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Offering a historical sense

September 11, 2009

Historical context

Growing up Troy Storfjell held a certain admiration for the scholars he saw in the documentaries he watched. Now the PLU associate professor is one of those scholars. He’ll appear on the History Channel’s “Clash of the Gods” Series.

(Storfjell’s episodes were previously scheduled for Sept. 14 and 21, but the episodes have been moved; keep visiting the PLU doorways for an update on when his episodes will air).

“It was exciting to be that person,” Storfjell said. “It’s fun to do something that spreads what I know to a larger audience.”

The Scandinavian Studies scholar provided expertise on the Norse Gods, as well as how they relate to the writing of J.R.R. Tolkien – the author of The Lord of the Rings.

This summer he flew to New York to film the segments and was referred by PLU Associate Professor of classics Eric Nelson to producer Chris Cassel. Nelson appeared as an expert in Cassel’s Emmy Award winning program “Rome: Engineering an Empire.” Nelson will also appear in the Discovery Channel series “Machines of Malice” in a program that focuses on Rome, which will air at 10 p.m., Sept. 14.

For Storfjell the experience was fun and offered another way to spread knowledge and appreciation for a historical sense of the world to a wider audience then an academic journal.

“I think it’s really important,” he said about opening up that experience to people who probably will never read a scholarly journal.

“Having some sort of historical sense is important for the public,” Storfjell said.

As a part of PLU’s faculty Storfjell appreciates that PLU is a place where different types of scholarships are appreciated. Making academics accessible has value, he added.

“At PLU it is valued and rightly so because it’s another way of teaching,” Storfjell said about programming like “Clash of the Gods.”

Teaching is really where Storfjell realized his passion for Scandinavian Studies, and the history of the Vikings in particular.

“I didn’t study it as an undergrad,” he said. “I thought I was going to be a journalist, a reporter.”

And he was, but he had a calling to academia and returned to find his true passion.

“Once I started working with it I thought this is it,” Storfjell said.

Once he began teaching a few classes, the response from the students and seeing them engage in the material made pursuing a scholarly career an easy choice.

“The first time I got to teach a class it was rewarding,” Storfjell said.

Seeing a student transform from year one through graduation is an amazing progression to be a part of, he said.

“We (professors) learn as much from the students as they learn from us,” Storfjell added.

He hasn’t let many of his students know about his appearance on the History Channel yet, but colleagues are already stopping by to congratulate him and say they look forward to seeing the episodes.

Storfjell is just hoping he was factually correct and that what he said is used in the right context. After all he was interviewed for about three hours and minutes will likely be used in the program.

Either way it was a fun experience and he looks forward to laying low with his family and watching the episodes.

“I think my sons are going to stay up past their bedtimes too,” Storfjell said.

Doorways Editor Chris Albert produced this report. Contact him at 253-535-8691 or for comments or more information.