In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy. . . .” Truly the history graduates who will walk across the stage tomorrow have brought me joy, have consistently made me grateful for being called to teach, and I wanted to thank them publicly for that.
In Senior Seminar this spring, it has been a distinct pleasure to work with students already so deep into the process of becoming “whole and holy persons,” thanks to their communities of friends, pastors, coaches, parents, and teachers. I’ve been humbled to see the positive impact of these folks in the lives of our students.
At the same time, I’ve been impressed watching the students in Senior Seminar rise to the challenges I’ve extended. Write better. Speak better. Persist in the face of distractions and crises. They’ve done it, and I couldn’t be more proud. If one ever wonders what value a Christian liberal arts college has, I’d point them in the direction of these students. As faculty introduced each student before his/her Senior Seminar presentation, faculty used words like: character, integrity, curiosity, endurance, courage, and service. These students are the kinds of people who will impact their worlds for God’s glory and their neighbor’s good.
The prayer for the week in the Book of Common Prayer reads: “O ALMIGHTY God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful [humans]; Grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” That’s a great prayer, but I’ll return to Philippians for my parting prayer for these graduates: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.”
Congratulations to our Spring 2019 graduates. God’s speed.
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.
• 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.)
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 course, HIS210U Minorities in America.)
You can download or stream Bookish from Podbean. And be sure to follow all our Live from AC2nd podcasts on Facebook.
Over the weekend, we had the pleasure of hosting the 6th annual Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium, which drew students and faculty from twelve church-related colleges and universities in Minnesota and Iowa.
Our symposium coordinator, Prof. Gehrz, getting things started in CC 313 – photo: Sam Mulberry
Kent Whitworth of the Minnesota Historical Society – photo: Sam Mulberry
Nelson Menjivar ’19 sharing some of his oral history of the civil war in his native El Salvador – Photo: Chris Gehrz
Art History major Haley Shearer ’19 – who has been working at the Minnesota History Center this year — presented her research on the history of the dime museum – Photo: Chris Gehrz
History/Business major Justin Brecheisen ’19, introducing his research on the 1853 Gunnison massacre in Utah – Photo: Chris Gehrz
Our traditional MUHS group photo – Photo: Chris Gehrz
In addition to the student research that was presented, we had a terrific (and timely) opening conversation with Kent Whitworth, director and CEO of the Minnesota Historical Society. His comments on “The Future of Public History” and the Q&A that followed were recorded and podcast on Prof. Mulberry’s Live from AC2nd network.
You can see the full program here. If you’re interested in learning more about the research presented by twelve of our students, stay tuned for details of our annual Senior Seminar presentations, coming up the evenings of May 13th and 20th.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
• 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).
Bethel cancelled classes this afternoon, which deprived my Roman Civ students of my lecture on the Carthaginian general Hannibal’s daring journey over the Alps in 218 BCE. But the snow day gave me the opportunity to watch Frozen with my daughters, and think other snowy thoughts. Did you know the Alps also have snow? Things got a little out of control and I ended up making a 3D annotated map of Hannibal’s voyage.
I’ll share my work with my Roman Civ students on Friday. I’ll also break down the process and assign my Digital Humanities students the task of making their own map later this semester. For now, take a look at the final version on Sketchfab.
Joni Mitchell has a song called “A Case of You” in which she muses about the influence of another on her writing: “Part of you pours out of me/ In these lines from time to time.” We’ve just had our second meeting in Senior Seminar, and part of the class consisted of conferences with students about potential topics. As I met with them, I kept thinking about Joni Mitchell because I could see the influences of other history professors not only in their topics, but also in the ways that they talked about history–how they see the past, what kinds of sources they want to use, and later (when we came together as a class) their views about intersections of faith and the discipline. Really, this is a team-taught course. And I am thankful for all the ways my colleagues will pour out of these students in their lines, from time to time. (And thanks, specifically, to Dr. Gehrz for his editing on this post and for the links!)
Collin Barrett (History/Pre-Med): Masculinity in Medieval Clergy
I’m seeking to understand how medieval clergy defined masculinity and if that definition was distinct from the rest of their society. How did clergy understand masculinity, for example, in the context of their participation in the “bride” of Jesus Christ? Did their definitions of masculinity have an impact beyond the medieval world?
Justin Brecheisen (History/Business): The John Williams Gunnison Massacre
In 1853, the Pahvant Utes in Utah ambushed and massacred an expedition led by U.S. Army Captain John Williams Gunnison. According to rumors, Mormon authorities—a group with whom Gunnison had interacted and written about—instigated the massacre. I am interested in exploring how this massacre reflects the relationship among the United States government, the Mormon authorities, and the Utes.
Phia Carlson (History): U.S. Reception to the Romanov Executions
The Romanov Dynasty was the final imperial family to rule over Russia. Myths and legends swirl regarding the final days of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, and I am interested in what contributed to the family becoming the subject of much fantastical speculation. What, for example, did the newspapers like the New York Times have to say about the family’s final days?
Caitlan Hart (History/Elementary Education): Women’s Roles in Classical Sparta and Athens
Although women were second-class citizens in both classical Athens and Sparta, there are distinctions in how the women lived in these two places. I am interested in how these roles and views on women varied based upon whether they lived. What factors contributed to these differences?
Kyle Kilgore (History): Racial Justice and the NFL
As an athlete, I have experienced first-hand how sports has the ability to draw people together. Yet, as the recent protests by players in the National Football League have highlighted, sports can also provide an important venue to express a desire to see greater racial justice. What is the history of race in the NFL?
Los Angeles Rams running back Kenny Washington, the first African American player in the post-World War II era – Wikimedia
Ida B. Wells’ 1892 pamphlet on lynching – Wikimedia
Zach Meinerts (History/Political Science): Lynching in the Post-Reconstruction South
Potentially using the debates in the Congressional Record in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century over the implementation of a federal anti-lynching law, this project would delve into history of lynching in the United States. If possible, the paper would explore both the sexual and religious connotations of lynching during this period.
Nelson Menjivar Lopez (History): El Salvador’s Civil War
The Salvadoran Civil War lasted for over a decade. Murders, abductions, and U.S. involvement in the conflict tore the country apart. While some fled the war for the United States, others remained in the country to witness the brutality on both sides. Using interviews with family and friends who were directly involved in the war, my project will show that the ramifications of this conflict can still be seen in both politics and daily life.
Logan Olson (History/Political Science): Native American Involvement in the U. S. Civil War
Although much historical attention has focused on the key battles and key figures in the U.S. Civil War, the story of Native American involvement can get left out. My research examines the role of Native Americans in this conflict and how their involvement impacted their relationship with the U.S. government in the post-war period.
Haley Shearer (Art History): Dime Museums and Vaudeville
Dime museums, often part of traveling vaudeville acts, tended to be popular forms of entertainment for working-class people in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One of the ways these museums differentiated themselves from “institutionalized museums” tended to be in their efforts to both educate and entertain the masses. In addition to P. T. Barnum, who were the people associated with these museums? What kind of “education” was “entertaining” to the masses and why?
Luke Sherry (History/Pre-Med): Logging in Northern Wisconsin
The history of logging encompasses several possible questions. What was life like for an average lumberjack? How did logging change the ecology of both the northern woods? What was the environmental impact more generally? How did the exit of the logging camps and companies affect local communities? The digital collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society, which include twenty volumes of material of memoirs, records, journals, and explorer’s narratives, will help dictate the direction of my research.
Historians such as Ruth Karras and David Halperin have written extensively about the sexual culture prevailing among Greek men during the classical period. One aspect of that culture was pederasty. My project will focus on this practice and whether the Greeks were the first people not only to condone it but to integrate it into their culture.
Andrew Zwart (History/Biokinetics): Nikita Khrushchev and the Deescalation of Soviet Tension with the West
Following the death of Josef Stalin, there was a 30-year period before Mikhail Gorbachev came to power. During that period, Nikita Khrushchev made some critical changes that allowed the Soviet Union to transition from Stalin’s iron fist to Gorbachev’s de-escalation of tensions with the West. I plan to look at Khrushchev how accomplished this transition without losing the complete support of the Soviet people.