Professor Lloyd Kramer jokingly said he’s been teaching for longer than most of his undergraduate students have been alive. But as a widely respected expert on modern European history, he has consistently been a valuable mentor for students at UNC since 1986.
Kramer’s decision to become a professor was somewhat unexpected. Coming out of college, Kramer was interested in history but figured becoming a lawyer would be the most practical profession for him. While working in Hong Kong, he prepared to apply to law school. But Kramer soon realized that law wasn’t his true passion and decided to move to France.
While studying French, Kramer applied to graduate schools and decided to pursue his Ph.D. at Cornell University. Once he received his degree, Kramer held temporary positions at Stanford University and Northwestern University, but moved to Chapel Hill when he was offered a position to teach.
Kramer has taken several trips to France since his initial visit. The country has become like a sanctuary for Kramer to gather information for his books, attend conferences and teach. During the 1999-2000 school year, Kramer’s family accompanied him and 30 UNC students on a year-long trip while he led the Montpellier study abroad program. Kramer said the students gained valuable experience by being immersed in French culture while learning about the country’s history.
"(History) gives you a way to engage with people who are different from yourself," Kramer said. "When you’re a professor, you can help students understand how other cultures developed and that helps students think about their own language and traditions.”
Kramer serves as the director of the Carolina Public Humanities and said he gained a newfound appreciation for his peers by attending their lectures through the program.
“As a teacher, I’m always learning from the ways that other teachers and colleagues also teach,” Kramer said.
Kramer also advises graduate students like Ph.D. candidate Jeffrey Ryan Harris. While working on his thesis and dissertation, Harris has been pushed by Kramer to dig deeper into his research.
“I can walk into Lloyd’s office with a crystal clear argument and he can say, ‘Well the implications are these five other things,’” Harris said. “That has helped me to be able to explain my work to others in a way that has gotten me grant funding and will hopefully get me a job. So his comments are well-cherished.”
Emily Burrill is an associate professor of history and women's and gender studies at UNC. She met Kramer in 2007.
“He’s done a lot of extensive research on the question of nationalism in French intellectual and political thinking,” Burrill said. “I think these are relevant questions today in the United States and in the world, especially when we look at political moments of self-examination and crises like Brexit and the surprising election in the United States, meaning that these are outcomes that people didn’t anticipate.”
As the former chair of the history department, Kramer is well-regarded by his colleagues. Associate History Professor Chad Bryant admires his approach to studying history.
“He’s always been an intellectual spark,” Bryant said. “He not only loves history, but he also understands history and tries to explain why it matters.”
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