Today we’d like to announce formally a change that’s been percolating for over a year now:

History, Philosophy, and Political Science have merged into a single department.

We value the distinctive methods, insights, and emphases of our various disciplines and will keep our distinct programs. [Look for more on that topic in a follow-up post, but right off the bat let’s make clear: no majors have been eliminated.] But in many ways, the merger brings together three departments that already share much in common in terms of history, objectives, and distinctive strengths.

Sixty years ago, Philosophy had its own section in the Bethel College catalog, but History and Political Science still shared an entry (Bethel Digital Library)

After World War II, in Bethel’s first years as a four-year college, History and Political Science shared a single department housing distinct majors. Even after they separated into two administrative units, Bethel’s historians and political scientists continued to work next to each other — for several decades on AC 2nd; since 2019 on CC 4th. We already cross-list several courses, including African Politics, American Constitutional History, The Cold War, Modern Middle East, Revolution and Political Development, and History and Politics of Sports, which Profs. Gehrz and Moore first co-taught last spring.

The three disciplines have long shared HIS/PHI/POS360 Classics in Western Political Philosophy, a field in which the Philosophy and Political Science curriculums naturally overlap. History and Philosophy professors have worked together on the CWC and Humanities teams almost as long as those programs have been around, and Profs. Poppinga and Shady often partner as two of Bethel’s resident specialists in interfaith dialogue and action.

And at one point or another, virtually all of our faculty have worked together on one of the podcasts hosted on Channel 3900, the brainchild of Prof. Mulberry.

2004 photo of G.W. Carlson, Professor of History and Political Science, who taught Classics in Western Political Philosophy alongside courses on political ideology, Russian history, and Christian non-violence (Bethel Digital Library)

Finally, for all the significant disciplinary differences separating history, philosophy, and political science, it’s also struck us that we have natural affinities: whatever their particular specialty, our professors are all committed to teaching as a Christian vocation and to the humanities as a core component of the Christian liberal arts; and our students cultivate similar skills and traits even as they acquire different kinds of knowledge.

When we conducted an alumni survey in January, we found some recurring patterns that cut across the three areas:

• In every major, well over 90% of recent graduates said that their studies improved their skills in research, critical thinking, and writing.

• Over 80% of those alumni also said they learned how to integrate faith and learning, to empathize with others, and to understand other cultures.

• Among those recent grads who had already completed — or were completing — a graduate or professional degree, over 90% said that their studies in History, Philosophy, or Political Science prepared them to continue their education.

So even as we announce some changes and anticipate some innovations, we want to keep affirming the passions and interests that brought students to history, philosophy, and political science in the first place, and pledge that the new department will seek to extend the strengths that marked its three predecessors.

CC 429 has been quiet so far this summer, but our philosophy professors will soon move into their offices, and we look forward to welcoming all our students this fall, for office hours, individual and small group study, and special departmental events

Over the next few weeks, we’ll roll out more posts. Tomorrow we’ll share the whimsical department nickname that’s already part of our professors’ parlance, then Wednesday or Thursday we’ll reflect on what the merger might mean for the culture and curriculum of the new department. We’ve already added faculty pages for the philosophers and political scientists to the drop-down menu above, but in July we’ll run a series of posts designed to help you all get to know our faculty — including a professor who will be starting at Bethel in August.

Those posts will start to expand this blog’s coverage to include the stories of Philosophy and Political Science at Bethel. Of course, CC 4th (and its AC 2nd predecessor) has been a Bethel History blog since 2012, so its archive of posts reflects that disciplinary emphasis. (And we’ll keep the URL the same, so no need for longtime followers to update any bookmarks.) But we’re also planning to share interviews with Philosophy and Political Science grads who have entered various careers, previews of courses in all of our majors, and news and announcements from throughout the new department.

And if you’re not already following our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts — or a member of our networking group on LinkedIn — know that they’re also open to all History, Philosophy, and Political Science students, alumni, faculty, and friends.

The striking icon at the center of our departmental logo was originally designed by Mary (Hitt) Olson ’20, a Graphic Design major and History minor. Inspired by our location on the 4th floor of the CC building, it combines 4 C’s into a cross that evokes both Bethel’s Christian identity and mission and the interconnectedness of knowledge and inquiry in the humanities

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