Later this month we’ll be previewing a few of our Interim and Spring 2020 courses. But as our Faculty Favorites series continues, we thought we’d share some courses that don’t exist yet… but we’d be interested in teaching at some point in the future.

If you could design a new course to put in your teaching rotation, what would it be?

Amy Poppinga: I would love to teach a class on Hawaiian history that synergizes colonial history/white arrival with indigenous culture and practices deeply tied to landscape and geography. I have spent considerable time in Hawaii and I am fascinated by how the study of agricultural practice tells (and shows) the sad history of colonialism and its impact on native populations. At the same time, there are so many efforts right now to return to historical methods of farming in ways that are sustainable and economically viable. In turn, these efforts are tied to restoring and embracing proud indigenous identity. How cool is that?

Chris Gehrz: I’m not a U.S. historian, so I’m not sure I can or should teach it by myself… but I’d love to co-teach a J-term travel course on Minnesota history. The weather would make it a challenge, but also add an important layer of environmental history to the diverse stories of the many peoples who have lived in this part of the world.

Amy: I would also really enjoy a revamped Minnesota history course taught in January, with a significant amount of time spent visiting local historical sites. The Twin Cities is an excellent location to teach important components of environmental history like agricultural development, Native American historical habitats, conservation, urbanization, and cultural issues.

Clash between Teamsters and Minneapolis police during the 1934 general strike – U.S. National Archives

AnneMarie Kooistra: “Crime and Punishment in the United States”! My father was a “major case team” detective with the Grand Rapids Police Department for much of my life growing up, and so he often shared tales over the dinner table. I even watched him testify in court on a number of occasions. He was really proud of his work as his detective, and one of his biggest accomplishments as a retired police officer was to consult on a couple of detective novels by Joseph Finder. I heard about crime and punishment from a police officer’s view during formative years of my life, and yet my research in this area has meant that I’ve learned a lot more about how race, class, and gender factor as major components to how the state and community seek to regulate behavior. Well, those facets really help complicate the story, let’s just say, and I like the idea of helping students think in more nuanced ways about an issue that has a complicated past and therefore has important implications for our present policies.

Annie Berglund: My dream would be to teach a course on modern Korean history, particularly from 1945 to present. Another option — more applied than content-heavy — would be to teach a class on qualitative research, with an emphasis on conducting oral histories. I miss the days of interviewing Korean activists, lawyers, and asylum seekers for my master’s thesis!

Chris: [since I’m editing this series, I’m going to take the chance to add one more idea…] Alumni and older students know that I enjoy integrating music into courses, whether it’s national anthems in Modern Europe or pop songs about nuclear war in The Cold War. What if I taught an entire course on the 20th century via its popular music, with my students and me taking turns teaching songs that serve as primary sources for particular historical themes? For example, I couldn’t watch Ken Burns’ most recent series without thinking about how country music gives us a distinctive way of looking at themes of race, gender, class, urbanization, religion, marriage, patriotism and dissent, and nostalgia in American history.

And you could do the same with hip-hop, R&B, disco, blues, folk, zydeco, gospel, jazz, pop, Broadway, etc. Plus, it would be a good excuse to assign Randall Stephens, The Devil’s Music, a terrific study of Christians’ complicated response to rock ‘n’ roll.

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