Faculty Profile: Dr. J. Michael Raley
Though he grew up in the Chicago area, Michael Raley spent summers in rural southern Illinois, where sightseeing with his grandparents proved to be influential.
“Every Sunday, we would go out to eat, take a drive and visit a historic site,” he says. “It must have rubbed off on me.”
With a history of influential teachers as well, it’s no surprise that Raley, a visiting instructor of history at Alma College, became one himself.
“I attended a high school that was ranked among the top 10 in the country, and it changed my life,” he says. “We had to write rough drafts for every paper, which taught me a lot about critical thinking and constructing arguments.”
Though Raley’s favorite teacher in high school was his history teacher, he also had strong ties to music. When he was 16, he performed with the American Youth Performs National Orchestra in Carnegie Hall.
He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in music and a master’s degree in music performance. Despite this, because he studied and taught music history, he says his transition to the world of history was natural.
Raley decided to pursue a master’s degree in history at Southern Illinois University before earning his Ph.D. in late medieval/early modern European history at the University of Chicago in 2007.
Before coming to Alma, he taught at the University of Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University and Wake Forest University. He says he enjoys seeing his students succeed.
“A former student of mine is in graduate school and recently published 11 articles. He has blossomed and progressed at ‘warp’ speed,” says Raley. “Seeing my students grow and go on to get good jobs and achieve success is rewarding.”