 2022-04-21T20:45:00-07:00 in Health, History, Library and Research Skills | 0 Comments

Jody Quitadamo headshot and one with her daughter Lark at a Cancer fundraiser.


You are working through a health challenge that affects about 255,000 women a year and 2,300 men.  Did being a research-oriented academic and role model affect your approach to your diagnosis?  Have you shifted any priorities that might be evident in your work?

Like most patients at the time of diagnosis, panic sets in and you do the thing you should not do: Google. Seriously, I should know better.  But down the rabbit hole I went, and everything I encountered caused me serious anxiety. But after that brief lapse of judgment, being a research-oriented academic greatly impacted my approach to fighting breast cancer.  That, and my husband is a cell molecular biologist who is basically a walking encyclopedia.  There are years of research that have advanced our understanding of the disease and how to most effectively treat it, so information-gathering became a daily ritual.  Researching brought me great comfort.  I felt empowered and it helped me stay positive and centered. 

During treatment, you become a bit of a shell of yourself, bare and a little heartbroken. I told myself when this started that I was going to be as positive as possible, to be vulnerable, and authentic. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I tried to just focus on each little step because thinking about the full path to healing overwhelmed me. And I didn’t want to miss the gift of growth and evolution by wishing the cancer away or feeling negative and angry all the time. Thus, I wanted to continue working during treatment to keep my mind occupied. In a weird and unexpected way, I was secretly thankful for our Covid bubble because it kept me cocooned from the scary outside and normalized teaching online. I also learned to let go – at least partially - of perfectionism, something I’ve struggled with all my life.  Cancer puts things into perspective.  I just couldn’t create the perfect Canvas site or recorded lecture because I didn’t have the physical or mental capacity to dedicate all that energy to a single thing. Now that I’m cancer-free and back in the classroom, I am enjoying myself more because I have less stress and burnout.  I truly feel closer to my authentic self than ever before, both as a human and an educator.  That’s a gift for which I am very grateful.

Quote from Judy Quitadamo
Jody Quitadamo Quote. 


Do you remember the precise moment, book, or class that history captivated you?  Or was it more of a path?

My journey was more of a path with unexpected turns. And it was very much tied to my passion for teaching, which was also a winding road of discovery. I was largely indifferent to history growing up. It seemed to consist of memorizing “one damned thing after another,” as the saying goes. Like most young people, I was too focused on the future so the past mattered little to me. When I enrolled in college as a single mother with a two-year-old daughter, I would not have considered majoring in history for a second!  But one day, in a British literature course, my professor walked in with a Kodak carousel projector to display images set in Victorian England and provide us with historical context for assigned readings.  And it dawned on me: what I found more interesting was the historical context in which the books were set more than the fictional stories themselves. The next quarter I enrolled in my first college history course, 20th century China of all things.  My professor was amazing. He made history relevant to my life and taught me that historical knowledge is a powerful currency. We’ve now been good friends for 20 years.  

From that point on, my intention was to pursue a doctorate in Chinese history.  I participated in the McNair Scholars program as a first-generation college student, traveled abroad for research purposes, and participated in whatever experience would help me reach my goals. But I was also a single parent and concluded that pursuing such a lofty degree was a selfish endeavor.  I pivoted and chose, albeit reluctantly, to go into high school education.  I spent the next year working on my secondary social studies teaching certification, only half excited about my career choice. That all changed on my first day of student teaching.  It was like magic! I discovered that I loved teaching and that I was pretty good at it. I poured a lot of love and energy into those 10 years in the high school classroom. That was a very special time for me.  But after a decade, it was time to move on.  Now that I’m at the community college level, I find I have the best of both worlds.  I get to continue teaching and building relationships with students while diving deeper into history in a more scholarly way.   


What journals, listservs, groups, or other sources do you use to keep up with your discipline? 


I consider myself a history educator first, historian second, so most of the groups and sources I rely on focus on pedagogy and outreach in my discipline.  I’m a member of the OPSI Social Studies Cadre, made up of about 35 K-12 and post-secondary educators who serve as a social studies teaching and advisory team for the state. We strive to improve social studies and civics education through curriculum development and outreach.  It’s very exciting work.   I also volunteer annually as a judge for National History Day. For me, it’s an opportunity to support middle- and high-school students who spend months conducting original research on historical topics.  It’s a very formal but supportive competition and the students produce truly remarkable research projects.  I really love the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, which includes its own journal, History Now, and provides high-quality educational programs and resources that have been a game-changer in my classroom. I also subscribe to Teaching History: A Journal of Methods, which has become an invaluable resource for the newest ideas in social studies pedagogy. In terms of my disciplinary knowledge, I subscribe to a few journals, like The Journal of American History.  But I mostly rely on monographs and well-researched historical accounts with large scope.  I’m currently reading the book Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America ( Online and Find at Library:  GENERAL HQ 1418 K47 1980), an older publication but a groundbreaking work on American women’s history.

What book, poem, or study have you read that engaged you so deeply you were changed?


There have been so many, and currently Brene Brown is my superhero. As a teenager, I remember reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (  Find at Libary PR 9199.3 A8 H3 1998) It was my first encounter with a dystopian novel and themes like misogyny and oppression.  I found the story extremely terrifying yet prophetic. It awakened an early awareness of the power of a woman’s voice as a social justice weapon.  Perhaps without realizing it, that book planted a seed for my future as an educator.

Jody Quitadama and her daugher Lark at American Cancer Society Event.
Jody Quitadamo with daughter Lark. 




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