Learn More About Our New Digital Humanities Major

Check out Bethel News for an article about our new major in Digital Humanities! Here’s a small taste:

In a pioneering move, Bethel recently became one of the first Midwestern liberal arts colleges to offer a B.A. in Digital Humanities. The major, which officially launched in September, challenges students to use modern skills like graphic design, data analysis, and programming to explore humanistic questions traditionally posed in fields like literature, history, and philosophy.

“Increasingly, there is incredible anxiety about having something useful to bring to the job market,” says Assistant Professor of History Charlie Goldberg, who designed the major. “This is our attempt in the humanities to deliver marketable skills to students while also encouraging them to pursue their passion.”

Charlie Goldberg and DH students
Prof. Goldberg (center) working with DH students in the Makerspace – Bethel University

Prof. Goldberg is just wrapping up the first semester of DIG200 Intro to Digital Humanities, the gateway course for the major. Bethel reporter Jenny Hudalla notes that the class meets on Wednesday evenings

in the Makerspace, a new space in the library dedicated to innovation and creativity. Right now, they’re working with archived blueprints of alternative building plans for Bethel’s campus. Students will bring them to life with 3D printers, creating a tangible version of the Bethel that could have been.

“A lot of students are coming in fresh and a little intimidated about the tech component, but they’re making these really cool projects,” Goldberg says. “It’s important for people to know that they can succeed in this thing without a technology background.”

If you have any questions about majoring in DH (and how it can complement a History or Social Studies Education major), Prof. Goldberg would be happy to talk with you.

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On Starting

“The hardest page to write is the first page, and the hardest sentence to write is the first sentence.” 

I have said these words to students countless times every semester for the last fifteen years as I have sat with time in my office.  Along with being a teacher in the History department I also work as an academic counselor.  I work with students on developing their study strategies and their time management skills.  Inevitably we end up talking about ways to combat procrastination. One of my favorite questions to ask them is, “How many books have you finished reading in your life that you didn’t start reading?”  There is always this wonderful, awkward pause as they do the math of the question in their head.  The answer of course – by definition – is zero.  The point I keep coming back to is that it is all about starting.

I bring all of this up because although this week marks the end of the fall academic semester, for me it mostly feels like it is about starting.  The end of the fall 2017 semester means the beginning of my spring 2018 sabbatical.  This is not only very exciting but also a little terrifying.  It means I need to begin a very big project that I’m not 100% sure that I will be able to pull off.

My Sabbatical project – if I may quote myself from my sabbatical application form:

[E]xists at the intersection of oral history, artistic endeavor, and the scholarship of teaching and learning.  I plan to film long form interviews (60-90 minutes each) with 20+ Bethel faculty members – beginning with those who have been awarded the Faculty Excellence Award for Teaching and expanding outward to include other faculty and staff – on the art and craft of teaching.  From this footage, I plan on building a variety of productions.  First, I plan on creating a feature length documentary film which centers on the core themes that arise from the interviews.  Secondly, I plan on editing each individual interview into its own film which will be available along with the aforementioned documentary on a website I will build to make these materials available to the Bethel community and beyond.  Finally, I foresee cataloging these materials in a way that would make it easy for me to work with groups like the faculty development team to build shorter theme based films for the purposes of faculty development and education.

Nearly every individual part of this project is something I’ve done before on a much smaller scale.  I’ve conducted long form interviews with various Bethel Faculty members. over the years as part of my Autobiography Podcast project.  I’ve done lots of different video directing and editing projects.  I’ve built websites and digital archives.  I’ve even managed a pretty large independent sabbatical project before.  All of this should lead me to feel pretty confident about this spring – and if I’m being honest, I don’t totally lack confidence in myself or my project.

But I am little scared.  What am I scared of? I’m scared that this is bigger than other projects I’ve undertaken. I’m scared that it won’t turn out well.  I’m scared I’ll get in too deep with what I film and I’ll just get buried and won’t be able to find my way out.  I’m scared that I won’t be able to pull it off.  I’m scared because I’ve built a project in which I’m not quite sure where it will go.

Because of all this, I haven’t really thought much about my project all fall.  I’ve looked for other things to fill my work life all semester so I wouldn’t have to think about or worry about sabbatical.  I realize that – just like the students that I work with in my office – I’m pretty terrified to get starting.  I’m not sure I’ll ever fully get used to that stinging realization that I need start to listening to and following the advice that I am always giving to others.  But that is where I find myself sitting this week.  I’ve never finished reading any book that I never started reading, and I’ve never finished making a film that I didn’t start making.

For me starting this project involved two tasks – the first speaks to humility and the second to ambition. For my first task I sent out a message to all Bethel Faculty who have won the Faculty Excellence Award for Teaching to ask if they would participate agree to an interview.  This is humbling because my project relies on their cooperation and partnership.  There is no project without them and in many ways I am at the mercy of their generosity.  For my second task I booked a big classroom for 7:00 pm on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at 7:00 pm to debut my film.  Now I have created for myself the urgency that comes with having other people involved and with a public deadline to meet.

“The hardest page to write is the first page, and the hardest sentence to write is the first sentence.”

My my sake, I hope I’m right.

The Significance of Public Memory

Yesterday Prof. Gehrz joined Art professors Michelle Westmark Wingard and Ken Steinbach for a conversation about memorials and monuments moderated by Bethel digital librarian Kent Gerber. Entitled “The Significance of Public Memory,” it covered everything from debates over Confederate memorials and the memory of the U.S.-Dakota War to examples of European memorials from our World War I trip (coming again in January 2019).

You can watch it at YouTube:

How #Reformation500 Is Being Marked in the Twin Cities

We’re now just ten days away from the 500th anniversary of the day that Martin Luther is supposed to have nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church. Whether or not that’s actually what happened, or when, Oct. 31st, 2017 is being marked around the world as a moment to remember, celebrate, mourn, etc. the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Luther's 95 theses on the Castle Church doors in Wittenberg
Luther’s theses (in Latin) are inscribed on the doors of the church in Wittenberg – Creative Commons (A. Savin)

So what’s happening around the Twin Cities for #Reformation500? A partial list of events: (not including Prof. Gehrz’s ongoing adult Sunday School class on “The Reformation at 500,” concluding tomorrow and Oct. 29, 10am, at Calvary Church in Roseville)

Concordia university st. paul

Next weekend our neighbors to the south will host a variety of events, including a festival worship service Sunday afternoon that features drama, music, dance, and a sermon by the president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (Gangelhoff Center, 4pm, Oct. 29th). CUSP is also hosting a juried art show (“Reformation Reformed”) and an archival display (“Pen & Ink: Tools of Reform”) until November 14th.

Luther seminary Reformation festival

Next Friday and Saturday, St. Paul’s ELCA seminary will host a series of workshops and presentations by theologians and musicians. (Registration required) In addition, on Friday evening the National Lutheran Choir will debut a mass commissioned for the anniversary (Basilica of St. Mary, 7pm), and the following afternoon Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis will host a special worship service (4pm).

Other Musical Celebrations

November 2-4 the Minnesota Orchestra will perform Mendelssohn’s Reformation symphony, Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2, and the world premiere of American composer Sebastian Currier’s Re-formation. Mendelssohn’s work will also be featured in a free concert by the East Metro Symphony Orchestra next Sunday (King of Kings Lutheran, Woodbury, 3pm). That same afternoon, St. Paul’s Reformation Lutheran Church will host a Reformation liturgy featuring Cantata Vespers (4pm).

“martin luther on triaL”

On Sunday afternoon, Nov. 12th, Mt. Olivet Lutheran will host the debut of an original play that puts Martin Luther on trial for the complicated legacies of the Reformation (2pm, Pantages Theatre).

Now Available from Prof. Gehrz: The Pietist Option

Congratulations to Prof. Chris Gehrz, whose new book with Evangelical Covenant pastor Mark Pattie came out today!

Gehrz & Pattie, The Pietist OptionThe Pietist Option: Hope for the Renewal of Christianity (InterVarsity Press) is a 21st century version of a 1675 book that launched the German Pietist movement. While it borrows from the history of Pietism, it addresses present-day concerns. In his endorsement, Bethel president Jay Barnes says that Gehrz and Pattie “help us see how Christ-followers in past centuries faced challenging issues in ways that are relevant to current events… The Pietist Option has wisdom for the church, the academy, and the neighborhood. I’m thankful for this resource.” Messiah College history professor John Fea (author, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?) agrees: “In an age in which the church is badly divided by politics and culture wars, The Pietist Option offers a better way. Chris Gehrz and Mark Pattie invite us to embark on a spiritual pilgrimage defined by loving our neighbors, living in hope, and listening to God. It is indeed time to reconsider the Pietist roots of American evangelicalism.”

All are invited to a book launch party for The Pietist Option — Tuesday, October 10th, 7pm at Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton, MN. The authors will read excerpts and sign copies of the book.

Prof. Gehrz previously edited The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education: Forming Whole and Holy Persons (also InterVarsity Press) and The Pietist Impulse in Christianity (Pickwick). His next project is a spiritual biography of Charles A. Lindbergh, under contract with Eerdmans Publishing.

Recording the Stories of Students of Color at Bethel University

During the Spring of 2014, Bethel’s Associate Dean of Intercultural Student Programs & Services Leah Fulton and I were talking about ways that we could share stories of students of color at Bethel.  She came up with the idea of filming interviews with students of color who where about to graduate.

We sent out a call to all of the graduating students of color at Bethel to see if anyone would be willing to sit down for an interview and ended up having six students agree to individual interviews. It was really wonderful to have the opportunity to spend time with these students as they shared their stories.  That summer we edited these individual interviews in an 88-minute film which intercut their stories.

In subsequent years, Leah and I continued to interview students and to record their stories.  When Leah Fulton left her position in Student Life to pursue further graduate study, Priscilla Kibler stepped into her role, and we continued on with the project.

In the Spring of 2017, we had ten students agree to sit down for interviews.  Then in the Summer of 2017, we edited these interviews into a 79-minute film.

As someone who has spent half of my life in the Bethel community, these films can be hard to watch. I am deeply moved by the honesty of these students. What they have to say is very important.  When we started this project, our goal was to collect student stories to be able to share them with other students, faculty, and administration.  I feel like I have learned a great deal from these students about their experiences and the experiences of other students of color at Bethel.

As an historian, these videos represent the types of projects that are closest to my heart.  I love the idea of creating an outlet for people to leave a record of their stories.  I love being able to find ways to share these stories with the Bethel community. I also have hope in the possibility that these interviews and the interviews that we film in the future will serve as a primary source for future historians of this institution.

Faculty Excellence Award for Service: Sam Mulberry

It is the first day of the Minnesota State Fair, so clearly the end of summer is in sight.  Fall semester classes begin Monday.  That means that this week faculty have been busy putting the final touches on course syllabi, preparing to meet new students, arranging calendars to accommodate a full slate of meetings and other obligations, and attending faculty retreat. Phew.

Faculty retreat isn’t necessarily everyone’s summer highlight, but it is the event where we have a chance to honor a trio of outstanding colleagues in the areas of scholarship, teaching, and service.  This year, Sam Mulberry received the Faculty Excellence Award for Service.

Sam Mulberry receiving the Faculty Excellence Award for Service from Ruth Nelson.  (Faculty Retreat, 22 August 2017) Note the standing ovation!

Ruth Nelson, who serves as Co-Director of the Academic Enrichment and Support Center with Sam, led the nomination effort.  Because Sam’s service to Bethel is so multifaceted, however, a variety of folks including Christianity and Western Culture colleagues, Patrice Conrath (advising), and Kent Gerber (library) joined Ruth to help provide a glimpse of all that Sam does for this university.  Together, these colleagues spoke of how Sam “produces innovative media that enhance student learning,” “builds community and mentors students,” “provides presence, voice and actions to support multiple committees and task forces,” and “pursues programs and practices that support student success.”

Former students, too, spoke of Sam’s impact on their lives:

“Sam Mulberry’s support and encouragement for his T.A.’s was never in question. From my first weekly planning meeting as a teacher’s assistant for Christianity and Western Culture, I was already caught up in the infectious laughs and sincere discussion of fellow T.A.’s and Professor Mulberry. Opening up his home to T.A.’s for team development and bonding, providing himself as a main contact we could access for academic concerns – all the while insisting we call him “Sam” – Professor Mulberry’s personal devotion to creating a unique and cohesive community for teacher’s assistants proved to be a great success. In an unsure time of all undergraduate students’ lives, when we easily felt weighed down by concerns of the future and insecurities of the present, Sam drew out and uplifted our skills and characters.

…Oftentimes there is a distinction between teachers who have a passion for their content and teachers who love their students. Professor Mulberry fits the mold of both, displaying his deep dedication to the discipline of history while continuing to enrich the lives of students through authentic relationship-building.”

Sam is extraordinary.  He is truly ecumenical in his service—willing to help all: students, staff, professors, administration.  Sam’s colleagues have noted that “Sam recognizes that his gifts . . . are all from the Lord and he generously gives back to see students succeed. A number of us are extremely thankful that Sam serves and works alongside us at Bethel University.”

 

Greetings from the Huntington

mcsorleyscats1929sloan
John Sloane, McSorley’s Cats (on display at the Huntington’s Virginia Steele Scott Gallery)

As Dr. Gehrz mentioned a few posts ago, I have been spending my time of late at the Huntington.  Located in San Marino, California, the Huntington boasts several gardens, terrific art galleries, and an incredible library.  Daily I walk past lemon, orange, fig, and kumquat trees, and the abundant jasmine and lavender infuse the smog with a hint of perfume.  Sir Thomas Gainsborough’s “The Blue Boy” resides here in what was once the Huntington mansion (but since 1924, a full-fledged art gallery). I definitely preferred the collection of American art at the Virginia Steele Scott Gallery, however, including John Sloane’s “McSorley’s Cats” (shown above).  Given my research interests, let’s just say that scene is fitting. The library, too, is home to several masterpieces, including some from my neighborhood’s namesake, John J. Audubon–just one example from a collection of 420,000 rare books and 7 million manuscripts.   So, if you’re still looking for summer travel ideas, the Huntington is worth a visit.

The Huntington is also a great place to research.  Summer is peak research time here, and you can find folks like me in the Ahmanson Reading Room in the Munger Research Center.  I’ve spent most of the last week and a half poring over the collection of  “Los Angeles area court records, 1850-1910” for my book, Gender and the Business of Prostitution in Los Angeles, 1850-1940.  The research has been rewarding, but in surprising ways.  The criminal records, for example, yielded a few nuggets of new information, but they mostly confirmed what I knew from extensive newspaper research.  The records dealing with property–whether in the probate or superior court–were a different story.  They painted an extraordinarily detailed picture of the everyday lives of individuals involved in the business of prostitution.  When people fight over assets, they tend to list every one of them in the court documents they file, down to the “one petrified greyhound” in the “rooms off the parlor”–what?  Digging through such inventories has made me feel like more of an archeologist than a historian, but such an experience speaks to the craft of our discipline.  History requires not only the work of uncovering the artifacts, but the skill (and discipline) of interpretation and narration.  I only hope that NE Minneapolis is as beneficial to the latter as the Huntington has been for the former.

Recommendations for History-Related Summer Travel

If you’re like our faculty, you’ll spend at least some of your summer traveling the United States. If you’d like to indulge your love of history during those journeys, some historians have been doubling as travel writers in recent weeks.

At The Anxious Bench, our own Chris Gehrz and his co-bloggers shared nine favorite historic sites, five to the east of the Mississippi and four to the west. In addition to Minnesota’s own Grand Portage National Monument, Prof. Gehrz recalled his family’s visits to two important sites in Virginia on their Fall 2016 sabbatical:

If you find Colonial Williamsburg overcrowded or overpriced, then brave much smaller crowds for many fewer dollars by touring the two sites on either end of the beautiful Colonial Parkway: Jamestown and Yorktown. One admission fee covers both, and everyone under 16 enters for free. When our family visited them last fall, we reversed the chronology and started with the Yorktown battlefield. (And yes, we sang along to the Hamilton soundtrack as we pulled into the visitor center parking lot.) Even if you bike or drive the full route, the Yorktown site is remarkably small, reminding those of us accustomed to battlefields like Gettysburg or Verdun of the relatively short ranges of 18th century weaponry. And our kids got a kick out of emulating America’s “ten-dollar Founding Father” and storming a not-exactly-impenetrable British redoubt. (“We will fight up close, seize the moment and stay in it / It’s either that or meet the business end of a bayonet!”) But the real highlight was Historic Jamestowne, where the kids roamed the ruins, posed with a statue of Pocahontas (apocryphally a distant ancestor on my dad’s side), sifted through bits and pieces from the archeological dig, and learned about slavery and cannibalism at the Archaearium. All that plus the glass blower just up the road.

The Gehrz children at Jamestown
Prof. Gehrz’s kids at Jamestown last October

Then Time magazine asked ten nationally-known experts to share their favorite historic sites. Several were well-established Civil War sites, but historian Eric Foner recommended a newer landmark dedicated to the aftermath of that conflict:

In the waning days of his presidency, Barack Obama designated Beaufort [South Carolina] a National Landmark devoted to the history of Reconstruction, the pivotal era that followed the Civil War. It was in Reconstruction that the laws and Constitution were rewritten to try to create a society based on equal rights regardless of race, and when interracial democracy for the first time flourished in this country. The emancipated slaves took important steps toward enjoying genuine freedom, but eventually progress was thwarted and reversed by terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan. In the Beaufort area, buildings and monuments still stand that exemplify the history of Reconstruction — the Penn Center, where northern women set up a school to educate the freed people; the home of Robert Smalls, the area’s longtime black political leader; plantations where African-Americans acquired land; and other sites. In Beaufort, visitors can learn about what might be called the first civil rights era, a period of our history most Americans know little about but whose struggles over equality and freedom resonate today.

If you do visit a historic site over the summer and would like to share your experience with other students, alumni, and friends of the Bethel History Department, let us know. We’d love to revive our occasional AC 2nd Travelogue series!

What Do Bethel History Professors Do on Their Summer Breaks? (part 2)

Part two of our brief series sharing summer plans from Bethel’s history professors. (Read part one here.)

This summer, Sam Mulberry be working at Bethel on three major projects. First, he’ll help build academic schedules for incoming students who will be new to Bethel in the Fall. This includes both building their initial schedules as well as meeting with students throughout the summer to make changes and adjustments to their schedules. Secondly, Prof. Mulberry will be teaching Christianity and Western Culture (CWC) online with Chris Gehrz and Amy Poppinga — his fifth straight summer teaching this class. Finally, Prof. Mulberry will be working on several major video production projects: a series of digital study skills workshops; a new online Tutor Training for Bethel’s Academic Enrichment and Support Center; a video archive of exit interviews with students of color who have recently graduated from Bethel; and a short interview film with faculty who were on Sabbatical during the 2016-17 academic year.

Sunset at Glacier National Park in Montana
Sunset at Glacier National Park – Creative Commons (B D)

Amy Poppinga is off to Montana in early June with her family for ten days of touring, horseback riding, fishing, and white water rafting in Glacier National Park. Upon her return she will be working to implement a grant she and colleagues Marion Larson and Sara Shady received along with faculty from the University of St. Thomas and Augsburg. The campuses will be working together to host an interfaith leadership conference for students in February 2018 at St. Thomas. In the meantime, Poppinga, Larson, and Shady are waiting to hear news regarding another grant for interfaith competency training for faculty and staff at Bethel. They are also working to submit a proposal for the CCCU International Forum in 2018. She will also be resuming edits on her dissertation, and teaching online Summer CWC with her colleagues, Sam Mulberry and Chris Gehrz. When she’s not working on any of the following, she can be found watching her sons play baseball or spending time on her paddleboard at the family cabin in Alexandria, Minnesota.

In addition to co-teaching online CWC with Profs. Mulberry and Poppinga, Chris Gehrz will be developing a fall section of Bethel’s new Inquiry Seminar, a first-year gen ed course that introduces students to the Christian liberal arts and helps them develop critical thinking, research, writing, and speaking skills. His section will focus on how Christians strive for unity in the midst of a polarized society. Then he’s also excited to get started on a new research project: a “spiritual but not religious” biography of Charles Lindbergh. (Look for the finished product sometime in 2021, on whatever new platform has taken the place of Amazon.) In his spare time, he’ll chauffeur seven-year old twins kept busy with a schedule full of baseball practices/games and Roseville parks and rec programming. Then there’s an August road trip to Colorado — during which Prof. Gehrz will (finally!) see Mount Rushmore. (Unless his wife decides that they’ll fly. In which case his childhood wish will remain unmet for another year.)