Jonathan Noyalas ’01 chose Shenandoah University, among other schools, for many reasons that stood out to him. Noyalas was a big fan of the McCormick Civil War Institute and the idea of studying with Professor Emeritus of History Brandon H. Beck, Ph.D., and Stewart Bell Endowed Chair in History and Professor of History Warren Hofstra, Ph.D. However, the biggest reason was that Shenandoah felt like home to Noyalas, and a place that wanted to help him grow and achieve his goals. “Shenandoah was the only place where I did not feel like a number or just another cog in the machine of education,” said Noyalas. “I felt like an individual, a valued individual.”
Noyalas’ fondest memory of his time as a Shenandoah student is meeting his wife of 14 years, Brandy Helmick Noyalas (AS ’02). Noyalas loves Shenandoah University because of its tight-knit community. The community is something that hasn’t changed in his transition from student to faculty member. Noyalas feels the administration works hard to maintain that specific atmosphere. “In many ways SU is an educational utopia,” said Noyalas.
Noyalas followed his passion for the Civil War era and became Director of Shenandoah University’s McCormick Civil War Institute. As director, Noyalas is responsible for organizing various Civil War conferences and tours throughout the region, as well as collaborating with local partners to offer unique educational opportunities for both Shenandoah students and members of the community.
Noyalas also serves as the founding editor of Shenandoah’s only academic, peer-reviewed journal, Journal of the Shenandoah Valley During the Civil War Era. Additionally, Noyalas is responsible for all of the Civil War interpretive and educational efforts at the Shenandoah River Campus at Cool Spring Battlefield, and serves as the university’s Fulbright Program Adviser. Noyalas also teaches within the university’s history department, works closely with hand-picked history majors’ research projects and directs senior thesis projects connected with Civil War era history.
Shenandoah University has prepared Noyalas for his career by providing him a solid education and allowing him to have the opportunity to make connections that not only proved useful in his postgraduate tenure at Virginia Tech, but also to carve out a niche for himself in the scholarly community of Civil War historians.
“As a teacher, I have had numerous rewarding experiences, but the ones that really stand out are the moments I have had working with students on special projects–most notably in the summer of 2017 working with history majors Shelby Shrader (AS ’17) and Zach Thompson ’19 on the design and implementation of an exhibition about the Battle of Cool Spring for the university,” explained Noyalas. “This summer’s research experience with Jake Gabriele ’18 and Victor Herrera ’20, although in its early stages, is so far proving rewarding as well.”
Noyalas has authored or edited 15 books, including most recently Slavery and Freedom in the Shenandoah Valley during the Civil War Era (University Press of Florida). Additionally, Noyalas has authored more than 100 articles, book chapters, essays and reviews for a variety of scholarly and popular publications. Noyalas is the recipient of numerous awards including the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia’s Outstanding Faculty Award and Shenandoah University’s Wilkins Award and Teaching Excellence Award for the First Year Seminar.
Noyalas’ advice to students is: “Be persistent and patient. Chances are you are not going to land your dream position right out of college or graduate school. You are going to have to be willing to work and work hard to attain what you want. I worked as an adjunct professor for five years before I landed a full-time position. It wasn’t easy, but I stayed the course. I am a firm believer and I believe living proof that hard work and persistence pays off.”