Central professors are remarkable at providing real-world examples in classes, but one professor, Mark Barloon, lecturer of history, takes his classes to a whole new level. With numerous field trips to historical sights around the United States and visits to the Marion County shooting range, Barloon captures the spirit of American history for his students.
There are times in life when you realize what you want to do with your future—a great educator inspires a student to become a teacher or a science fair project sparks an interest in becoming a physicist. Whatever the case may be, many young students experience an “aha moment” that drives their passions.
As a child, Mark Barloon, lecturer of history, never had that moment because he has been experiencing it all his life. “I was always interested in what was happening in our country,” he says. “Even as a kid I was always reading newspapers and news magazines. I just naturally fell into history. I never had a moment where the light came on and I knew exactly that this was what I wanted to do. I just always liked history.”
The Fort Atkinson, Iowa, native grew up on a farm before earning an undergraduate degree at Iowa State University and master’s degree at the University of Iowa. He completed a doctorate in American history with an emphasis in military history and the Civil War at the University of North Texas.
From there, Barloon moved to the East Coast as an intelligence analyst for the government for a few years, but the pull of family brought him and his wife, Gabrielle, back to their home state. Looking for jobs in the area, Barloon called up Central’s history department, and there happened to be a temporary opening—and he’s still here 12 years later.
“Since day one as a part-time temp, the Central community treated me like a long-time faculty member. I have always been treated as a welcomed equal,” says Barloon.
His enthusiasm for history is certainly palpable in the classroom. Although Barloon’s classes are lecture based, he encourages students to speak up and challenge his ideas or interpretations. One way he is engaging students: historical field trips. In the past, Barloon has taken students to Antietam, Bull Run, Corinth, Gettysburg, Shiloh, Stone’s River and Vicksburg National Military Parks, as well as Arlington National Cemetery. He has also provided students the opportunity to step back in time by shooting 19th and 20th-century weapons at a shooting range—and it’s all in the name of learning.
“The trips give students direct, tactile interaction with the past,” Barloon says. “When you can walk Pickett’s Charge or climb around in Devil’s Den and scale the slope of Little Round Top at Gettysburg—these are things that are incredibly important during the Civil War. It makes the lessons much more meaningful, and it is a fun way to learn.”
It comes as no surprise that outside of the classroom, Barloon enjoys traveling to new places, but he also likes to head to the shooting range and play computer games. But of course, learning never ends—he reads military history books in his spare time. And then he takes what he learns and brings it to the classroom where he can watch his students develop as intellectuals.
“It is fun to share my passion with the students, especially with those students who share the same passion for history that I do. It is fun to watch my students grow through their education into young intellects and develop their own talents, abilities and skills.”
One day, Barloon hopes to visit the Solomon Islands, particularly Guadalcanal, a site where the Japanese and Americans fought during the Second World War—until then, Barloon will be sparking Central’s enthusiasm for American history, one battle at a time.