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.