Introducing Inquiry Seminar

One of the newest courses in Bethel’s general education curriculum is GES160 Inquiry Seminar (or “IQ”). Replacing the older College Writing and Introduction to Liberal Arts courses, IQ sections introduce first-year students to the liberal arts in the Christian tradition and help prepare them for research, speaking, and writing assignments in later courses.

Taught by faculty from a variety of departments, IQ sections tend to start with questions that transcend any single academic field. For example, a recent Bethel News story on Inquiry Seminar featured a section called “Bracketology: Competition and Controversy in College Basketball.” Timed to coincide with Minneapolis hosting the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four last weekend, it’s being taught by chemistry professor Ashley Mahoney, a Kentucky Wildcats fan whose reading assignments include a Andrew Maraniss’ biography of Perry Wallace, the first African-American to play in the Southeast Conference. (Have we mentioned that we’re debuting a sports history course next spring?)

Other sections have covered topics as diverse as comedy, friendship, Native American culture, and YA literature. “This is a curiosity course,” explained IQ coordinator April Vinding in the Bethel News story. “How do you cultivate curiosity? How do you manage the bumper harvest that comes back to you when you start asking interesting questions? How do you communicate your passions and curiosity to other people?”

Two of our professors have already taught Inquiry Seminar. Chris Gehrz offered one of the first sections when the course launched in Fall 2017. Asking what it meant to seek Christian unity in the midst of an increasingly divided society, students read books like Christena Cleveland’s Disunity in Christ and John Inazu’s Confident Pluralism, presented case studies of schisms in church history, and researched causes of polarization in 21st century America.

AnneMarie Kooistra is currently leading “Writing Our Story: Your Voice and the Voices of the American Past,” an IQ option for Bethel’s Pietas Honors program. “We examine how our family histories intersect larger trends in American history in general,” she explains. “Students use digital tools like Family Search to uncover sometimes long-distant ancestors, and their research project asks them to write a paper to recreate the historical context of a family member’s experience.” Readings include Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men, “an example of the tensions between memory, history, and family stories and artifacts.”

When Dr. Kooistra reprises the section this fall, students will read Martha Hode’s The Sea Captain’s Wife, a history of a nineteenth century working-class, interracial marriage and family constructed from a cache of family letters. In addition, our newest adjunct professor, Annie Berglund, will debut an IQ section called “All God’s Creatures: Animals as Property or Peers?” And our Political Science colleague Chris Moore will reprise a popular section on the politics of food.

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Upcoming Library Talks: Debating Liberty and Thinking in Public

History students and alumni might be interested in two faculty talks coming up in the Bethel University Library’s Prime Time series:

• For American history and politics buffs… This Thursday morning (3/7, 11:15am) Political Science professor Mitchell Krumm will examine how Federalists and Anti-Federalists used the ideas of the French philosopher Montesquieu to articulate “dramatically different conceptions of liberty.” Dr. Krumm is teaching our cross-listed American Constitutional History course this spring.

Poster for 3/26/19 talk by Chris Gehrz and Sam Mulberry, "Thinking in Public"

• Then on the other side of Spring Break, our own Profs. Sam Mulberry and Chris Gehrz will talk about the importance of professors using blogs, podcasts, and other media to “‘think in public’ about teaching, scholarship, and the integration of faith and learning” (Tu 3/26, 11:15am).

Previewing a New Course: The History and Politics of Sports

I’m excited to meet new classes this week, but even as they get underway, I can’t help but look ahead to Spring 2020 and a new course I’ll be teaching with Political Science professor Chris Moore: HIS/POS252L History and Politics of Sports.

1917 Bethel women's basketball team
The 1917 women’s basketball squad at then-Bethel Academy – Creative Commons (Bethel Digital Library)

As I explained last week at my own blog, I’ve wanted to create a baseball history course almost as long as I’ve been at Bethel. But while HIS252L will surely have a lot to say about my favorite sport, I’m glad that we’ve instead developed a course with a wider focus… and that I’ll be sharing it with Chris, a specialist in international relations who won the 2018 Bethel faculty excellence award for teaching. We’re not just fans ourselves, but scholars who think that studying sports can help our students ask fundamental questions about community, identity, purpose, and justice, by taking a different perspective on American and international history.

As you can see in the draft syllabus above, we’ve divided the course along the lines of a football or basketball game. After a warm-up week in which we’ll think about why we follow or play sports and how we approach the topic as scholars, we’ll survey the history of a few specific sports, then conclude our first half with deeper dives into topics like race, gender, labor, and business. Halftime will let us pause to consider various Christian perspectives on sports, then the third quarter will take us into the realm of international relations (with a focus on the Olympic Games). After the fourth quarter looks at emerging topics like e-sports and performance enhancement, we’ll conclude with a field trip to Target Field or Target Center, with students researching a “day in the life” of the Twins or Lynx franchises.

To help Chris and me think through the course before we teach it, our colleague Sam Mulberry is joining us this semester for a new weekly podcast, The 252Last week’s debut previewed the Super Bowl and looked back at the history of the NFL. In today’s episode, we turned the focus on ourselves: why we play and follow sports, and what we love about them. Next week we’ll be joined by our first guest: Dr. Art Remillard of Saint Francis University, an expert on religion and sports.

How You Can Hear Prof. Gehrz Talk about World War I — and Maybe Opera

Next month marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the First World War on its famous Western Front. As part of the international commemoration of that event, the Minnesota Opera will be performing Silent Night, a dramatization of the 1914 Christmas Truce, at the Ordway Center — November 10-18.

As a preview event, the Minnesota Opera, MinnPost, and the University of Minnesota’s School of Music are presenting “Silent Night: A Soldier’s Humanity and the Impact of WWI” — Monday, October 29, 7pm at Westminster Hall in downtown Minneapolis. I’ll be one of the panelists discussing soldiers’ experiences of the war, plus a member of the cast will perform selections from the opera itself. The event is free, but click the link above to register.

To put you in mind of the subject… Enjoy these photos from Monday night’s meeting of our J-term WWI trip participants. Bethel alum Jenna Kubly ’02 joined us to share some of her extensive collection of WWI artifacts, including everything from swords and uniforms to medals and postcards.

What We Did On Our Summer Break: Faculty

It’s the first week of the new year at Bethel, but before we get too far into the fall, we thought we’d look back at what the people of AC 2nd did with their summers. We’ll hear from some students soon enough. But let’s start with a few members of our faculty:

Prof. Poppinga wake boarding off Costa Rica
Courtesy of Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga: It is hard to believe we are already back to school. I had a wonderful summer that consisted of research and writing, quality time with my immediate and extended family, and some personal time with friends. It started with me traveling with my closest friend from Bethel on a trip to Costa Rica to celebrate our 40th birthdays. We attended a week-long women’s surfing camp. It was hard work but I loved it! We met as students in the History department, and I am grateful for our enduring friendship despite many moves, job and life changes.

Then along with my good friend and colleague, Sara Shady, I received two grants to work on creating a new course for Bethel’s Pietas Honors Program. The course centers on community, spiritual identity, and interfaith engagement. Keeping with my continued interest and research in the field of Interfaith Studies, I just co-authored an article, “Building Bridges Across Faith Lines: Responsible Christian Education in a Post-Christian Society” with Marion Larson and Sara Shady for the Journal of Christian Higher Education.

Prof. Goldberg in Greece
Courtesy of Charlie Goldberg

Charlie Goldberg: I was thrilled to have been selected to travel to Greece for nine days to participate in a seminar on fostering an appreciation for the classics in undergraduate education. The seminar was run by Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies in conjunction with the Council of Independent Colleges. Along with nineteen other college professors and trip leaders Greg Nagy (Harvard University) and Kenny Morrell (Rhodes College), I toured the Peloponnese and spent time in Delphi and Athens. The group discussed strategies for raising appreciation for the classics and ancient history at small colleges, shared lesson plans, and made plans for future collaborations. I also shared my experience launching Bethel’s new Digital Humanities major with others interested in similar efforts at their home institutions, and will forever appreciate the lifelong professional and personal relationships I forged on the trip.

Diana Magnuson: I continued to collaborate with two historians at the Minnesota Population Center (U of MN). My paper with Steven Ruggles, “Capturing the American People: Census Technology and Institutional Change, 1790-2020,” was submitted in July to an American history journal. Our paper was accepted for presentation at the Social Science History Association annual meeting in Phoenix (November 2018) and will also be presented in October at the Office of Population Research, Princeton University.  We have another project underway researching the history of privacy and the U.S. Census. Then Ronald Goeken and I are expanding our research to include all major census recounts.

Sam Mulberry: I spent this summer getting back up to speed with normal Bethel work after my Spring 2018 sabbatical.  I had two major projects on my plate.  First, I worked to build academic schedules for incoming students who will be new to Bethel in the Fall.  This included both building their initial schedules as well as meeting with students throughout the summer to make changes and adjustments to their schedules.  Secondly, I taught CWC (GES130) online with Chris Gehrz and Amy Poppinga.  This was my sixth straight summer teaching this class.  Although everything in the class went really smoothly, I did spend a chunk of the summer starting to think through how the next iteration of the class might look.

First Congregational Church of Litchfield, CT
One of the places Prof. Gehrz preached this summer: First Congregational Church in Litchfield, Connecticut, whose oft-photographed building dates to 1829.

Chris Gehrz: This summer break was incredible! I spent the first five weeks of break out east, mostly doing research for my new Charles Lindbergh biography. I started at the Library of Congress (holding an impromptu alumni reunion along the way) then spent a month back at my graduate alma mater, Yale University, home of the Lindbergh Papers. While I was in the Northeast, I also had the chance to preach at three churches in Connecticut and Massachusetts, as a follow-up to my 2017 book, The Pietist Option. Meanwhile, I found time to walk the Freedom Trail in Boston, see my first game at Fenway Park, and visit Plymouth Rock. But the true highlight of my summer came in mid-July… On my way back to the Midwest, I detoured to southwestern Virginia for a week to take part in the celebration of my dad’s retirement, after 45 years of service as a pediatrician and medical researcher.

Why We Teach

Last night Bethel hosted the premiere of Prof. Sam Mulberry’s documentary film, Why We Teach, featuring interviews with fifteen recipients of Bethel’s Faculty Excellence Award for Teaching (including Prof. Chris Gehrz). If you couldn’t be there, the full film is now available to stream:

Filmed and edited over the course of Prof. Mulberry’s spring sabbatical, Why We Teach is available at his CWC Radio Films website. In addition, there you’ll find the original faculty interviews and a searchable database of topical clips. For example, here’s Prof. Gehrz trying out some metaphors for teaching the liberal arts, including a moving story from HIS231L World War II that made the cut for the final draft of the film.

A Photographic Tour of Prof. Gehrz’s Office

I was on sabbatical the semester that Prof. Mulberry published a series here called “The Things They Carried,” in which different Bethel History and Political Science faculty shared some of the things they, well, carry in their work at Bethel. But in the spirit of using “physical objects to tell a person’s story and to profile who they are and the job they do,” I’ll share some photographs I took today of my office (AC 212).

I was responding to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that questioned the continuing value of the faculty office. You can read those reflections at my own blog, but I thought some of you might enjoy the pictures on their own. (And maybe I can convince a few more members of the department to do the same with their offices.)

Get a Preview of Prof. Gehrz’s New Project on Charles Lindbergh

Join us next Thursday (April 12, 11:15am) in the Bethel University Library as Prof. Gehrz gives a Not Ready for Prime Time talk previewing his new project: a “spiritual, but not religious” biography of the famous aviator Charles A. Lindbergh.

Lindbergh gravesite in Hawaii
Lindbergh died in 1974 in Hawaii and was buried on the grounds of a Congregationalist church. His gravestone quotes Psalm 139: “…if I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea…” – Wikimedia

If you can’t make it, you can find video of that talk — and our professors’ and students’ many other appearances in the Library — at our YouTube channel. Or read some of Prof. Gehrz’s recent Lindbergh posts at The Pietist Schoolman and The Anxious Bench:

The Significance of Public Memory

Yesterday Prof. Gehrz joined Art professors Michelle Westmark Wingard and Ken Steinbach for a conversation about memorials and monuments moderated by Bethel digital librarian Kent Gerber. Entitled “The Significance of Public Memory,” it covered everything from debates over Confederate memorials and the memory of the U.S.-Dakota War to examples of European memorials from our World War I trip (coming again in January 2019).

You can watch it at YouTube:

Now Available from Prof. Gehrz: The Pietist Option

Congratulations to Prof. Chris Gehrz, whose new book with Evangelical Covenant pastor Mark Pattie came out today!

Gehrz & Pattie, The Pietist OptionThe Pietist Option: Hope for the Renewal of Christianity (InterVarsity Press) is a 21st century version of a 1675 book that launched the German Pietist movement. While it borrows from the history of Pietism, it addresses present-day concerns. In his endorsement, Bethel president Jay Barnes says that Gehrz and Pattie “help us see how Christ-followers in past centuries faced challenging issues in ways that are relevant to current events… The Pietist Option has wisdom for the church, the academy, and the neighborhood. I’m thankful for this resource.” Messiah College history professor John Fea (author, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?) agrees: “In an age in which the church is badly divided by politics and culture wars, The Pietist Option offers a better way. Chris Gehrz and Mark Pattie invite us to embark on a spiritual pilgrimage defined by loving our neighbors, living in hope, and listening to God. It is indeed time to reconsider the Pietist roots of American evangelicalism.”

All are invited to a book launch party for The Pietist Option — Tuesday, October 10th, 7pm at Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton, MN. The authors will read excerpts and sign copies of the book.

Prof. Gehrz previously edited The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education: Forming Whole and Holy Persons (also InterVarsity Press) and The Pietist Impulse in Christianity (Pickwick). His next project is a spiritual biography of Charles A. Lindbergh, under contract with Eerdmans Publishing.