What Do Bethel History Professors Do on Their Summer Breaks? (part 2)

Part two of our brief series sharing summer plans from Bethel’s history professors. (Read part one here.)

This summer, Sam Mulberry be working at Bethel on three major projects. First, he’ll help build academic schedules for incoming students who will be new to Bethel in the Fall. This includes both building their initial schedules as well as meeting with students throughout the summer to make changes and adjustments to their schedules. Secondly, Prof. Mulberry will be teaching Christianity and Western Culture (CWC) online with Chris Gehrz and Amy Poppinga — his fifth straight summer teaching this class. Finally, Prof. Mulberry will be working on several major video production projects: a series of digital study skills workshops; a new online Tutor Training for Bethel’s Academic Enrichment and Support Center; a video archive of exit interviews with students of color who have recently graduated from Bethel; and a short interview film with faculty who were on Sabbatical during the 2016-17 academic year.

Sunset at Glacier National Park in Montana
Sunset at Glacier National Park – Creative Commons (B D)

Amy Poppinga is off to Montana in early June with her family for ten days of touring, horseback riding, fishing, and white water rafting in Glacier National Park. Upon her return she will be working to implement a grant she and colleagues Marion Larson and Sara Shady received along with faculty from the University of St. Thomas and Augsburg. The campuses will be working together to host an interfaith leadership conference for students in February 2018 at St. Thomas. In the meantime, Poppinga, Larson, and Shady are waiting to hear news regarding another grant for interfaith competency training for faculty and staff at Bethel. They are also working to submit a proposal for the CCCU International Forum in 2018. She will also be resuming edits on her dissertation, and teaching online Summer CWC with her colleagues, Sam Mulberry and Chris Gehrz. When she’s not working on any of the following, she can be found watching her sons play baseball or spending time on her paddleboard at the family cabin in Alexandria, Minnesota.

In addition to co-teaching online CWC with Profs. Mulberry and Poppinga, Chris Gehrz will be developing a fall section of Bethel’s new Inquiry Seminar, a first-year gen ed course that introduces students to the Christian liberal arts and helps them develop critical thinking, research, writing, and speaking skills. His section will focus on how Christians strive for unity in the midst of a polarized society. Then he’s also excited to get started on a new research project: a “spiritual but not religious” biography of Charles Lindbergh. (Look for the finished product sometime in 2021, on whatever new platform has taken the place of Amazon.) In his spare time, he’ll chauffeur seven-year old twins kept busy with a schedule full of baseball practices/games and Roseville parks and rec programming. Then there’s an August road trip to Colorado — during which Prof. Gehrz will (finally!) see Mount Rushmore. (Unless his wife decides that they’ll fly. In which case his childhood wish will remain unmet for another year.)

The Things They Carried: Sam Mulberry

“The Things They Carried” is not only the title of a short story collection by Tim O’Brien but also series of articles in Foreign Policy Magazine.  In these articles, a writer at Foreign Policy profiles a person with a unique job in the world of international relations by creating a photo spread of the items that they carry with them as they perform their duties. This series was pointed out to my by my colleague in the Political Science department Chris Moore.  It seemed like an interesting way to use physical objects to tell a a person’s story and to profile who they are and the job they do.  He challenged me to create a similar series on our departmental blog to highlight the people in my department and the work that they do.  I agreed.  As a guinea pig to test how this would work, I started with myself.  Among other things, I am one of the people who teach Bethel’s Christianity and Western Culture (CWC) course.  These are the things that I carry to when I go to give a lecture.

the-things-they-carried-mulberry-numbers
click to enlarge

1. Paper Box Lid – I am often seen walking around campus caring the lid to a paper box filled with the items I need for class or meetings.  People who see my at a distance think that I’m carrying a pizza or a box of doughnuts.  I end up disappointing them with the in-edibility of the items that are actually in the box.  In my office I have a stack of eight extra boxes for when my current box begins to break down.

2. Class Announcements – One of my jobs in CWC is to coordinate the team of Teaching Assistants(TAs) for the class.  At the beginning of each lecture one of the TAs reads the announcements to the class.  This is both to let students know about upcoming events and to get the TAs comfortable speaking in front of 130 students.

3. Lecture Notes – When I first started lecturing in CWC, I would write out the text of my whole lecture.  Now I’ve moved to starting my lectures by building my PowerPoint and then writing out my lecture talking points on a printout of my slides.  My goal is to not have to make reference to my notes while I’m giving a lecture, but it is always helpful to have them with me when my mind inevitably goes blank.

4. Zoom Audio Recorder – For about a decade I have been audio recording CWC lectures – both the lectures give and those given by my colleagues.  We use these lecture recordings to help orient new faculty to the course as they are writing new lectures.  I also listen to a recording of my lecture from the previous semester in morning before class to help me review the content that I need to cover.

5. Printouts of PowerPoint Slides – It is part of my job to manage disability accommodations for the students in CWC.  I bring printouts of the PowerPoints to give to the students who require this as part of their accommodations.

6. Dry Erase Makers – When CC313 – the lecture hall where CWC is taught – was remodeled in the summer of 2015, the chalkboards were removed and replaced with whiteboards. I am not a huge fan of whiteboards largely because I have anxiety about the markers dying on my in the middle of class.  For this reason I bring a box of black dry erase markers for specific CWC use in CC313.  I put blue tape on the ends of the markers to label them as CWC markers. The ones that are bundled in the rubber band and brand new, while the un-bundled markers have been used.  Once a marker starts to fade, it needs to be recycled.

7. Diet Mountain Dew – I am both addicted to caffeine and not a fan of coffee.  So Diet Mountain Dew is pretty ever-present as my caffeine deliver system.

8. iPod Touch – I don’t own a cell phone, but my iPod Touch is a necessary piece of my daily routine.  I rely on in for e-mail, texting, and as my timepiece.  I don’t listen to music much, but I do listen to lots of podcasts. I also use by iPod to listen to recordings of my old lectures in order to prepare for future classes.

9. Keys – My keys are actually an important item to have in class, because inevitably I will forget to bring something to class and will need to run back to my office at the last minute.  There are more keys on this key ring than are necessary.  I actually only know what four of these keys are for.  I’m not even sure where the others came from, but I’ve carried them around for over a decade.

10. “To Do” List – Every morning I start my day by writing a “To Do” list.  It includes all of my daily appointments and all of the tasks that I need to complete.  I carry it with me throughout the day and check off tasks as they are accomplished.  I’m pretty certain I’d me unable to do my job without this regular routine.

11. Pens – I am never without a number of pens, and most of them are green. I do all of my grading in green pen and ask the my TAs do so as well.  This was something that I inherited from my mentor and predecessor Virginia Lettinga.

12. Clicker – I move around quite a bit when I teach and I use a significant number of timings and animations in my PowerPoints. Having a clicker keeps me from being tethered to my laptop.  I got my first clicker as a gift from Mike Holmes.  Although that clicker eventually broke, I still carry keep it in my computer bag because a gift from Mike Holmes is pretty cool.

13. Laptop Computer – I typically bring my computer to class and hook it up to the classroom projector.  I do this because I’m kind of picky about my PowerPoints and I like to use specific not standard fonts at times.  If I run the slideshow off my my computer, then I feel more confident that everything will work.  I also use my computer as a portable podcast and movie studio for other aspects of my job.

Watch the CWC at 30 Birthday Celebration

This morning, our own Profs. Sam Mulberry and Chris Gehrz hosted a special presentation in the Bethel Library in honor of the 30th anniversary of GES130 Christianity and Western Culture (CWC). If you missed it, you can find video of the event on the Library’s YouTube channel:

Mostly, the event consisted of Chris interviewing CWC faculty from different eras: Mike Holmes (BTS), one of the course’s four founders; late 80s/early 90s faculty Dan Ritchie (English) and Paul Reasoner (Philosophy), who went on to teach in the Western Humanities program; and current faculty members Sara Shady (Philosophy) and Amy Poppinga (History). Live on tape, we also heard from former history prof Neil Lettinga and his wife Virginia (long the coordinators of the course), plus philosopher David Williams. There was also a brief tribute to Stacey Hunter Hecht, who taught CWC during most of her career at Bethel and passed away last December.

The presentation concluded with Chris performing a rare live, unplugged version of his updated version of the “Augustine Rap,” originated by Dan Ritchie and then-CWC instructor Greg Boyd back in the first decade of the course. (Of course, there’s also a music video version of that rap — Chris said he found it less embarrassing to rap live than to show that video, but there’s nothing stopping you from clicking here now.)

If you want to dive deeper into the history of this foundational course, Sam has worked with digital library manager Kent Gerber to create a significant, growing collection of media and digitized artifacts from CWC. In addition, earlier this year Sam conducted an oral history project among some of the course’s many former teaching assistants, including five former History majors and minors. It’s available via a digital timeline(click on the image to see the full timeline)

Screenshot of CWC TA Oral History timeline

The End of an Age: Mike Holmes’ Final CWC Lecture

Mike Holmes lecturing in CWC
Mike lecturing this morning in CWC

I’m writing from CC 313, a room number familiar to every Bethel student who has taken GES130 Christianity and Western Culture (CWC) during its nearly thirty years of existence. As I tap away, University Professor of Biblical Studies and Early Christianity Mike Holmes is lecturing on the history of European imperialism.

Mike has been filling in for a colleague on sabbatical, and will probably not return to CWC before he completes his time at Bethel. So this makes his imperialism lecture rather historic: not only Mike’s last bow in CWC, but the last lecture given by one of the course’s four founders — Neil Lettinga (History) having left Bethel in 2003 and Kevin Cragg (History) and Dan Taylor (English) having retired in recent years.

It’s been a pleasure and an honor to teach with Mike — and a relief to find that he feels that the course he helped to create is in good hands. It says a lot about Bethel in general and CWC in particular that first-year students not only can learn about the Bible from one of the world’s leading experts on the New Testament, but that they can hear him as part of a multidisciplinary team, teaching on the chapters in history that — as Mike likes to put it — fill the space in his Intro to Bible syllabus between Acts and Revelation.

And as a younger professor, it’s wonderful to get to learn from a senior colleague who remains engaged and encouraging even while teaching outside his field of expertise so late in his career.

CWC's four founders, January 1985
Unfortunately, Mike’s back is to the camera is this iconic photo of the CWC founders planning the course in January 1985

Joined by about ten former CWC professors, we took a few minutes at the end of lecture to applaud Mike and his contributions to one of Bethel’s signature courses. If you’d like to join us in celebrating our colleague, please leave your thanks (and perhaps favorite Mike Holmes-in-CWC memory) in the comments section below.

– Chris Gehrz

Highlights from Finals Week

We still have two days to go, but it’s been a busy finals week here in the Bethel History Department. On top of exams being taken and papers coming due, we’ve had several special events:

  • Family, friends, and alumni joined faculty Monday night in enjoying excellent presentations by our eight spring Senior Seminar students.
  • On Wednesday morning professors treated their teaching assistants to breakfast to kick off Study Day.
  • Later that day, two of our TAs gave presentations on special projects they completed in Prof. Amy Poppinga’s course, HIS212U Introduction to the Muslim World: one shared her research into Muslim-Christian interactions at various points in history (here’s the blog she produced on that subject), and the other reflected on her experience working as a volunteer at a Muslim private school in the area.
  • Then several of our faculty attended the second annual installment of West by Midwest, an informal festival of innovating teaching. Sam Mulberry talked about his new podcast, Autobiography; Chris Gehrz offered a preview of our department’s new Introduction to History course (HIS290 — debuting next spring as a requirement for all new majors and minors); and Amy Poppinga talked about joining Sam and Chris this summer for the second year that GES130 Christianity and Christian Culture will be offered online. (Learn more at Chris’ blog this morning, where he collected his live-tweets from “WxMW” and wrote about Intro to History.)

Here are some images of the festivities so far. Look for more after Commencement on Saturday, with our students and faculty participating in the 9am ceremony.

“Wounded and Healed”: A CWC Benediction

Our colleague Sam Mulberry offered these words on Monday and Tuesday, as a benediction for the last meeting of the fall in GES130 Christianity and Western Culture (CWC). May they bless and challenge you as you continue your own education…

You made it to the end of CWC. There are a lot of different reactions to that. Some of you are happy to have got the grade you wanted and be done. Some are just happy to be done. Period. Some of you are watching the clock, wondering how long until this is over.

And then there are some of you — maybe only a small few of you — who were maybe really impacted or affected by what we have done together here. Maybe some people who have at least part of them who don’t want to see this end.

For those of you in the first group… It is OK: we are almost done. I won’t talk for long. Just keep watching the clock. Soon you will have the rest of your life to celebrate not being in CWC.

But for those of you in the second group — who really found themselves connecting to something in this course — know that you are among friends and kindred spirits. Eighteen years ago — half my life ago — I sat right here in this room and felt a little sad that it was over. Eighteen years and thirty-one semesters later, I still feel sad. Why?

Let me read to you one of my favorite stories in all of Scripture… in all of literature, really. It comes from the book of Genesis:

Jacob is preparing to meet with his brother Esau. They have had a tumultuous relationship, to say the least. But it is late at night, and Jacob is preparing to confront and come to terms with his brother.

Rembrandt, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel

The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob’s thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Tell me, I pray, your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peni′el, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penu′el, limping because of his thigh. (Genesis 32:22-31, RSV)

What does this have to do with anything?

Throughout this course, we’ve tried to argue that God reveals himself to us through our stories — both our individual stories and our collective story. In this course, we have examined part — just a sliver, really — of this story. And as we’ve experienced this story of some of the people of God in history — their lives, their ideas, their flaws, and their faith — I hope and pray that at moments you have encountered God, in the people you’ve studied and the people you’ve studied with. And like Jacob on the shores of the Jabbok River, you’ve probably realized that some of these encounters are difficult and challenging things. Most good educational and religious experiences are. Most things worth investing your life in are.

But there are two things, I think, to learn from Jacob’s story as we approach our own wrestling matches with God and those difficult moments when we look at God face to face.

Gauguin, After the Sermon (Jacob wrestling with the Angel)
Paul Gauguin, The Vision After the Sermon (Jacob wrestling with the Angel) (1888) – Wikimedia

First, Jacob leaves this night of struggle and striving with not only a blessing, but also a limp. In the same way, we are blessed to have these experiences together and we are blessed to have this education. But I kind of hope that we are wounded by it, too. I hope we realize that we are affected by it… that it changes us… that we are not allowed to just be the same.

I hope that we can pay attention to these wounds and scars from our education and our experiences. If you find yourself affected deeply by history, philosophy, political science, theology, or literature, make sure to chase those feelings down. (Or as much as you can chase them down with a limp.) Go find professors and other students who have been affected and wounded in similar ways and know that you are home.

The second lesson from Jacob’s late-night encounter with God is that Jacob took the time to recognize that the place where this wrestling match happened was holy ground.  He names the place Peni’el, which means “the face of God.” To him it was holy ground.

Maybe it’s a sign that I’ve been involved with CWC for too long, but at the end of each semester I can’t help but think of the thousands of people — students, professors, and TAs — who have met in this room over the last twenty-eight years to read, and to listen, and to learn… To encounter God, to wrestle with God, and maybe — just maybe — see the face of God. For me, this place is holy ground.

So as each semester ends, I feel a bit sad… Sad that this time that we have together is over.

But I’m also proud. I’m proud of those of you who got the grade you wanted and now are done. I’m proud of you who are happy to just be done. I’m even proud of you whose only thought right now is the realization that I’m clearly wrapping up my thoughts. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m proudest of all of those of you that I see exit these doors today with the slight indication of a limp.

Heavenly Father,
Please help us to be wounded and healed
     Wounded and healed
     Wounded and healed
Teach us to long for and find our rest in you.

Amen

– Sam Mulberry

Cross-posted at The Pietist Schoolman

From AC 2nd to… Leading Worship

It’s not uncommon for History majors to go on to seminary. But to go from studying the past to leading worship? Andene (Christopherson) O’Neil (’05) shares her journey from AC 2nd to her current role in a local Anglican church.

First off, did you come to Bethel knowing you wanted to study History? How did your choice of major come about?

I have always been curious about a million things — the sciences, business, education, philosophy, theology, the arts, and so on. Before college I’d anticipated becoming everything from a hospital administrator to a choir director to a lawyer. And to be honest, you could have talked me into a host of other unrelated career tracks as well. In Christianity in Western Culture (CWC) I saw how the discipline of history was not a series of memorization exercises but rather was the study of all things. I saw that a student of history studies the way in which God’s hand unfolds the complex, mysterious, and beautiful story of all time in terms of nature, the arts, the sciences, philosophy, social and cultural organization, etc. This, I realized, was for me. I changed from my Music Education major to History, and promptly became a CWC TA for the next two years. And with the flexibility of a History major, I took extra classes in Spanish, philosophy, secondary education, political science, music, and even business.

What courses or other experiences stand out most in your memories of Bethel’s History Department?

Due to its impact on my life, I loved many aspects of CWC. The primary source readings (everything from Plato to Augustine to Luther to MLK, Jr.) became stones that laid a foundation for my study of not just one isolated academic discipline, but of the depth and trajectory of God’s redemptive story in all of life. As a TA, I loved helping fellow students better understand the Fall of Rome or the Great Papal Schism. I think I may have even written a song to help students remember the transition from the Enlightenment to the Scientific Revolution to the Industrial Revolution. (Please, don’t ask me to sing it now). I loved seeing students’ eyes light up when they realized that history actually adds value to their understanding of the present. So if you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of CWC. And if you don’t believe me, I have a CWC T-Shirt and mug to prove it.

Additionally, I sincerely enjoyed the World War I class I took with Dr. Neil and Prof. Virginia Lettinga. We didn’t just study the Great War; we were immersed in it. We marched, we studied the trenches and the home-front, and my friend and I built a detailed 2D model of a U-boat. It left a lasting impact. In fact, I can still sing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” a famous tune sung by the Allies, without googling the lyrics.

I’ll also never forget that crazy project I worked on under the direction of Dr. Kevin Cragg. As a part of the Honors Program I was required to do some extra projects in some of my classes. So naturally, in the class History and the Human Environment, I made a massive, color-coded, map-like chart demonstrating how the Black Death of the 14th century would kill a third of Bethel’s campus. Probably one of the more interesting and gruesome, if not entirely useful, projects I’ve ever worked on.

And lastly, I recall working on my senior thesis, which involved Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, the Peasant Wars, and the role of the printing press in all of the above. As I recall, this paper was not a particularly important addition to the field of Reformation history (i.e., not my best paper). It was significant, however, because this focus on the tumult of the Reformation (and the lure of its primary sources) helped set the stage for many years of further study to continue.

Tell us about your time in seminary: When did you decide to continue your education? How did you pick the program you entered? (Were you looking towards a career in ministry? Academics? Both?) How did you come to focus on Reformation history?

The end of my junior year I realized that I loved three spheres of life: teaching/learning, music/arts, and theology/ministry. When someone suggested to me that I should consider seminary, it was as though a light bulb went off: This is how I could continue to hone my interdisciplinary interests and see what God might make of it.  So I up and moved across the country after graduation, though I knew no one where I was going. I was simply turning the pages of my life and waiting to see what God might write next.

Logo of Gordon-Conwell SeminaryI chose Gordon-Conwell for two primary reasons. 1) It is a school with a very solid academic reputation. This school prepares you both for doctoral work and for vocational ministry. 2) It is located just north of Boston, MA. The rocky shores of the Atlantic, the colonial, cobblestone streets, the museums, pro sports teams, and the quaintness of the surrounding blue-collar fishing villages made for an amazing “home away from home.” [Ed. It’s also one of the alma maters of our own Prof. Ruben Rivera.]

Before I left Boston I had earned a Master of Divinity degree with a focus on the History of Worship Arts, a Master’s of Theology in Church History (a one-year academic capstone degree meant to help launch one into PhD work) focused on how the Reformation impacted the arts, and had spent five years as the Director of Worship at Gordon College nearby.

I chose to study the Reformation because I am awed by its nuance. Many Protestants look to the Reformation as a “starting place” for our Christian faith. This is faulty. Accounting for the first 1500 years of Christianity are imperative in order to have an accurate appreciation for our heritage. Furthermore, the Reformation itself is not simply to be lauded; while reform was needed and I value the efforts of many of the reformers, this period was not devoid of tragedy, destruction, and sin. As with any historical period, there are great complexities involved on a myriad of levels. I was particularly distressed to see the way in which aspects of the Reformation hindered or destroyed the use of arts within the context of worship, or even in its addition to the common good within wider society. It is my opinion, as a musician and a lover of fine-art, that Christian culture’s standard for good art is askew because of this. Among Protestants, the idea of art for the sake of God’s glory was not actually reformed in the Reformation, but was muddled, confused, and in many ways stunted. There is some evidence that in recent years this landscape may be changing for the better. If I choose to pursue PhD studies in the future, it would be write further on this subject.

As I look back, I feel very blessed to see how God has continued to intertwine my interests (just as CWC had done) into a more holistic path of study and vocation. God has taken my  love of teaching/learning, music/art, and theology/ministry and has directed me now into a position as the Pastor of Worship & Adult Ministries at Church of the Cross in Hopkins, MN. (Yep, back in good ol’ Minnesota).

What do you enjoy most about your current job? Do you think there are any connections between the work you do now and your studies as a History major?

Andene O'NeilIn my current job I get to continue to work toward one goal—to participate in God’s act of redemption—in multiple ways. Yes, I’m a worship leader. I was a worship leader before Bethel, during Bethel as a chapel or Vespers leader, and when in seminary I worked full time at a nearby college as the Worship Director. Earlier on in my schooling and ministry I would actually say that I didn’t want to head into worship-leading as a vocation. I didn’t want to be limited to being “the girl with a guitar.” I thoroughly enjoyed leading a congregation in singing praises, psalms, laments, etc., but I didn’t want to only do that. Well, I see now that I had a limited understanding of what being a worship leader meant.

A worship leader’s foundation should be comprised of a solid understanding of worship and liturgical history, of church history, of systematic theology, and biblical studies. Knowing how to play and sing within a church service are of less importance than knowing why you’re doing so. (And let me just add that all of life is worship — an opportunity to give God the value he is due; singing together just happens to be an enjoyable, concentrated, and unifying form of it.) I’ve discovered that being a professional worship leader is anything but limiting.

In my current role as Pastor of Worship & Adult Ministries at an Anglican church I might write music, prepare for a teaching or sermon, meet with people for prayer or counsel, learn an ancient chant, attend a theological conference, start a choir, mobilize teams of volunteers for various projects, oversee a fine arts committee, lead Bible studies, etc. In all of this I rely on and draw from my education.

Furthermore, as an Anglican my personal devotional life is inextricably tied to the brothers and sisters of the faith that have gone before me. I understand myself as a part of their communion and delight in praying the same prayers and reciting the same creeds as they did centuries ago.

Suffice it to say, history is not what I studied, it’s how I think. I have the privilege of standing on the foundational liberal arts education I received as a Bethel History major. By studying history, my world was not narrowed down to names and dates but cracked open to reveal a great story — a story I get to live in.

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

Faculty Update, Fall 2013: Grants and Promotions

Today and tomorrow we want to share some news from our faculty: what they’ve been doing the past few months and what’s coming up this year. Look for posts on recent and upcoming publications and conference presentations. Today we’ll start with…

Congratulations to the following members of the History Department faculty, recipients of external and internal grants:

• Prof. Diana Magnuson was awarded a Minnesota Population Center Grant from the University of Minnesota, meant to allow her to write an institutional history of the Minnesota Population Center and the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) databases, beginning with the harmonization of U.S. census and American Community Survey data in IPUMS-USA.

Lilly Fellow Program logo• Prof. Chris Gehrz used his grant from the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts to develop a two-day faculty workshop at Bethel, “The Pietist Idea of a Christian College.” Featuring talks by Chris, theology professor Christian Collins Winn, and returning Bethel faculty Roger Olson (theology, now at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary) and David Williams (philosophy, now at Azusa Pacific University’s High Sierra Program), the workshop explored what it means when Bethel claims roots in the Pietist tradition. Most participants then undertook summer writing projects that will be published in a book to be edited by Chris. (Stay tuned for more news on that front.)

• Chris and Prof. Sam Mulberry received both Department Computing and Online Course grants from Bethel in support of their radical rethinking of GES130 Christianity and Western Culture for an online environment, which premiered this past summer. Make plans to attend their talk on that experience — Sept. 19th, 10:15am in the Bethel University Library.

We’re also happy to announce that Sam and Chris recently earned promotions in faculty rank: Sam to assistant professor of history; Chris to full professor.

Read the next post in this series of updates>>

A Field Report from the Digital Frontier: Online CWC

For the first time in its nearly thirty years of being taught at Bethel, GES130 Christianity and Western Culture was offered online this past summer, by History professors and CWC coordinators Sam Mulberry and Chris Gehrz. Scrapping the course’s venerable mix of lectures and small group discussions, Mulberry and Gehrz instead produced ten documentary films, seven review webisodes, and seven “virtual museums” covering Western history from Classical Greece through World War I. The museums and films made extensive use of the nearly twenty hours of interviews that Gehrz and Mulberry filmed in 2012-2013 with Bethel professors representing ten different departments.

Map of the Kevin Cragg Museum of Ancient Greece and Rome
Map of the first virtual museum students visited in online CWC, named in honor of longtime History professor and CWC “founding father” Kevin Cragg

To hear Mulberry and Gehrz’s reflections on their experience teaching the course online — and how it might enrich face-to-face CWC in the future — make plans to attend their presentation, “A Field Report from the Digital Frontier: Online CWC.” It’s scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 19th, 10:15-11:00am in the Bethel University Library.

UPDATE (10/7/2013): Here’s the video of our talk, hosted at our department’s YouTube page.

From AC 2nd to… Teaching High School Social Studies (part 2)

Our interview with Emily Osborne (’06), social studies teacher at Mahtomedi High School, continues… Something like a quarter of our graduates go into secondary or elementary education, so we especially appreciate that Emily was willing to reflect on how she prepared for a teaching career and what she finds most challenging and rewarding about her work, and that she offered specific advice for students interested in teaching social studies but worried about finding a job in a tight market.

5. Aside from your education courses, is there anything you did in college to prepare yourself to be a teacher?

Hands down, the best thing I did was working as a TA for the Christianity and Western Culture (CWC) course at Bethel for three years. Understanding (and loving) the content comes easily to some, but learning how to explain how everything fits together to someone who struggles to see the big picture can be a challenge. The hours I spent explaining content and study skills during office hours were invaluable, and leading large group study sessions helped me become much more confident in front of large groups. I was also able to gain practice through my work as a TA for Dr. Gehrz and as an individual tutor in the Academic Enrichment and Support Center (AESC).

I also found it helpful to spend my summers working with students.  I spent the first two summers in college working a church camp and the last two summers in college working at Duke University’s Talent Identification Program (TIP).  Both were valuable, but my job as a teaching assistant at TIP actually put me in a classroom working with a professor for six weeks at a time, which I think helped to prepare me for the classroom.  It also inspired me to work more closely with my own district’s gifted and talented program.

6. What advice would you give to students who are interested in history or other social studies fields and are considering teaching middle school or high school, but are worried about the seeming scarcity of jobs in the field?

Finding a job in today’s social studies education market is not easy, but it is possible. Many of these items apply to other jobs as well, but in my experience these items should definitely be on every future teacher’s to-do list.

1)     Get involved.  There are many things you can do: volunteer for events, work for History Day at a local school, find a job that involves some form of teaching or working with the age of students you want to eventually work with, and seek out opportunities that will give you a unique resume and set of skills. Every newly licensed social studies teacher will have some field experiences and at least one student teaching placement; make sure that you find other things to add so that you stand out from the pack.

2)     Network.  Even if you build a stellar resume, having contacts at various schools can help your application receive the consideration it deserves. While some people may see their placements in local schools just as part of an assignment for a class, you need to make the most of these opportunities. Get to know the teacher and the teachers in the department and then keep up with them. Reconnect with your own high school social studies teachers. Let your extended network know when you are starting to look for jobs, and they may be able to provide leads or connections to local districts. This extends beyond just the education field – former employers and professors can provide crucial recommendations for your first teaching job.

3)     Diversify.  If you are positive that your life won’t be complete unless you are a 6th grade Minnesota history teacher, then pursue that dream with abandon. However, if your interests are a bit broader or you are worried about finding that specific dream job, make sure you have a back-up plan. For me, this was my double major.

7. What’s your favorite thing about teaching social studies in high school? What’s most challenging?

Although it can be extremely challenging, teaching has to be one of the most rewarding careers.  I love seeing the expression on students’ faces when they finally understand a concept, master a skill, or figure out a life problem.  High school students are trying to figure out both who they are and what they are going to do with their life.  I have the opportunity to be an instructor, a guide, and a role model every day.  Sometimes they even come back or email and let me know what they’ve been up to, which is always a highlight.  If nothing else, you never get bored and students are, as a general rule, hilarious.

The biggest challenge is the responsibility you are given as a teacher.  You can impact students in a major way – hopefully in a positive one.  However, there is always pressure to make something that is not only workable and timely, but also inspirational.  You could always make something a little bit better or give a bit more feedback or spend a bit more time researching a new topic.  The difficulty is finding the balance, especially during the first few years.  As a teacher you are always learning, but I suppose that part of the beauty of it as well.

<<Read part 1 of our interview with Emily