This past Monday night marked the first meeting of our spring section of HIS499 Senior Seminar, the capstone course in Bethel’s History major. “Senior Sem” primarily involves a significant project of original research, with each student investigating whatever historical topic most interests them (so long as it can be researched given their knowledge of languages and/or the availability of sources) and producing both an article-length paper and a formal presentation to students and faculty at the end of the semester. (Here’s a summary of the projects presented at the end of last fall’s section of Senior Sem.)

In addition, HIS499 serves as a chance for students to reflect more deeply on some philosophical and methodological questions facing historians (particularly, historians who are also Christian and wondering what difference that might make for their faith or their work), and to consider their vocation outside of college. What will it mean for them to continue to cultivate their interest in history apart from participation in a college major? For some, that interest will take them to graduate school, or lead them to work in a social studies classroom, archive, or museum. For most, history will remain a passion without much obvious connection to their profession.

To share with you all something of what our students get out of this course, each week through May we’ll be posting at least one or two reflections from the current Senior Seminar-ians: excerpts from the seminar journal they’ll be keeping throughout the semester. Some posts will be focused on the status of research projects; others will be more philosophical in tone. (And, of course, students will have the chance to opt out of having their journal entries turned into blog posts. The only words you’ll see from these journals are those that students are willing to share beyond our class.)

In the meantime… Alumni: what are your memories of Senior Seminar?

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