Although he makes it sound simple, his stories weave intricate patterns throughout the fabric of history.
“I’ll tell my students, ‘I’ll tell you stories from people’s perspectives that will make you love history,” Mace says.
Mace was introduced to Cabrini by James Hedtke, Ph.D., chair of the History and Political Science department. Mace and his wife, Nikki, befriended Hedtke's youngest daughter, Lori, in 2001, when the three worked at the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Geriatric Psychiatry.
When Lori introduced the Maces to her family, Mace and Hedtke discovered a common interest in history and politics, and kept in touch over the years. In 2004, a faculty position in the history and political science department became available, and Mace joined in 2005 as an assistant professor.
To keep students engaged in the classroom, Mace not only uses stories, but also art, music, poetry, and fiction to show the humanity of his subject matter. He takes his teaching cues from his own past educators, remembering a particular teacher who described in great detail how his family, who lived through the Depression, World War II, and the assassinations of President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., coped with tragic historical moments.
Since that struck a chord with him, Mace makes a point to add a human angle to all of his lessons.
"If students can see the historical actors or even place themselves inside the narrative, they are more open, more anxious, and more able to learn," says Mace.
"Similarly, we need to acknowledge the biases of the historian making the interpretation. If students understand the subjective nature of historical analysis, they will be more conscious of the fact that their arguments, although subjective, are stronger if they base them upon solid facts."
Mace has presented his work at numerous conferences, including the American Historical Association Annual Meeting and the Annual James A. Barnes Conference. He also is a bibliographer for the Pennsylvania Historical Association.