Professor Byrd talks mosh pits and comic books

History Professor Paul Byrd. Photo courtesy Paul Byrd

You may have seen Professor Paul Byrd walking the halls of DMACC listening to heavy metal, teaching a variety of political science classes at the Ankeny Campus, or on the news occasionally giving his opinions on recent national affairs. Paul Byrd has been a professor at Des Moines Area Community College for 14 years, and on October 2 I had the opportunity to sit down with him and discuss his life inside and outside of DMACC.  

Professor Byrd is originally from San Diego, but he has spent most of his life in Iowa. After graduating high school, Byrd pursued his secondary education at Iowa State University, originally for aerospace engineering, with the goal of eventually working for NASA in mind. When he attended ISU Professor Byrd ended up changing his major and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in history and political science. He then went on to pursue a master’s degree in Russian history and international relations with an emphasis on conflict resolution, which he said he finds most interesting surrounding politics. 

When I asked him what made him interested in history and political science, Byrd said, “I always thought it was cool,” and went on to tell me how he read “Peter the Great” as a child which immediately sparked his interest.  

After Byrd graduated from college, he took his first position at DMACC. Professor Byrd said he was originally unsure about how he would like the job, but he told me that after his first day, he instantly loved everything about it. Professor Byrd has been teaching for over 14 years now, and throughout that time he has taught at Iowa State University, Grandview University, Ashford University, and of course DMACC at both the Urban and Ankeny campuses.  

Currently, Professor Byrd teaches history and political science at DMACC. He teaches a variety of classes including American National Government, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Politics and Terrorism, Global Studies, Asian History, African History, Western Civilizations, State and Local Government, and Russian History which is his favorite to teach. 

Professor Byrd, said that one of the coolest opportunities he has had while working for DMACC was meeting the president of Kosovo. Byrd said that he was the chair of the international year committee that semester, and that he was able to sit down in a meeting with the president of Kosovo while he was visiting the college.  

Outside of his work here at DMACC, Professor Byrd has had the opportunity to travel the world. Byrd said that his favorite place he has traveled to is Russia, and that one day he would like to visit Japan, Croatia, and Botswana. Professor Byrd mentioned that he also enjoyed visiting Belgium, except for the fact that he got stranded in a Belgium forest in the middle of winter. 

If there is one thing you should know about Professor Byrd, it is that he will always have a funny story to tell. In classes that Professor Byrd teaches he will tell stories or jokes surrounding the class which makes his classes fun and engaging. Sometimes he will get a bit off-topic, like the time he told my International Relations class that he got attacked by a goose on campus while riding his bike, but that story is an exception.  

One of Professor Byrd’s comics, which he wrote and lettered.

When Professor Byrd is not teaching, traveling, or getting attacked by geese on campus, he enjoys spending time with his six kids, going to concerts, and creating comic books as a side profession. When I talked to Professor Byrd, I was curious about his life outside of work, and I was surprised to learn that he is a freelance author and graphic designer. Byrd writes and designs comic books such as the “Fall of Manseries and is the founder of A.G.E. Comics. Professor Byrd also mentioned that he enjoys listening to hardcore and metal music, going to concerts and mosh pits, and that the best concert he has ever attended was performed by the band Haste the Day. 

Professor Byrd said that his favorite part about teaching is when students have “light bulb moments,” which he describes as when students understand concepts or if something clicks with them. He also talked about how he enjoys seeing these “lightbulb moments” apply to students who discover an academic pathway to pursue, which he said is what is great about the Liberal Arts program. Byrd talked about how the Liberal Arts program allows students to find their passion as they go through college and takes the pressure off students if they feel the need to change their major like he did.  

Professor Byrd spoke about how he enjoys being able to teach his classes in a way that is fun for him but also engaging for his students. From my experience in his classes, Professor Byrd does an excellent job instructing and engaging his students, and he is always willing to help those who need it. 

I ended my meeting with Professor Byrd by asking him the question, “From the perspective of a professor, what is one piece of advice you would give college students?” 

Byrd left me with his key takeaway: “Take chances on things you may or may not like because you might have a different path for yourself, and you can’t know that without trying new things.” 

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