This week, we’re beginning a new series on the programs we offer in the HiPPos Department at Bethel! We recently sent out a survey to our students and alumni, asking them to share about their experience in our department and how that has impacted them.

Today, we hear from our History Hippos!

When and why did you choose the History major?

Grace Koehn ’17: Yes! I fell in love with history in 6th grade and knew I wanted to study it ever since.

Alex Hinseth ’11: I came to Bethel planning on majoring in Business but after 1st semester, I felt a strong calling to pursue teaching and coaching. I had never planned on becoming a teacher, but in thinking back to high school, I remember my history classes vividly as places where I developed the strongest relationships and was constantly challenged in my thinking.

Essie Shull ’22: I remember history floated around my head for a bit in high school, but I really wasn’t planning to make it my major when I started college. The Humanities Program won me over and I switched to history my sophomore year.

RyleeAnn Andre ’24: I chose the History major because I have always been interested in history and I knew that I would enjoy the classes. I came in with a History major but dropped it fairly quickly because I thought I wanted to focus on a different major. I added the History major in the spring semester of my freshman year because I realized that I was much more passionate about history while taking American Civilization and ended up dropping the other major.

Across our department, over 60% of students have a double-major. Did you add a second major to History? Why or why not?

Lauren (Gannon) De Cleene ’17: Yes, I had already gotten over two-thirds of the credits and really enjoyed them! As I learned more about the field and all that you can do with a History major, I was more interested in pursuing History as my major than my original major.

Essie: Yes, I added Digital Humanities as my second major. The major is small since it’s designed to be added onto your main field of study. I liked the idea of learning more technical skills in addition to what I was learning in my more traditional history classes.

Luc Berard ’21

Luc Berard ’21: Yes! I found that both the university as well as the department were very accommodating to my scholarly interests and allowed me to receive majors that represented my work in the different fields.

Grace: I actually added History and my double major to my Social Studies Education 5-12, because it was a passion of mine and I wanted to be knowledgable in my content area, which is why I minored in Political Science as well.

RyleeAnn: I added Social Studies Education as a second major with History because they are super compatible and manageable together. Doing this also allows me to take more history classes because I have more credits to fill.

Tell us about a particular highlight of the History major in your experience of it.

Alex: It’s hard to choose just one, but one activity that I will never forget was a mock trial based on the book, Ordinary Men, in Dr. Gehrz’s Modern Europe course. We were assigned roles in class as these “ordinary men” were put on trial for war crimes during WWII. I remember thinking deeply about human nature and the role that we all play in our world.

Luc: The Medieval Worlds study abroad was incredible! it was so deeply fulfilling to cap off years of learning with a weeks-long immersion in the culture, philosophy, and history that so intrigued me during my time at Bethel.

Joseph Baumgarn ’24: Dr. Poppinga is the GOAT.

Essie: In History and Politics of Sports, we simulated a debate on whether or not we should boycott the 2022 Olympics in China. I’m not always a fan of simulations, but this one was very engaging and I think we all learned a lot. An issue like the Olympics ends up being a lot more complex, both historically and politically, than it may first seem at a glance.

Lauren: The WWI study abroad experience, the Modern Middle East course, and my experience in Senior Sem were definitely stand out highlights, but I loved it all!

What’s one important way that you’ve grown — intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, etc. — as a result of majoring in History?

Essie: I think I’ve developed more empathy as a history student. In order to understand any figure or event in history, you have to be willing to place yourself in that time in order to fully understand it. Simply looking at history from our perspective in the 21st century is irresponsible and, ultimately, a bit arrogant. It’s easy to learn about what happened in history, but it takes empathy to understand why things happened in the way that they did. And that skill is something you can take with you for the rest of your life.

“It’s easy to learn about what happened in history, but it takes empathy to understand why things happened in the way that they did. And that skill is something you can take with you for the rest of your life.”

– Essie Shull ’22

Luc: I have learned to be less surprised (and dismayed) by current events. While history doesn’t proverbially “rhyme,” patterns exist for those diligent enough to seek them out. Human nature is, in my opinion, largely static; while we can hope to progress beyond the horrors that haunt our past, history has taught me not to be shocked at the latest scandal or atrocity.

Alex: Studying history caused me to consider multiple perspectives in every situation I find myself in. The history program and professors at Bethel instilled this practice in me and I have tried to continue developing this ability in order to lead in the most effective way possible.

Essie Shull ’22

Joseph: I have learned to look at things under a new light and how undeserving we all are of God’s grace.

Grace: Making me realize that most things are more complex than they might seem on the surface, and knowing the history and context of something is key.

If you were to talk to a prospective student considering History, what advice would you give her?

RyleeAnn: Definitely pursue your interests and get to know the HiPPos professors because they are super supportive and want to make the History major work for you!

Lauren: Take a class or two that you’re interested in when you have space in your schedule, or maybe connect with one of the profs and go from there. Don’t be afraid to give it a try if it’s something you’re interested in!

Alex: As a teacher, I always told my students, “I never want to tell you WHAT to think, I only want you TO think.” I believe that studying history is one of the best ways to cultivate critical thinking skills and those skills will serve you greatly in whatever you decide to pursue.

“I believe that studying history is one of the best ways to cultivate critical thinking skills and those skills will serve you greatly in whatever you decide to pursue.”

– Alex Hinseth ’11

Luc: *Cough* *cough* actually do the reading… In all seriousness, while regular textbook reading has always been the first discipline to break down over the course of the semester, I have found that the more effortful reading I can accomplish, the more I get out of and retain from the course.

Grace: Go for it! It can be daunting, feeling like it will be hard to find a career path, but it is worth it.

Essie: Stay curious. Reach out to one of the history professors. Have a conversation. And know that something as “impractical” as a history major is still a viable and valuable course of study, even if it differs from majors that may give you more technical career skills, like business or nursing. Honoring those who came before, developing empathy and cultural humility, understanding human nature — those are all things that you’ll learn when studying history. Sure, some might call that “impractical.” But some of the most important things in life have nothing to do with practicality.

If you’re an alum… what’s something you’ve come to appreciate about the History major — or maybe understand more fully — now that you’ve been away from Bethel?

Alex: There is such a wealth of knowledge, understanding, and care in the professors in the department. From the texts that were chosen to the in-class interactions – everything is done with a purpose and they really are developing students’ hearts and minds. I understood this to a degree while at Bethel, but I have a much greater appreciation for this in hindsight.

Grace: Critical thinking skills! Even though I am not working directly in a history-related field, they are still useful in my job and my life! Also, context and perspective when it comes to current events.

Lauren: I use my history major everyday. It has made me a better critical thinker and has given me a set of skills that are very transferable.

Luc: I am still very much emerging from the cocoon of BU, but I have found that history helps me wrestle with my role in the community. I care deeply about the world, but am largely cynical about my ability to affect systems-wide change. History helps push away that negativity by underscoring the prevalence of comparatively small actions which have improved the well being of people.

“History helps me wrestle with my role in the community … [it] helps push away that negativity by underscoring the prevalence of comparatively small actions which have improved the well being of people.

– Luc Berard ’21

To learn more about the History major, click here or see the catalog page below:

Read the next post in the series: Major in International Relations>>

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