Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall, Ph.D.

Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall, Ph.D.

2023 Outstanding Faculty Teaching

Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall, Ph.D.

California State University, San Marcos
Professor and Graduate Coordinator, History Department

I love getting to know my students and helping them toward ‘aha’ moments. My classes challenge conventional expectations about history, recovering stories that have been pushed to the margins and allowing students to see themselves in historical narratives.”​

Various pundits are credited with issuing the warning, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” CSU San Marcos history professor Dr. Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall is determined to steer her students clear of that fateful path and instead give them a full picture and visceral connections with the people, events and challenges of our past.

Dr. Sepinwall joined CSUSM in 1999 and was promoted to full professor in 2011. As a past winner of CSUSM’s President’s Award for Innovation in Teaching and the Harry E. Brakebill Outstanding Professor Award, she specializes in showing students how history connects to their own lives through compelling and hands-on projects, first-hand accounts such as diaries, whole-class and small-group discussion and diverse guest speakers. Her creative assignments, such as a cookoff exploring changes in eating habits for a women's and Jewish history class, not only create community within the classroom, but they also allow students to see themselves in historical narratives. Her cutting-edge teaching is continuously informed by feedback from her students, and their questions shape her research. For example, Dr. Sepinwall became one of the first historians to analyze depictions of history in video games because of student interest in the topic.

With a busy schedule that includes serving on university and department committees, advising graduate theses and conducting research, she has become a sought-after expert in Haitian and French history, slavery and colonization, and the history of gender, as well as visual and pop cultures. Widely quoted in national media, she is also a frequent speaker and guest lecturer at sister CSU campuses and institutions around the world, ranging from Georgetown University to Seoul National University. At CSUSM, she has organized more than 30 special events for students and the community, on topics ranging from DACA to the Rwandan genocide, and has given over 50 community talks in the region, including a live interview with Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. She has also participated in over 30 guest lectures and panel presentations for CSUSM colleagues on topics from Afghanistan to how to teach about slavery and Native American genocide in a climate of anti-critical race theory activism.

​Dr. Sepinwall holds bachelor’s degrees in history and political science from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in history from Stanford University.