Graduate School in History: To Go or Not To Go?

Today we’re excited to start a four-part series meant to help prospective students, current students, and alumni who are thinking about continuing their historical studies in graduate school. Helping us out are three of our alumni who are either in a doctoral program in history or have recently finished one:

  • Noel Stringham ’07 is a doctoral student in African history at the University of Virginia.
  • Katie Thostenson ’05 (M.Litt., University of St Andrews, Scotland) is currently working towards her PhD in Classics at the University of Edinburgh.
  • Ben Wright ’05 (M.A., Columbia University; PhD, Rice University) is assistant professor of history at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, a small school in the University of Georgia System. Ben is the coeditor of Apocalypse and the Millennium in the American Civil War Era (LSU, 2013) and The American Yawp.

In part one we focus on the initial decision of whether or not to apply to grad school. Look for subsequent posts to share advice on the application process and the challenges and opportunities awaiting students in grad school.

Complete the sentence: “A Bethel student should apply to graduate school in history or a related field if she _______.”

NS: “…has examined lots of other options and concluded that she is willing to devote many years to course work, research, and writing a dissertation before she can begin her career.”

BW: “…insists.” Simply put, if you can find another career track that might fulfill you, you should probably pursue that. If, however, you know what you want to do, and this is it, then you should go in expecting to have to beat a lot of odds.

At what point did you decide you wanted to continue your studies in history in graduate school? How did you come to that decision?

Katie Thostenson at Roman ruins in Cologne
Katie taught at Bethel in 2013-2014; she’s back in the UK this year, but in Spring 2015 will teach our Roman Civ course as an online class

KT: I came to Bethel already with the idea that I wanted to go to graduate school, but it wasn’t until my junior year that I felt completely committed to going. After spending a semester abroad at Oxford University, where I was required to do a lot of independent research, I felt much more confident in pursuing graduate study.

BW: I come from a pretty working class background, so I had never heard the words “graduate school” or “PhD” before I came to Bethel. I knew I wanted to teach, however, so I double majored in History and Soc Stud Ed expecting to teach high school history. I was surprised to discover that I also wanted to research. When I found nearly as much fulfillment in research and writing as teaching, I first began to wonder if I should switch tracks. My experiences student-teaching also made me question if high school was really the right place for me.

NS: I did not make that decision until several years after I graduated. I starting out working for an NGO overseas and with inner-city non-profits but found that, while I believed in the missions, I wanted more opportunities for thoughtful analysis. I also did not see the path I was on leading to a lifelong career.

KT: I found that I loved the challenge of historical research and I had the idea that I wanted to teach, but I did not feel called to teach high school students. So attending graduate school to pursue an academic career, which could combine these two things—research, and teaching seemed like a good fit for me.

NS: I had always loved history, even as a small child, but had not considered teaching history as a profession because of the US and European histories I had encountered. However enjoyable these histories were, they seemed both repetitive and disconnected from contemporary issues which I cared about in Africa or the US (Native American reservations, inner-city neighborhoods, etc.). Then I realized that all these places and topics obviously had histories of their own which I could research and then teach.

Read the next post in this series>>


What’s New in 2014-2015? Our Faculty

Now that we’re past the busyness of Welcome Week and the start of classes, it’s high time we get back to blogging here at AC 2nd. We’ll start with three posts sharing what’s new in the department. First, comings and goings on our faculty:

Ruben RiveraRuben Rivera is continuing in a new role that he started last spring, as the university’s interim Chief Diversity Officer. Here’s how he described that position for us:

My tasks are numerous, but my overarching responsibility has to do with the articulation of vision, strategy, initiatives and support for Christ-centered unity in diversity across the university’s schools. What excites me most about my role is that I have an opportunity to help lead our community closer toward that goal that Christians the world over have for centuries prayed to God to fulfill: Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4). Jesus himself taught us that prayer. What does the kingdom of heaven look like? In the book of Revelation we catch a glimpse of heaven where people from every language, culture and nation are worshipping Christ in beautiful unbroken unity (Revelation 7:9-10). Further in the book we see that time when God’s cosmic purposes are finally accomplished, and the kingdom of heaven, the new Jerusalem, coming down to earth and God dwelling among all his diverse people (Revelation 21:1-3). I see my role as nothing less than the promotion of the enjoyment of that coming kingdom.

In between all the work that that job entails, Ruben will continue to teach undergraduates: HIS210U Minorities in America this fall, and HIS209L Christianity in America and HIS217UZ Hispanic Christianity in the spring.

• Diana Magnuson will be on sabbatical next spring, continuing her research at the Minnesota Population Center (MPC). Look for more on those plans in December or January…

• Last year we were thrilled to have one of our former students, Katie (Thostenson) Dunker (’05), come back to Bethel to teach. Over the summer Katie returned to the UK, where she’s completing her doctoral dissertation at the University of Edinburgh. But she will be teaching for us again next spring, when she offers HIS311 Roman Civilization online.

• Another of our distinguished alumnae, Emily Osborne (’06), will be on campus Wednesday nights this fall teaching GEO120 Introduction to Geography, one of the required courses in our Social Studies Education 5-12 major. Emily is a social studies teacher at Mahtomedi High School, holds a master’s in curriculum and instruction from the University of Minnesota, and spends her summers in Oxford, England, directing a unique pre-college program for high school students.

Read the next post in this series of updates>>

Faculty Update, Fall 2013: Publications

Several Bethel History professors have had recent publications, or will soon see their work appear in print:

Bethel Seminary sign• Prof. Diana Magnuson surveyed the recent, challenging past of Bethel Seminary in A Time of Transformation, Bethel Seminary 1982-2012, eds. James and Carole Spickelmier, a new history of that institution that picks up where Missionsskolan, by her father-in-law, Norris Magnuson, left off.

• Prof. Chris Gehrz guest-edited a special issue of The Covenant Quarterly with Bethel theology professor Christian Collins Winn, and contributed to it an article comparing how Brethren historian Dale Brown and former Bethel president Carl Lundquist developed distinctively pietistic approaches to Christian engagement with culture.

• Department alum-turned-adjunct instructor Katie Thostenson recently had a paper accepted for publication in Studia Patristica. “Sharing God’s Image: Tertullian on the Creation of the Sexes” challenges the charge made by early feminist scholars that Tertullian was a misogynist, by exploring to what extent he believed that divine aspects of the Creator are shared by men and women and then comparing his anthropology of female creation with those outlined in other Greco-Roman texts.

• And as previously mentioned here at AC 2nd, Prof. AnneMarie Kooistra’s “The Harlot City?: Prostitution in Hollywood, 1920-1940” will be coming out in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies.

<<Read the previous update in this series

Welcome, Prof. Thostenson!

Katie Thostenson at Roman ruins in Cologne
At the ruins of the Roman Praetorium in Cologne, Germany…

It’s been fairly quiet here at AC 2nd over the summer, but now that we’re back in class you can expect lots of news and announcements this week. Starting with a welcome to an old friend who’s joining our faculty for 2013-2014…

With the retirement of Kevin Cragg last year, one of his former students has returned to teach ancient and medieval history at Bethel. Katie Thostenson (’05) is a doctoral student in Classics at the University of Edinburgh, where she researches the early Christian writer Tertullian, ancient medical theories about the female body, and the social history of the Roman Empire (in particular the status and roles of women in that society). She also holds a master’s in Ancient History from the University of St Andrews.

As an adjunct instructor this year, Prof. Thostenson will teach two upper-division surveys (HIS312 Medieval Europe this fall, HIS311 Roman Civilization in the spring) and sections of College Writing and Christianity and Western Culture. You can learn more about her experience at Bethel and her graduate studies from an interview we conducted with her last July.

Please take a moment to welcome Prof. Thostenson, or to send her a word of congratulations.