Get to know Mercer University‘s faculty members a little better through our “Faculty Flashback” series. Some of our professors will be sharing personal and professional details of their lives in a Q&A as well as then-and-now photos from today and their college days.
Dr. Abby Dowling, assistant professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has worked at Mercer for five years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history and French from the University of Arizona in 2007; a master’s degree in history from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2009; and a Ph.D. in history and Medieval studies from the University of California in 2014.
1. What advice, related to life or college, would you offer students at Mercer now?
Challenge yourself to take courses in subjects you haven’t liked or struggled in. You never know what hidden interests you might have, or how it might be useful to you in the future. I begrudgingly took a plant biology class in college to meet a general education requirement. I ended up so interested I took more classes in environmental studies. I now study the history of natural resources, science and medicine!
2. What is something you wish you knew in college that you know now?
I wish that I realized we are are NOT our grades. A performance on an assignment is just that — a single performance. It’s much more important to develop the skills to assess your progress and adapt as necessary than expecting yourself to be perfect all the time. Mistakes are a fundamental part of the learning process!
3. What do you love most about your work?
Helping students discover new things! I really enjoy guiding students through new topics, skills and realizations. There’s nothing like the moment when a student draws on their own knowledge, skill and experience to interpret data in a way unique to them. That feeling of ownership in the creative and interpretative process is priceless, and I am honored to help students achieve it.
4. What is your favorite spot on Mercer’s campus?
The garden between Newton and Willingham. I call it the “Roman” garden because the oval shape with the fountain in a basin with a surrounding retaining wall are reminiscent of ancient Roman gardens. I have been known to hold Great Books classes and seminars there or even get a spot of writing in!
5. What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of work?
I love to swim and cycle long distance. My dog, Bumi, often accompanies me on (short) walks because he prefers marathons … of cuddling. I am an animal person and also have three cats: Iroh, Korra and Mako. I obviously love “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” I am an avid reader and enjoy the fiber arts, particularly knitting, stitching and sewing. I have two pre-pandemic sourdough starters and bake bread frequently.