Congratulations to the Doctors Thostenson!

We’d like to interrupt our usual summer hiatus long enough to congratulate two former students — two siblings! — who have recently completed PhD’s in their respective fields.

• Katie Thostenson ’05 earned her doctorate in classics from the University of Edinburgh for her examination of the historical context of the early Christian apologist Tertullian, specifically his views on women, the body, and sexual difference. While Tertullian was “conservative in his recommendations for men and women, reflecting more closely non-Christian assumptions about male and female bodies that fix women in the subordinate position of a sexual hierarchy,” she concluded that he nonetheless challenged the patriarchal assumptions of his time “in his vision of primordial and eschatological states where men and women are not bound by secular institutions, but live in the fullness of God.” A former adjunct professor in our department who reflected on her experience with graduate education in the UK in this 2014 roundtable interview, Katie now lives in Munich, Germany with her husband Kai, an economist.

Katie and Jimmy Thostenson
Katie and Jimmy earlier this year near Asheville, NC – photo courtesy of Katie Thostenson

• Then Katie’s brother Jimmy won an Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, for his research towards creating an energy efficient toilet (an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). While he majored in Applied Physics as a member of Bethel’s class of 2010, Jimmy also completed a History minor, for reasons he shared in this 2013 blog post:

I often defend my minor in history to STEM people as being as important, if not more important, to me than my major in applied physics. Why? Because of the tangible, practical skills I built through learning about various times in history. It wasn’t facts about the Cold War or the order of Roman emperors I took away that was important, it was how I learned to build and argue my view points, research topics I knew nothing about, critically think about biased material, balance other argued view points, and many other skills which are missed when students ask, “How will studying the humanities land me a job?” To this end, I would say that while applied physics was what allowed me to be considered for a job within a STEM occupation, a minor in history was what set me apart from the pool of candidates and also gave me the skills I needed to be a successful employee.

Jimmy lives in Durham, North Carolina. His wife Melissa Gwynn ’10, exhibition and publications manager at Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art, also has connections to our department: she majored in Art History at Bethel and wrote her senior paper for us on the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich.

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What You Can Do With a History Major… As Seen in Bethel News

What can you do with a History major? Just read about our four alumni who have featured in Bethel media stories this month:

• A social worker at the International Institute of St. Louis, Lauren Peffley ’09 was profiled at Bethel’s website last week. Here’s how the story explains the connection between her undergraduate major and her current work as an anti-trafficking social worker at the International Institute of St. Louis:

…[Lauren’s] pursuit of social justice came alive while majoring in history at Bethel, where she also minored in media communications. She incorporated elements of social justice issues in her history courses, including several on the European colonization of Africa. When she studied abroad in Uganda, she researched colonization and the effects of missionaries as colonizers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Professor of History AnneMarie Kooistra says the history department gives students the freedom to explore while taking courses on the cores of American history, European history, and global history. But within those areas, students can choose courses from a variety of subjects and interests. “We really do encourage independent thought, all of us, in our different courses,” she says.

When Peffley took a senior seminar course, Kooistra could tell her student had found a cause in social justice. “That is a passionate woman,” Kooistra says. “That has not diminished since leaving Bethel.” For her senior paper, Kooistra helped Peffley root that passion in history. Peffley wrote her senior thesis on the “comfort women”—women who were systematically sexually trafficked by the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII and several years after. “That really started my anti-trafficking research in a bigger way,” Peffley says.

Once a History major, always a History major: Lauren points out that this photo was taken in Sarajevo, near the spot where the Austria archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in June 1914, sparking the crisis that led to World War I (which Lauren studied with Prof. Gehrz)

• Lauren is part of a larger story in the current issue of Bethel Magazine on how the Bethel community responds to human trafficking.

• That issue’s cover story — a series of brief profiles of exceptional teachers at Bethel — is inspired by Why We Teach, the documentary film that Prof. Sam Mulberry ’99 made for his sabbatical last spring.

• Finally, Christopher Olson ’87 and Ben Beecken ’10 are the first two alumni featured in a story on “adventurous alumni” whose liberal arts education prepared them to be “nimble and adaptable, ready to embrace changes in the job market—and their own unique callings—to excel in today’s world.”

Both stories originated with our From AC 2nd to… series of career interviews: Christopher told us of his career in nautical archaeology; Ben explained how he used his History degree to become an executive with a top-tier minor league baseball team.

(Ben has since added a new role: freelance writer for Grandstand Central, an online magazine that looks “at the intersection of sports with politics, power, money, science, race, religion, gender, culture, tech and sexuality.” For example, last month he wrote about the major league team sports’ attempts to adapt to change.)

Alumni Law Roundtable: From Law School to a Legal Career

Today we conclude our roundtable discussion with History alumni-turned-attorneys Wade Adamson ’09, Gina Schulz ’07, and Aaron Thom ’08. In part one they recalled how they decided to study law. Today: applying to law school, and how Aaron, Gina, and Wade got where they are in their careers.

What advice would you give students who are considering applying to law school? What should they be considering as they discern if that’s the right path for them?

Wade Adamson (J.D., William Mitchell, 2013): First of all, you should know that it is a huge financial decision to make. Not only do you have any student debt from undergrad that you might be carrying, but you will likely also incur more (sometimes significantly more) debt to finance your time in law school. That, coupled with the fact that you are foregoing three years of income during your time in law school, means that you will likely graduate from law school in a significantly worse financial position than you otherwise would be if you did not go to law school, and significantly behind your peers in that regard.

Gina Schulz (J.D., University of Michigan, 2014): I had plenty of classmates who went straight from undergrad to law school, but personally I don’t think that’s a good idea. Even with scholarships, law school is a huge investment and most students take on a lot of debt. I think it’s worth spending some time figuring out whether it’s something you actually want to do before you have $200k in loans to pay back.

University of Michigan Law School
University of Michigan Law School – Creative Commons (Andrew Horne)

WA: Understand that a law degree is no guarantee of a job, nor is it a guarantee of a financially lucrative job, as many people assume. You might find yourself called to a career path in public service or simply unable to compete for the more highly-compensated legal jobs based on your resume and/or work experience. In that case, the repayment of large amounts of student loan debt can significantly impact your life in the years to come.

GS: Take some time off and try some things and grow up a little bit. (I certainly needed to). If you know what kind of law you want to practice, find something to do in a related field. I wanted to do public-interest law, and it helped my application that I served for a year with AmeriCorps. But I also spent two years waiting tables full time, and I don’t regret that at all. (As it turns out, the skills required in some areas of legal practice are surprisingly similar to those you develop in a busy restaurant.)

Aaron Thom (J.D., University of Minnesota, 2011): Decide whether you like dealing with conflict and competition. Particularly in litigation, conflict is constant and inevitable—on all fronts. There’s conflict between lawyers vying for the same client, conflict between associates competing for a partner’s approval, attorney-client conflict regarding strategy and resolution of difficult issues, conflict between attorneys on opposing sides of a dispute. The stress of an attorney’s job is well recognized. What isn’t so clear—at least it wasn’t to me—was how much, and how many different manifestations of, tension exists.

WA: You should make sure you know what being a lawyer actually means. Find attorneys to connect with and talk to them about their jobs to get a better sense of what the day-to-day life of an attorney is like. Given the huge investment in time and money necessary to complete law school, you should be as certain as you can be that it is the right career path for you. If your idea of the life of an attorney is based on TV and movies, that is a sign that you have not done much research or investigation into what your future will be.

GS: To the extent that you can, talk to lawyers in different fields to figure out what their lives look like. Lawyers get requests to have coffee and talk about their careers all the time, and most of them are happy to do it. I didn’t have any connections to lawyers when I was applying, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. If that’s your situation, feel free to reach out to me and I can find you some people to talk to.

If they do decide to go to law school, what can they do to strengthen their application?

WA: Law school applications are similar to undergrad applications in that the schools say there is a “full-picture” approach to admissions and that every application is evaluated in its entirety, including work experience, personal essays, etc. However, you should know that absent some sort of extraordinary feature to your application, it will likely come down to two numbers: undergraduate GPA and LSAT score.

GS: Law school admissions are more straightforward than other graduate programs. You can generally predict where you will get in by looking at the median GPA and LSAT of the schools you’re applying to (although I think this is starting to change). It’s not fun advice, but one of the best things you can do is keep up your GPA and study hard for the LSAT. (Hope is certainly not lost if your numbers aren’t strong, but it’s worth working hard to do the best you can.)

WA: The best thing you can do right now for your law school application is perform well in undergrad and earn the highest GPA you can. Bethel is a great school, but you are not attending Harvard or Stanford or some other Ivy League school where a less-than-stellar GPA may be overlooked. You should be ensuring your GPA is an accurate reflection of your intelligence and ability as a student. Once you are ready to start thinking about applying for law school, you should obtain LSAT prep books to prepare for the LSAT and attempt to earn the highest score possible. This will likely involve many, many hours of preparation to familiarize yourself with the LSAT and perform practice exams.

AT: I think if a student wants to set him/herself apart from the pack, he/she’ll choose an area in which to specialize (like science, to use the example I mentioned yesterday) during college rather than waiting until law school to start shaping his/her future career. Law is such a diverse field. The study and practice of law itself does not determine a lawyer’s focus or direction. The lawyer needs to choose what she or he wants to do — and it’s best to start making these decisions as early as possible to avoid merely drifting into a legal field that is not of interest to the student. Lawyers who lack passion are soon to be not lawyers anymore.

Tell us a bit about your path from law school to your current job.

Aaron Thom
Aaron today – Thom Ellingson

AT: I went from law school to the firm Robins Kaplan. It was exhausting and trying, but I loved it. I received amazing experience from day 1 — literally. I then did a short stint at Madel before starting my own firm with my colleague, and favorite lawyer in the world, Sam Ellingson.

WA: My decision to go to law school was impacted by the economic situation in the United States at the time. I graduated in December 2008, which was in the heart of the Great Recession. Jobs were hard to come by at a time when the country was losing hundreds of thousands of jobs per month. My plan was to attend law school with the idea that by the time I graduated three years later the economy would have rebounded. Unfortunately, I was not the only person with that plan in mind. The year I entered law school, 2010, was the highest year of enrollment in the history of the United States. That meant a lot of competition amongst students, as law school courses are graded on a curve and there were more students to compete against.

GS: It took me awhile to figure out where I belonged in the legal profession, in part because I went to law school without any idea of what that meant.

WA: During law school I thought I wanted to be a litigator and pursued opportunities to be in the courthouse as much as possible. I was a judicial intern for a federal district judge in Minneapolis the summer after my 1L year, an intern at a county attorney’s office the summer after my 2L year, and an intern for a federal magistrate judge while also studying for the bar exam the summer after I graduated. Once I passed the bar exam I took a job as a judicial law clerk for a judge in Anoka County. I felt incredibly fortunate to have that job given the huge numbers of law students entering the job market at that time coupled with the fact that legal hiring was still far below the pre-recession levels. At the same time, I knew I did not want to be a litigator. After a few months of work, I began to think about what my next job would be. I had given the judge I worked for a commitment that I would stay for at least one year, so I still had about 8 months to go on that commitment, but I knew I had to start working hard to set myself up for a good opportunity come that time.

GS: Soon after graduating, though, I clerked for a judge on the Minnesota Court of Appeals, where I saw the appellate public defenders practice. Even though I had no background in criminal law, I finally saw a job that looked right for me: representing indigent clients in criminal appeals. After a couple of years in other (great but not quite perfect) positions, I got the job.

Wade Adamson
Wade today – Saul Lehrer

WA: I spent nearly a year networking and meeting as many transactional attorneys as I could before and after work for breakfasts, coffees, and/or happy hours. Through those efforts I met two attorneys at Gray Plant Mooty, and eventually they had an opening for an associate attorney that I interviewed for and was hired. I worked there from August 2015 through this past February, when I started a new position as an associate attorney for the new Minneapolis office of a large, national firm called Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr.

What’s most enjoyable and most challenging about your work?

WA: My practice has been focused on transactional commercial real estate work since I began in private practice in 2015. I really enjoy helping my clients accomplish their business goals and playing a key role in the success of their companies. I enjoy being a transactional attorney because my role is to help make deals happen, which are beneficial to my clients. The completion of any project is usually a time of celebration for the client, which I also enjoy being a part of.

Gina Schulz
Gina today – photo courtesy Gina Schulz

GS: It’s truly my dream job, and I feel lucky every day that I get paid for doing what I love. The caseload can be stressful, the stakes are generally pretty high, and I make way less money than I would at a firm. But, in the end, I read and write and think for a living, and I get to do that on behalf of clients I like and a cause that I believe in. It’s pretty great.

WA: The most challenging part of my job is how stressful and demanding it is. There can be tight deadlines, long days/nights at the office, working on the weekends, etc. The job of an associate attorney at a large law firm is certainly not a 9-5 job, and in an era of constant connectivity, I can’t really ever “disconnect” from the office, which can be taxing.

AT: I enjoy the work I’m currently doing more than anything I’ve ever done before. We choose what cases to take, and how we litigate them. Our practice is what we make it. Of course, that can be stressful. But it’s more exhilarating than anything.

<<Read the previous post in the series

Alumni Law Roundtable: From Bethel to Law School

In addition to spotlighting individual alumni who have taken various career paths, occasionally we like to host a kind of roundtable discussion with alumni from a single field. In the past we’ve talked to former students who have gone into graduate school in history and into middle/high school teaching. This week we’re excited to hear from three alumni who practice law: Gina Schulz ’07, a Minnesota public defender in the Appellate Office; Aaron Thom ’08, partner with Thom & Ellingson; and Wade Adamson ’09, associate with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr. Tomorrow we’ll learn how they found their way to their current positions, but we’ll start with their time at Bethel.

What’s your favorite memory as a History major at Bethel?

Wade Adamson: Probably my Senior Seminar course. While it was a huge time commitment and stressful, it was also very enjoyable to be able to complete such a large project and came with a sense of accomplishment when I had completed it.

Wade Adamson in Ecuador in 2009
Wade just before his graduation from Bethel, on a 2009 trip to Ecuador – Photo courtesy of Wade Adamson

Aaron Thom: I have a lot of great memories as a History major: writing a Senior Seminar paper with guidance and inspiration from Dr. Gehrz, whose passion for history is second to none… presenting my Senior Sem project for the class—I hadn’t realized until I started talking out loud about it how genuinely excited I was about the subject matter… Dr. Kooistra’s method of teaching history by exposing students to literature/art/film reflective of the time period in question… Ruben Rivera’s contagious love for the cultures and countries and history of Latin America… History department pizza parties…

Gina Schulz: I spent a semester at Oxford and — as corny as this sounds — it was really life-changing. The classes were one-on-one, and I had to write a research paper every week and read it out loud to the professor who challenged every claim. It was terrifying but/and made me into a much better thinker and writer.

AT: …G.W. Carlson’s spontaneous stories in lieu of discussions about the textbook readings he’d assigned…

WA: I also really enjoyed working as a TA for the late G.W. Carlson for most of time at Bethel.

GS: I generally have very pleasant memories of my time in the history department! I loved the classes and the professors, and I feel really grateful for the small class sizes and individual attention, especially toward the end when I needed a lot of guidance in preparing for life after graduation.

At what point did you decide to go to law school? Did you think of yourself as a pre-law student while you were at Bethel?

AT: I decided to go to law school before I started college — when I was a high-school mock-trialer. I didn’t consider myself a pre-law student while at Bethel. I just took each class for what it was. But some of my classes—such as American Constitutional History—were law-focused.

Aaron Thom rehearsing for a play in 2007
Aaron (center) rehearsing for a Bethel play in February 2007 – Bethel Clarion/Bethel Digital Library

WA: I never considered myself “pre-law” at Bethel. All throughout undergrad, I had assumed I would end up in education, either as a K-12 teacher, like both my parents, or, once I realized that was not for me, as a history professor at a college or university somewhere. It wasn’t until I had decided against those options, and was working a job I did not particularly like, that I decided to go to law school.

GS: Did I think of myself as pre-law at Bethel? Not at all! I didn’t even consider law school until I was three years out and had no idea what to do with my life. I registered for the LSAT on a whim, and the rest just kind of happened. I do not recommend this approach.

WA: I decided to go to law school after I had graduated from Bethel and was working for a company down in Eagan, where I worked for a year and a half after graduating a semester early from Bethel. I had always kept the idea of law school in the back of my mind, but it was not my first choice of career when I entered undergrad at Bethel.

AT: Because law has such a rich history, I think it would make sense for Bethel to offer something like a “pre-law” package—even if this is just a recommended group of classes as opposed to something formal that results in a degree or title. [At Bethel Pre-Law isn’t a major, but faculty advising plus recommended courses.] This package could also include philosophy classes because philosophy and law also have an interesting relationship — scholars like William Blackstone, Carl Llewellyn, H.L.A. Hart, Ronald Dworkin, and others could be studied. It could also include an economics class emphasizing law and economics (e.g., Friedman, Coase, and Richard Posner) and anti-trust theories.

Mondale Hall, University of Minnesota
Aaron attended the University of Minnesota Law School – Creative Commons (Bobak Ha’Eri)

AT: I also think it’s important, however, for law students to have an area of focus beyond just “pre-law.” This will help shape the lawyer’s future. For example, if a student has a good mind for science and wants to be a lawyer, she or he should study chemistry, biology, etc., and potentially be a patent attorney.

Traditionally, History has been a popular college major for future law students. Did you feel like your History major at Bethel prepared you well for law school?

Gina Schulz ca. 2007
Gina during her days at Bethel – photo courtesy Gina Schulz

GS: I do think my History major prepared me well for law school. Law isn’t static and it doesn’t develop in a vacuum, so understanding historical context is extremely valuable. The practical research and analytical tools you gain studying history are also very transferable.

WA: I was a History major with minors in Political Science and Spanish. I think in many ways my undergraduate education did prepare me well for law school. A History major develops, or at least should develop, an ability to read and synthesize large amounts of information from reading long and occasionally dense material, which is what you will be doing a lot of in law school. It is also a major that involves discussion and consideration of political ideologies and debates throughout history, which informs a person’s understanding of the role of government and the law in the daily lives of a nation’s citizens. These concepts are foundational to the study of the law.

AT: The critical thinking skills, ability to think logically and linearly, and practice in advancing arguments have all been helpful to me. But I have difficulty disaggregating my history, English lit, and philosophy combined educational experience, so I can’t say much more about how history helped me in particular.

Is there anything you wish you would have done differently to prepare for law school?

GS: In hindsight, I wish I would have taken at least one class on American constitutional history and at least one Political Science course. I went to law school with only the foggiest idea of what the Constitution was and how the government works (sad, but true), and those are pretty foundational concepts. Also, I wish I would have taken Spanish!

WA: Law school is also a unique educational environment that involves studying, reading, and writing in an entirely novel way. In that respect, there is no real preparation for law school. No other field of study or undergraduate major will teach someone legal writing, or how to brief a case, or how to perform issue-spotting for law school exams. In that respect, I do not think I would have done anything differently in my undergraduate studies to prepare myself for law school.

Tomorrow: applying to law school and finding a job.

Click here to read the conclusion of the series>>

Upcoming Career Development Events

February is always a busy month at Bethel’s Career Development and Calling office, with the following events available to students:

The Art of Conversation (Tu 2/12, 6:45pm, The Underground)

A new event letting up to 100 students practice their networking skills with professionals from a variety of backgrounds. Pre-register by Feb. 11.

Resume Workshop (Th 2/14, 10:15am, AC 228)

Whether you’re preparing for the next event on this list, have interviews coming up, or just want to get some useful advice, learn how to prepare effective resumes in this free event.

Minnesota Private Colleges Job & Internship Fair (Th 2/21, 9am-2pm, Minneapolis Convention Center)

One of the biggest such events open to Bethel students, this fair draws over 2,000 students and over 250 employers. Pre-register by Feb. 18 and plan to attend a prep session. The fair itself costs $12, but Bethel will run free shuttles to and from the Convention Center.

From AC 2nd to… Insurance and Banking

This week I talked with Travis Hoaglund ’91 about business and history. Mr. Hoaglund is the insurance president for Bremer Bank.

What were things that you enjoyed about your history classes here at Bethel?

I loved learning about more recent history… WWII and present. My most memorable times at Bethel were the friends I made and how the faith based mission of Bethel rounded me out as a person.

How did you get from Bethel to your career in business?

Travis HoaglundAbout my junior year I decided that I had an interest in business and specifically sales. I was a hockey player and played golf at Bethel… I enjoyed competing in athletics and that translates well to a sales career. I thought I would be in sales my whole career, but over time I found myself really enjoying helping other sales people. I have led up to 300 salespeople across the country and now run Bremer Insurance Agency (Bremer Bank). I try to lead with the principles and life experience I learned at Bethel…

In the same way that competition in athletics transitioned well to a sales career, are there ways that you have seen history transition into your career?

It required me to do a great deal of reading and writing… I use those skills daily in my role, and they are very important!

Lastly, what is the favorite part of your career?

I love getting to know people in an organization and figuring out what motivates them… I have learned that what makes me tick is not what makes others tick and as a leader you have to figure out what motivates each person individually. As long as a person’s motivation lines up with what our organization needs from a performance standpoint… we will do everything to help our people reach both professional and personal goals. That is what drives me… to take someone from where they are to where they never dreamed they could go.

<<Read the previous post in the From AC 2nd… series

From AC 2nd to… Historical Interpretive Coordinator

 

This week I talked with Bethel history alum Dana Morrison-Lorenz about combining her love of history and theatre. She graduated in 2012 and now coordinates historical interpreters at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at North Dakota’s Fort Mandan.

What led to your interest in history?

My parents (particularly my dad) had a big interest in history and during many family vacations we would stop at historically significant sites. I also have two older sisters that were very interested in history. (In fact, both sisters studied history at Bethel as well.) Being as I looked up to them I wanted to do as they did, and so I began getting into the same things they did and history was a big one. As I got older I always wanted the answers to “why” questions: Why do we do things a certain way? Why are things the way they are? etc. And I found that history was a fascinating way to answer those questions. Sometimes the answers were simple and sometimes they were heartbreaking, but finding out the truth (or at the very least facts presented whether truthful or not) led to a lot of fulfillment for me.

What was one of your favorite courses or memories from Bethel?

I really enjoyed my Cold War class. Although I knew about the Cold War and the basics about what it involved, I learned so much through that course. I was born the year after the Berlin Wall came down and so it felt like a part of history that I had just missed out on, something that was so close to my lifetime but still seemed so foreign. Through the class it was interesting to dive deeper into what led up to the Cold War, what events occurred that aren’t as well known, and what ramifications from the Cold War are still felt today.

Some of the standout things I remember from the class was on the first day Dr. Gehrz asked us what we think of when we hear “Cold War” and he wrote our answers on the board. We had a discussion about how that list has changed over the years that he has been teaching the course and how our perception of an event is shaped by the time we are living in. Dr. Gehrz would also play us songs from the Cold War era and would print out the lyrics so we could follow along. I still have those sheets nearly 10 years later.

What led you to your current career?

It wasn’t until late in my college career that I figured that working in a museum/historic site might be an interesting career. I was more so studying history out of a passion for it and thought that the skills from studying history could work well in any career I chose, not necessarily having anything to do with history. So when I realized that I may want to pursue a career in a museum setting I started looking at my options. I looked into going to grad school (and to be honest it’s still not off the table), but it didn’t seem like the right time to go back to school. Instead I began volunteering through the Minnesota Historical Society so that I could start to gain some experience. I worked with the MHS Press transcribing interviews for upcoming books and with the Event Volunteers, talking with visitors and performing behind-the-scenes tasks. All the while I was applying for jobs around the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Although I got a few interviews, none of these panned out.

Then I heard about an interpreter position at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center/Fort Mandan from my sister’s former high school classmate and decided to apply for the position. I interviewed by phone a few weeks later and then the next week I had found out I got the position. Two weeks later I moved back to my home state of North Dakota and began my career as an historical interpreter.  Three years later I applied for the Interpretive Coordinator position within the same museum and started my new role in July of this year.

Dana on the job

What are some of the duties that come with your position?

Since we are a small staff at our location I have a lot of duties that I take care of. First and foremost, I interact with our visitors, whether that be giving a guided tour of Fort Mandan or answering questions within the museum. As the Coordinator I am also responsible for all of the interpreters. If they have questions or concerns, they can come to me. I will give them tasks and duties and guide them as they develop interpretive programming and tours. Other duties include planning events and temporary exhibits. This is usually done in the winter when visitation is slow. We will usually have 2-4 temporary exhibits throughout the year, with three available galleries for the exhibits.  We also have events going year round that I have to plan and promote.

I am also in charge of our social media presence so I make posts to Facebook and Instagram nearly every day. In recent years there has been a demand for site content to be available on social media, and we are trying to get information out there so even though people may not be able to visit our site we can give them interpretive content. Facebook has also been great to promote events and keep our followers up-to-date on what’s going on.

Beyond these duties I go where I am needed so I will worked the register in the museum stores, help with maintenance, and occasionally even to off site if needed.

How has Historical Interpreting let you combine your interests in History and Theatre?

There are days where we will dress up in historical clothing while working at Fort Mandan. We don’t go so far as to reenact like it’s 1804 at the fort, but having the clothing gives a different feel to the fort that people really enjoy. Combining my passions for history and theatre has also helped in my presentations, whether it be a fort tour, demonstrating how to use a flintlock, or preparing presentations to give to the public. In a sense I play a bit of a role with my job. I wear a park uniform (a costume) and I stand in front of visitors (an audience) to deliver a tour (a performance).

If you go deeper there are a lot of connections between history and theatre that have helped in my position. Both history and theatre rely on storytelling, both incorporate aspects of teamwork and critical thinking, and both allow you to overcome limitations. All of these skills are integral to my role as a historical interpreter.

<<Read the previous entry in the series                            Read the next entry>>

Coming to Bethel: Former History Major David Brooks

Join us next Tuesday evening (Sept. 25, 7pm) when New York Times columnist, bestselling author, and radio/TV commentator David Brooks gives a public lecture in Benson Great Hall. (Tickets are free, but must be ordered ahead of time.)

Brooks, The Road to CharacterEntitled “The Road to Character,” Brooks’ talk builds on his 2015 book by that title,  which contrasts résumé virtues (“the skills that you bring to the job market and that contribute to external success”) with eulogy virtues (“the ones that exist at the core of your being”).

He’s one of the most prominent people to speak on campus in recent years, but I wonder how many people know that David Brooks was once a history major.

In an interview with the student newspaper at his alma mater, the University of Chicago, Brooks said that he ended up majoring in history because it somehow seemed more “practical” than his other choice: literature. But even as he moved into the worlds of politics and journalism, Brooks never lost his interest in history and literature.

In the midst of the Great Recession, Brooks dedicated one of his Times columns to warning against the decline of history, literature, and the other humanities as college students were increasingly tempted to think they had “to study something that will lead directly to a job.” He emphasized how history and similar fields train their students to read and write well, to understand emotion, and to make analogies.

But above all, he wrote that history and the other humanities would help students “befriend The Big Shaggy.” Here’s what he meant:

David Brooks…Over the past century or so, people have built various systems to help them understand human behavior: economics, political science, game theory and evolutionary psychology. These systems are useful in many circumstances. But none completely explain behavior because deep down people have passions and drives that don’t lend themselves to systemic modeling. They have yearnings and fears that reside in an inner beast you could call The Big Shaggy….

The observant person goes through life asking: Where did that come from? Why did he or she act that way? The answers are hard to come by because the behavior emanates from somewhere deep inside The Big Shaggy…

…over the centuries, there have been rare and strange people who possessed the skill of taking the upheavals of thought that emanate from The Big Shaggy and representing them in the form of story, music, myth, painting, liturgy, architecture, sculpture, landscape and speech. These men and women developed languages that help us understand these yearnings and also educate and mold them. They left rich veins of emotional knowledge that are the subjects of the humanities.

Learn more about David Brooks’ Bethel talk at bethel.edu/brooks. His wife, Anne Snyder (a former philosophy major at Wheaton), will be the convocation speaker during Chapel time on Monday.

Bethel Magazine on the Value of the Liberal Arts

If you’ve ever found yourself questioning the value of the liberal arts, read the cover story in the new issue of Bethel Magazine. It notes the growing number of business leaders — especially in the tech sector — who are celebrating the liberal arts, and adds perspective from Bethel professors in everything from literature and philosophy to mathematics and athletic training. (Of course, much of what’s said also applies well to history.)

Here’s a taste:

Summer 2018 issue of Bethel Magazine…no less an authority than Apple founder Steve Jobs had this to say about his groundbreaking company: “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our hearts sing.”

Bethel’s been doing just that for years—combining a strong liberal arts foundation with training in the hands-on skills required for students’ areas of expertise. This approach equips students with a timeless skill set that is readily transferable in an ever-changing job market. “In a culture permeated by data,” says Mark Bruce, associate professor of English, “the most valuable skill is not about generating data, but rather about making sense of data, understanding what it means to people and helping people understand what to do with it. This will be the most marketable skill of the 21st century.”

Mark, by the way, studied history as a Bethel student himself and now teaches courses on the literature of the Middle Ages. He adds later in the article that Bethel, as a Christian university, approaches the liberal arts “in a way that goes far, far beyond mere ‘marketable skills’ into the matters of humanity, spirituality, and emotion; the ideas of what it means to be a flourishing human being, loved by God, within the realities of our world, and not simply a piece of hardware whose value is only determined by its potential to produce capital for corporations.”

Click here to read the full article.

Recent Bethel Alumni Teaching History

Summer is winding down for our Social Studies Education alumni preparing to return to their teaching jobs this fall.  Joining the numerous veterans will be Andrew Fort ’18, who has a full-time position at Greenway Public Schools in Coleridge, Minnesota. Christina Sibileva ’18 has also recently accepted a teaching job at Highview Middle School (part of the Mounds View Public School District) where she will be teaching Minnesota history.

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Spring 2018 Graduation, Dr. Kooistra, Sarah Sauer, Dr. Gehrz, Dr. Magnuson, and Andrew Fort
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Spring 2018 Graduation, Dr. Kooistra and Christina Sibileva

Interacting with students in a traditional classroom, however, is not the only way Bethel graduates have been involved in teaching history.  As Dr. Gehrz has noted, one of our best resources for teaching (and learning) Minnesota history is the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS).  In his post, Dr. Gehrz reviewed several of MNHS’s historic sites, including the Oliver Kelley Farm.  The farm features several “costumed staff,” one of whom is Mikalah Pruss ’17.  These individuals teach visitors about farming in the nineteenth century by way of “experiential” learning.  Just as our newest teachers join the ranks of other Bethel veterans, we also have veterans working in the field of public history.  Eve Burlingame ’08, for example, has spent the last several years working at the Eidem Homestead, a historical site maintained by the Brooklyn Park Recreation and Park’s Department.  My hope is that we continue to facilitate the training of ever more teachers of history–both in “traditional” and “non-traditional” classrooms. 

https://instagram.ffcm1-2.fna.fbcdn.net/vp/36ae01f22d0a0f0e14986cede27500c3/5C07FB4A/t51.2885-15/e35/35574423_1022094517947700_8309660952001773568_n.jpg
Mikalah Pruss at the Oliver Kelley Farm (Summer 2018). I found this photograph on the Oliver Kelley Farm’s website under its “social media” section featuring twitter and instagram photographs from visitors to the site.  This photo came from “amayzingbailey.”