Our Newest Podcast: Bookish

We’re excited to announce the debut of Bookish @ Bethel, a new podcast on the Live from AC2nd network!

Featuring our own Prof. AnneMarie Kooistra and Philosophy professor Carrie Peffley, Bookish will feature conversations about books and other texts that feature in Bethel’s Humanities Program. (Carrie and AnneMarie help lead one of the Humanities teaching teams.)

For the first episode of Bookish @ Bethel, AnneMarie and Carrie started where both Humanities and its gen ed cousin CWC start: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” To help them explore that text, they talked to someone familiar to many of our alumni: History professor-turned-Bethel chief diversity officer Ruben Rivera, who reflects on King’s iconic status, the civil rights movement past and present, connections to figures like Frederick Douglass and James Baldwin, and how MLK embodies what Ruben calls “remarkable Christianity.”

(Students: if you want to dive deeper into these topics and texts, check out Ruben’s fall courseHIS210U Minorities in America.)

You can download or stream Bookish from Podbean. And be sure to follow all our Live from AC2nd podcasts on Facebook.


Three More Books to Read for Black History Month

Earlier this week at The Anxious Bench, I mentioned five books that I’m planning to read for Black History Month: biographies of Frederick Douglass and Jackie Robinson, plus a study of Catholic civil rights activism in Chicago, an analysis of the impact of the black church on the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Jemar Tisby’s widely-acclaimed history of Christian complicity in racism.

But I’m no expert, so I appreciate that Dr. Kooistra (here at AC 2nd) and Dr. Magnuson (at our Facebook page) have also shared resources related to African American history. And today, I’m happy to welcome back our colleague Ruben Rivera, Bethel’s chief diversity officer and the instructor of our Minorities in America class, who recommended three more books to read this month.

Audio book of Rankine, CitizenClaudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014)

There are numerous books about the African American experience in a racialized USA. What I like about Rankine’s is that, with the exception of a few pieces in it, the highly personal experiences are conveyed in the form of vivid short prose poems. I have often been asked what microaggressions are. Still others believe the term was invented by liberals. Read Rankin’s book and you’ll know what microaggressions are and that they are very real.

Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give (Balzer & Bray, 2017)

The Hate U Give is a young adult novel that has been adapted for a major motion picture by the same name. It deals with ripped-from-headlines issues: racial profiling; policing in communities of color; and most explosively, the killing of unarmed black men by white officers.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, 2015)

This book comes in the form of a letter to his son Samori in the context of the need to make sense of recent killings of black men by police. Very well written, thoughtful, moving, and certain to stimulate questions about what it means to live in a black body in America.

– Dr. Ruben Rivera

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: Presentations

A Third Way logoOver the weekend Prof. Amy Poppinga was in Chattanooga, TN for the 2013 Adventist Forum Conference, A Third Way: Beyond the conservative/liberal divide to a Christian identity refreshed by interfaith dialogue. In her presentation, “”How Cultural Identity Shapes Faith and Complicates Interfaith Relations,” Amy considered the role of vulnerability in interfaith relationships and the challenge for Christians to rely less on our confidence of what we think we know and more on faith.

That was the first of several presentations that Bethel History professors will be making in 2013-2014:

• Prof. Chris Gehrz will be a fish out of water at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, held in mid-November in Baltimore. Chris will speak on “The Global Reflex: An International Historian Appraises David Swartz’s Moral Minority,” as one of three scholars invited to respond to Swartz’s acclaimed history of politically progressive evangelicalism. (Learn more at Chris’ blog.)

• And next May, Prof. AnneMarie Kooistra will present at the Berkshire Conference on Women’s History, held for 2014 in Toronto. On the heels of teaching her new spring course, History of Sexuality in America, AnneMarie will take part in a panel on “Sexualities in the City,” contributing a paper on “Enterprising Men in Los Angeles’s Red-Light District, 1870-1909.”

Then Prof. Diana Magnuson and Prof. Ruben Rivera will be attending conferences and workshops this fall: Diana later this month at the Minnesota Population Center‘s workshop, “IPUMS-USA, US Census and American Community Survey, from 1850 to present”; Ruben at the Coming Together Immigration Conference, this year on the theme of “The Gospel, the Church & Immigration” (in October at First Baptist Church, Minneapolis), and then the 5th Annual Student Diversity Leadership Conference, “Achieving Peace by Embracing Diversity” (in November at North Park University in Chicago).

<<Read the first entry in this series of updates                Read the last update in the series>>

History Majors Featured on Bethel Website: Hilary Ritchie and Michael Bumann

If you’ve visited Bethel’s website recently, you’ve probably seen one of our students!

The homepage of our website is featuring the stories of a series of Bethel students and alumni. There are several such stories that take turns in the spotlight throughout the day. Two of the four in the current rotation are current or former Bethel History students:

Hilary Ritchie (’13)

Hilary Ritchie

Hilary is a double-major in History and Biblical and Theological Studies, a not-uncommon combination at Bethel (in a day or two we’ll be publishing an interview with an alum who had the same double-major) that Hilary finds very satisfying:

I love theology and I love history, and seeing the way the two interconnect. I think it’s important to understand that our theology doesn’t just come out of nowhere, that it was developed in a context. The reality is that we’re part of a tradition and part of this big story that God’s been working on for a long time.

In the rest of the story, Hilary talks about her desire to teach theology, her appreciation for the value of Christian community, and her role as a worship leader at Bethel. She’s currently completing a research project on the 4th century theologian Ephrem the Syrian in our capstone course, Senior Seminar. In a couple weeks that course will dedicate a discussion to Christian vocation, which is the final topic Hilary speaks to in the piece on the website:

God’s given everyone certain passions and gifts. When we live into those passions and live into those gifts, then we’re living full lives as we’re meant to. That’s what God creates us for. Do what you love.

Michael Bumann (’06)Michael Bumann

When he took Senior Sem in the spring of 2006, Michael Bumann chose to write his paper on Jesuit missions in East Asia. Little did he know that he would end up living in China, studying Chinese and teaching English as part of the organization English Language Institute/China. In his web story, Michael explains how studying history helped prepare him for this calling:

Bethel taught me how to pay attention to the world and find a way forward. I gained a lot of cultural research tools in my history major. I learned how to attach one idea to another. In college, that comes out as a paper. Now I’m living life and I can use those same tools to live and learn in a foreign country. It’s critical thinking. That’s been really helpful.

He also emphasizes his appreciation for Bethel professors, the way that they invested in him and how he’s invested in maintaining relationships with many of them over the years. At the beginning of the story, he discussed to the formative role played by one of the faculty members in our department:

I still remember one class I loved – Christianity in America taught by Ruben Rivera. We basically went from the beginning of Anglo settlement in America through the 19th century. The thing I loved the most about it was that we read a lot of original source material – letters, in your own words kind of things, specifically from industrialized America. I hadn’t experienced that in history classes up to that point.

I didn’t know that I wanted to be a teacher until I came to Bethel. That class was an 8 a.m. interim class. So students stumbled in, maybe half awake, maybe not, and by 8:15 we’d be in a full-blown discussion. It takes a pretty special teacher to be able to do that. Dr. Rivera always had people engaged. I remember thinking “I want to be that kind of teacher one day.”

From AC 2nd to… Magazine Editor and Publications Coordinator

We’re picking up steam in our series of alumni interviews, From AC 2nd to… Today we turn the spotlight on Tim Krueger (’10), who is publications coordinator for Christians for Biblical Equality and edits CBE’s magazine, Mutuality.

Tim KruegerWhy did you decide to major in History?

I started at Bethel as a history major. Back to elementary school, I’d always loved social studies. Approaching college, I wanted to study either history or geography. I was more excited about Bethel and its history program than I was about going to a large state school with a geography program (plus I found out college-level geography involved a lot of math, which is not my favorite). And, I felt that God was calling me to go to Bethel, where there is no geography program, so that helped make my decision easier. So, I happily chose history and prepared myself for four years of relatives asking, “and what are you going to do with that?”

Do any particular memories of your time as a History major at Bethel stick out?

I think what sticks out most is being a TA for Dr. Rivera for a couple years. I spent a lot more time chatting with him and trying to soak in some of his knowledge and wisdom than I did actually grading papers. Being the shy and awkward person I am, I think that if it weren’t for the chance to TA, I wouldn’t have gotten to know any of my profs at all outside of the classroom. Getting to know the faculty a little bit more on a personal level really helped me grow spiritually and academically.

I have a lot of great memories from my classes as well, though. The first history class I took, second semester of my freshman year, was Latin American Civ, and Dr. Rivera gave those students with the best papers a chance to present. This was my first research paper of my college career, and I wanted to do my best, yet I lived in fear that if I did well, I might have to present to the class. Fortunately my fears were unfounded; I was simultaneously humbled and relieved to find that my paper wasn’t all that great, so I was saved from presenting. Other fond memories include singing “That’s the Wrong Way to Tickle Mary” in Gehrz’s WWI class, and hearing GW Carlson talk about most anything, but especially his occasional rant about how he was having to step up his game because of some up-and-coming new physics professor who was trying to challenge his title as Eccentric Tie Guy. And of course Dr. Cragg doing his “Hound of the Baskervilles” howl/bark every time he mentioned the curse of the Barcas in Roman Civ. I will also never forget the sadness on his face when a student blurted out the punchline to his joke about the Sadducees, which he’d been looking forward to telling for the entire semester.

On a more serious note, I really enjoyed reading the textbook for Latin American Civ, Born in Blood and Fire. I’m so glad this was my first text in my history studies, because it read almost like a novel, and encouraged me that maybe I, too, could talk and write about history in a way that was engaging, relevant, easy to understand, and still informative and accurate. My roommate, who was a computer science major, took that class and to this day says that that text was the most (possibly only) interesting history book he’s ever read. I was really impacted by two of the books we read for Modern Europe: Ordinary Men and The Dynamite Club. Both of them were rather depressing, really. But I think they really drove home the fact that the people of history could be any one of us. Whether we’re murdering people or saving them, we humans act out of similar hopes, fears, disappointments, and frustrations. Maybe more than anything else, this is what I took away from my history studies. I learned empathy for the “bad guys,” learned to assume profound humanity, not cravenness for all people, and learned that so very little in the world is black and white.

Did you graduate with a clear sense of what you wanted to do for a career? Any advice for soon-to-graduate History majors about how to approach the transition from college student to job-seeking college graduate?

I didn’t really have a clear sense of what I wanted to do. I’d hoped to go to grad school or seminary within a couple years of graduation, but I didn’t feel like I had a firm sense of why, or what I was interested in enough to study in great depth for years to come. I’m still not sure what the future will hold, since they say I should expect to change careers several times in my life. For now, though, I’m happy where I am, and it’s great to be actually making and saving money, rather than taking out more and more loans.

My advice for history majors is, if it’s not too late, get an internship, try getting some volunteer experience somewhere, and try to work rather than just going on to grad school by default. I’d also try to work a decent amount in school to minimize your loan debt. And most of all, be patient: listen to God’s leading.

Internships and volunteer experience really, really help you get jobs once you’re out of school. I worked some on campus when I was in college, and a little bit off campus, but I could’ve been a lot more disciplined. I had a pretty average amount of debt when I graduated, but if I’d been more motivated to work, I could have probably reduced that debt by probably 1/3. Having debt hanging over you just causes a lot of stress and pressure.

I also think that it’s a good idea to actually try to work for awhile after you graduate, unless you have a very clear idea of why you’re going to grad school — don’t just go on to more school because you don’t know what else to do. While history doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a specific career trajectory (unless you’re also in the education program, I suppose), it gives you skills that are great for any field. Being able to analyze and synthesize information, and then write or speak about it is useful no matter where you are.

Most of all, wait patiently for God’s leading, and be willing to do unexpected things in the meantime. I worked 2-4 part-time jobs for the first year after I graduated. Some were alright, and some I hated. It was frustrating, but in time I was led to my current job, which is about as close to my ideal job as I ever imagined could exist.

Tell us a bit about Christians for Biblical Equality and what you do with that organization.

CBE is an educational organization that advocates the position that the Bible, faithfully interpreted, calls for all Christians to serve in the church, home, and society according to their gifts and calling, without restrictions based on gender. In short, we’re evangelical egalitarians. We publish an academic journal and a magazine quarterly, we publish books on gender, the Bible, and theology, and we host annual conferences in the US and around the world. Our members come from hundreds of denominations and dozens of countries around the world, all committed to pursuing God’s ideal for Christian service in the world. I’ve been with CBE for almost two years now, and have had at least three different positions there, and I’ve only held my current position for around a month.

I’m the editor of our magazine, Mutuality, and I’m also the publications coordinator. As editor of Mutuality, I work with other staff to determine themes for future issues, then I solicit authors to write short articles about the intersection between Scripture, various relevant issues relating to gender, and the author’s lives. Some are personal reflections, some explore particular passages of the Bible, some analyze cultural trends in light of Scripture, some are book reviews, and most do some of each or are somewhere in between. I edit the articles that come in, work with a graphic designer to lay out the magazine, write the editor’s note, and coordinate the logistics of magazine production, from budgets to mailing lists to printing.

As publications coordinator, I am the in-office point person managing the logistics of our academic journal, Priscilla Papers (the editorial staff is composed of volunteers, most of whom teach at Gordon-Conwell). I also oversee other aspects of our publications, such as efforts to get journals into more libraries, digitizing our content, and creating special edition journals for conference or special mailings. I also serve as the primary “gatekeeper” for a lot of CBE’s publications and marketing, hopefully ensuring that they’re mistake-free and accurately represent the organization.

What connections (if any) do you see between your studies as a History major and the work you’re doing now as an editor and publications coordinator?

Most of what I do is either directly or indirectly relates to my history studies. In some cases, I deal with articles that are directly related to church history, usually the last 200 years of American history, the early church, or ancient Israel. I always enjoy these chances to learn and occasionally contribute a thing or two, gaining a better understanding of the world, and then finding ways to share this knowledge with people.

A lot of what I do is indirectly related, as well. I often tell people that I get to do most of the things I loved about school — reading, researching, analyzing, thinking, editing, and writing — but get paid for it. These are all skills that were developed in my time studying history. Finding articles, drawing out their best ideas, editing, and even researching options for content distribution all use these skills. Managing budgets is about the only thing I do that doesn’t really draw on my history background in some way.

How do you continue to feed your interest in learning more about history?

For starters, I make sure to watch the Reformation Polka every Reformation Sunday. (A bonus is that it helps me fit in better with my Lutheran in-laws.) And of course the Augustine Rap, Confessionz. Nothing is more inspiring than Kevin Cragg’s dance moves. I also randomly run into GW Carlson in various places around Saint Paul (including jury duty!), and knowing that any day I could be called upon to answer the question, “so what’s our distinguished young scholar reading this week?” keeps me on my toes, always trying to read not one, not two, but at least three books. I’ve never been a prolific or fast reader, so I still don’t read as much as a lot of people, but more than I ever used to. Because I work in the theological world, I try to read books, blogs, and articles that cover everything from history to theology to language and culture, modern and ancient. I’m always looking for ways to apply the history I’ve learned and what I’ve learned about the world through history to contemporary issues and discussions. I also do a lot of reading of articles for my job, so I am always learning or analyzing something. It’s been great that these things tie in with both my work and my interests.

What’s Distinctive about Bethel?

This past Tuesday and Wednesday our profs joined their peers for Bethel’s annual, pre-semester Faculty Retreat. For one of the sessions on Tuesday morning college dean Deb Harless asked faculty to cluster together at tables and answer the following question:

What are some hallmarks of the College of Arts and Sciences at Bethel University?

Faculty mentioned everything from Bethel’s Pietist heritage and close-knit community to the centrality of the liberal arts and general education curriculum to the school’s ability to balance academic freedom and Christian commitment.

We’re curious to hear from our alumni and students: What do you think are hallmarks of Bethel? Please use the Comment space to tell us what you think is most distinctive about Bethel — and its History Department.

P.S. Alumni and students will also be happy to learn that their former/current teachers did the department proud throughout the retreat:

  • Among other faculty accomplishments, President Jay Barnes highlighted AnneMarie Kooistra’s participation in a summer seminar at Yale University on slave narratives
  • Amy Poppinga was among the new professors introduced to the faculty
  • Diana Magnuson awarded faculty excellence awards on behalf of the Professional Development Committee
  • Ruben Rivera and his fellow members of the Retreat Committee received universal applause for their planning work — and for their decision to base the first day of retreat at The Mermaid
  • …whose bowling alley hosted a very special faculty break-out session, where our own Chris Gehrz rolled the high score (178)

Fall Course Previews: Minorities in America

Today we’ll continue to preview some of our Fall 2012 courses, as Ruben Rivera discusses one of his signature courses.


HIS210U Minorities in America

What are some of the big themes of this course?

If you ask people how long America has been a democracy, many will say since the American Revolution. However, in 1776 when Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” and endowed by God with “inalienable rights” of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,”  he did not mean Native Americans, whom he called savages in the Declaration and were given no voice or place in the formation of the new nation. He did not mean women, who did not get the universal right to vote until 1920. He did not mean black people, as he himself was a slaveholder, and indeed after the Revolution slavery worsened and was only ended with the Civil War, and then followed by a century of Jim Crow discrimination practices. HIS210U Minorities in America looks at the history and contributions of minority groups that have helped make America a truer democracy. We discuss typical themes like slavery, racism, gender, and class, but we also look in fresh and interesting ways at current hot button issues like immigration, affirmative action, the changing face of the American population and culture, and the role Christianity has played throughout.

How many years have you taught it?


What do you most enjoy about teaching it?

I have learned that when dealing with controversial issues like racism, or affirmative action, or immigration and Christian mission (in which people had to commit some level of what I call cultural amputation or even cultural suicide to be considered acceptable), I cannot simply give a lecture or assign readings. So I have created activities and dialogic scenarios in which students are responsible to learn about a given issue and why they hold the position they do. From there students are introduced to new material, experiences and questions. This problem-based approach to learning has helped students to see the issues from the viewpoint of others. They may not always feel comfortable in the process, but I am of the belief that students would rather be challenged than bored. Over the years I have had many students thank me for this approach, and they have often recommended the class to their roommates and friends.

What do students seem to enjoy most about it?

Students really enjoy the fact that the class is student centered rather than professor and lecture centered. Students actually do most of the talking, and in the problem-based learning process they are especially surprised and challenged in the discovery of the frequent difference between their perception about a thing and the historical as well as current social reality.

Talk about one or two changes to the course you’re planning for this fall.

One additional aspect of the course this semester will be to look at the burgeoning Latino population in the U.S. Today, 1 in 6 Americans is Latino or Hispanic. By 2050 it will be 1 in 3. Why has this been happening, how has it been received, and what developments are occurring because of these changing demographics? Another new element is the introduction of developing understanding and skills for living and working in cross-cultural settings, which in a globalizing and diversifying world is fast becoming a prerequisite not only for Christian ministry but just about any profession imaginable.

If students take away only one thing from the course, what would you like it to be?

By the end of this class I want students to understand that America is not about one race, political party, or even religion; it is an unfinished, ongoing experiment. The “founding fathers” are given credit for having started it, and many call it democracy. But the story of America is the ongoing struggle to close the gaps between its cherished and much vaunted democratic and religious ideals on the one hand, and reality on the other; that the ceaseless struggle of disenfranchised and marginalized minorities have helped move America closer to those ideals; and that those ideals are fragile and always in danger of falling into the gaps again.

<<Read the first entry in this series                       Read the next entry in this series>>

Talk about Teaching: Diana Magnuson and Ruben Rivera

In recent years the Bethel University Library has become a community gathering place on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, regularly hosting faculty, staff, and students for talks on a wide array of topics. People from the History Department have been frequent contributors at these events, including a series in which professors “Talk about Teaching.”

You can find many of these videos (from our department and others) archived at the new Bethel University Digital Library’s Community Video Collection. But this summer we’ll take time to spotlight a few of our own folks — continuing today with Diana Magnuson and Ruben Rivera.

Diana MagnusonDiana’s video comes from April 2009, when she was part of a panel discussion on interdisciplinary collaboration. (Technically, this wasn’t in the official “Talk about Teaching” series, but her section certainly fits the theme.) She and English literature professor Thomas Becknell reflected on their experience teaching “tandem courses” about the American Civil War. Diana’s course by that title (HIS307) is often taught in the same semester and time bloc Becknell’s ENL311 Studies in American Literature: The Civil War. The two classes are separate, but overlap — occasionally coming together so that Diana can provide greater historical context for the literature students and Becknell can help history students to read literature as a type of primary source. As Diana discusses, it also provides a great opportunity for excellent teachers to learn from each other.

Watch Diana’s video (which also features philosophers Sara Shady and Don Postema and writing professor Marion Larson)

Ruben RiveraThen Ruben appears in a March 2010 conversation with youth ministry professor Karen McKinney and nursing professor Dave Muhovich, exploring connections among experiential learning, study abroad, and culturally responsive education. This panel was part of a project spearheaded by education professor Jay Rasmussen, “Engaged Teaching and Learning: Bethel Faculty in Action.” Participants were nominated by colleagues and administrators for their excellence in certain areas, filmed teaching students and being interviewed by Jay, asked to contribute a written reflection, and then to join others in the series in these panel discussions.

Ruben moderated this particular discussion, and started things off with a reflection on how he seeks to help his students become “culturally responsive” (or “proficient”) — e.g., as they interact with Muslims, or study the history of their own, increasingly global faith.

Watch Ruben’s video