Last night the eight students in Bethel’s spring section of HIS499 Senior Seminar gave 15-minute oral presentations of their semester-long projects to an audience that included faculty, students, and family. (This year students had the choice of presenting either the traditional academic talk or something more like an “intellectual autobiography” of their experience in the course.)

Titles and summaries of the eight projects, in order (chronological) of how they were presented: (for each, I’ll also link to other posts they’ve written this semester for this blog)

Matthew Nelson, “Contrasting Modern Myths and Legends with the Historical Truth of the Knights Templar”

Matt considered the crusading order known as the Knights Templar, contrasting what historians could verify about its rise and fall via evidence (e.g., correspondence) versus the curious ways in which the Knights have served the more imaginative purposes of writers, filmmakers, video game designers, et al. (Matt also reflected on the experience of changing topics midway through Senior Seminar — he had earlier contributed to our Senior Sem Journal series a post on the history of the idea of Atlantis.)

Robert Burns
Robert Burns (1759-1796) – Wikimedia
Danielle Johnson, “A Union, A Parcel O’ Rogues and a King in a Kilt: An Examination of Scottish Identity in the Late 18th and 19th Centuries”

Concluding with the first Senior Sem Presentation Night sing-along in recent memory (of the Scottish anthem “Scots Wha Hae,” from a Robert Burns poem; she also looked to the writing of Sir Walter Scott), Danielle’s presentation asked how a Scottish national identity independent of “British” identity survived the political union between those two countries. (Danielle contributed three entries to the Senior Sem Journal series, most recently writing on the notion of history majors being called to serve the Church.)

Dana Morrison, “Edison/Tesla: It’s Electric! The History of Celebrity”

Sporting a “Tesla/Edison” T-shirt and managing to incorporate references to David Bowie (who played Tesla in the movie The Prestige) and AC/DC (named for the rivals in the so-called “War of the Currents”), Dana wondered why it was that Thomas Edison had achieved mainstream celebrity — while his one-time employee-turned-rival Nikola Tesla was both less well known, and widely celebrated as a kind of cult hero. (Dana also made three contributions to the Senior Sem Journal series, including this reflection on history and science. One of her essays for the course Modern America on popular music from the likes of George M. Cohan and Billie Holiday — was also posted here in the Modern American Encounters series.)

Matt Newlin, “The Battle to Become America’s Favorite Beer”

Another first in Senior Sem at Bethel: a history of the brewing of beer. More specifically, Matt looked to advertising to investigate the enduring success of three breweries (Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Coors) that had transcended their regional origins to become national and international leaders in that industry.

Christina Anderson, “American University Education for Women at the Turn of the Century: Liberation or Paternalism?”

Building from the story of an ancestor who had studied there, Christina studied the women of the home economics department at the University of Chicago (ca. 1900-1920) as an example of how even an avowedly “experimental” institution of higher learning (from its inception, co-educational) had both helped to liberate women and to keep them under a paternalistic system. (Christina’s three contributions to the Senior Sem Journal series concluded with a reflection on the Oregon Extension and the unique chance it offered for students and faculty to learn together.)

Ro Tollefson, “Macro and Micro: Nursing Education’s Development in the United States and at Bethel University”

Continuing with a field of higher education largely dominated by women in the 20th century, History/Nursing double-major Ro treated her own department as a case study for the evolution of nursing education. Her research largely consisted of oral history interviews with leading faculty in the Bethel Nursing Department, including one of its founders, Dr. Eleanor Edman. (Three of the Senior Sem Journal posts came from Ro, most recently one agreeing that history professors ought to teach, not preach.)

David Anderson, “Kennan and Containment: The Creation and Early Implementation of U.S. Grand Strategy at the Beginning of the Cold War”
JFK and Kwame Nkrumah, 1961
John F. Kennedy and Kwame Nkrumah, March 1961 – Kennedy Library

David, a History/Political Science major, built on a paper he had written during a semester studying in England to consider the role of George Kennan in the development of the doctrine of containment, as the primary American foreign policy response to the Soviet Union and its allies during the Cold War. He shared the struggle of balancing the biography of one man with an analysis of a complicated set of policies that involved multiple individuals and agencies (not to mention critics in and out of government).

Jon Steen, “Kwame Nkrumah and the International Arena (1957-1966)”

Also inspired by a study abroad experience, Jon drew on his time in Ghana to evaluate the foreign policies of that African country’s founding president, who struggled to maintain a posture of “active neutralism” in the face of Cold War competition, the postcolonial struggle for African unity, and the unstable nature of newly independent countries like Ghana and its neighbors. (His experience in Ghana also showed up in all three of Jon’s contributions to the Senior Sem Journal series, including the last one, on what Christian historians can learn from non-Christians.)

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