The daily routine of a professor involves demanding tasks.
Thomas Renna, professor of history, makes as much use of the day as he can.
Personal health is important to him. He starts every day by taking a three-mile run at 8:15.
Academically, Renna said that he always tries to emphasize healthy study habits in class, especially for incoming freshmen who have not yet experienced a college workload.
Renna has morning, afternoon and night classes consistently throughout the whole week.
“In general, on Sunday through Thursday, I work on class preparation and other professorial obligations like committee meetings,” he said.
“Right now I’m teaching five courses, and all of them focus somewhere in the sphere of 1500 A.D., but regularly, I teach about eight courses,” he said.
Renna said that his history survey to 1500 A.D. is the class that he teaches most often, but some other higher division courses that he teaches include Ancient Near East, Ancient Rome, Early/High Middle Ages, Italian Renaissance, Early Modern France and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
“I usually change the books that we read every semester,” Renna said. “What I’ll do is pick up about ten new books, read those and then replace the old ones. Otherwise, things get stale.”
“When it comes to selecting what books and research we look at in class, I generally base my decision on what kind of new and exciting research is going on in the field at the time. This way, I can make everything as relevant as possible,” he said.
On Friday, Renna spends all day working on his own writing.
“Right now, I’m working on a paper that examines political philosophy in the 14th century,” he said.
Renna said he tries to write as many as four papers a year and has been working on a book for the last four years.
So far, Renna has written four books and approximately 130 papers. The papers that he writes are submitted to year-round conferences, where he’s given feedback on his work and research.
Last week, he attended the Medieval Midwest Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.
“I would say that I spend roughly 30 hours a week working on my own research and writing, and I spend 80 hours a week working on class preparation and committees,” he said.
When he’s not working on classwork or his own writing, Renna also spends time working in the storeroom of Zahnow Library.
Although he teaches classes in the summer, Renna spends every May and June working on research in the Vatican archives.
“I have family who live in Italy, so it’s usually easy for me to make the trip each year,” Renna said.
At the end of the day, family is very important to Renna.
“I spend Friday evening with my wife and Sunday afternoon with my grandchildren,” Renna said.
Renna believes that the more professors pursue the latest research, the more connections they are going to make.
He also believes that the more contacts professors have, the easier it will be to connect students with schools and jobs.
“For me, I believe that the better scholar you are the better teacher you can be,” he said. “It’s a symbiotic relationship. In the end, the students are always the beneficiaries.”