What’s Happening This Spring in Bethel’s History Department?

This morning marks the beginning of the Spring 2019 semester at Bethel. What’s happening this spring in the History Department?

• Dr. Poppinga is taking a well-earned sabbatical, as Dr. Kooistra returns from her fall away from Bethel.

• We have our largest enrollments ever in both Intro to History (30 students joining Dr. Magnuson) and Intro to the Digital Humanities (20 with Dr. Goldberg). We’ve also got full houses in American CivilizationWorld War II, Human Rights in International History, and History of China, Korea, and Japan.

• Eleven students will be completing their History majors in Senior Seminar with Dr. Kooistra. Look for them to present their capstone research projects in May.

• Those seniors will also be participating in the 2019 edition of the Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium, coming back to Bethel on Saturday, April 27.

• A recent alumna is returning to the department to teach HIS205U History of China, Korea, and Japan. We’ll introduce her tomorrow…

• And Profs. Gehrz and Mulberry roll out their newest media project, joining with Dr. Chris Moore (Political Science) on a podcast that previews a new course coming in Spring 2020. Learn more this Wednesday…


Inside Intro to History

Since we revised our major and minor four years ago, our new gateway course — HIS290 Intro to History — has been a site of hands-on learning, helping students to apply traditional historical methods in a digital age. As taught now by Prof. Diana Magnuson, Intro to History has students work extensively with digitized primary sources — e.g., taking part in Cornell University’s crowdsourcing project to digitize runaway slave advertisements and using oral histories at the Minnesota Historical Society to understand the experience of recent immigrants to the state.

“I want students to be as engaged in the past as they are in the present,” Dr. Magnuson told Bethel News for a new feature on HIS290. “Hands-on experiences help them understand that the people they read about lived in color, just like we do.”

Students working in the library computer lab for HIS290 Intro to History

In addition to cultivating empathy, she added, students prepare for an array of careers, since the “skills students are learning are transferrable everywhere.”

That includes future social studies teachers like Intro to History student Sophia Carlson ’19, who found herself “seeing the possibilities of what my future classroom could be—not a place with simple lectures and textbook questions, but a classroom with the exploration of artifacts, sources, and real research that will help students to love learning.” But also those who will work in the business, public, or nonprofit sector. Sterling Harer ’18, a double-major in Business & Political Science and International Relations major,  explained:

When you interpret historical sources yourself, you have to think critically and try to set aside your own biases to truly understand how people thought back then… It’s an important skill for the workplace, because you have to be able to understand your colleagues and their points of view.

Click here to read the full story about Intro to History and how it connects to the work Prof. Magnuson does with students in Bethel’s own archives. And if you’re a current or prospective student, look for HIS290 to be taught again next spring.

A Prayer for Our Students and Graduates

Tonight marked the end of my first time teaching HIS290 Intro to History, our department’s new gateway course — required for History majors and minors, but also drawing some history-loving undecideds trying to figure out their next steps. For their final essay, students reflected on how their interest in the past and training as historians connects to their sense of calling.

To help jumpstart their thinking on the essay, last Monday we read excerpts from Frederick Buechner’s sermon, “The Calling of Voices,” in which the pastor-novelist advises us to “go with our lives where we most need to go [what makes us “gladdest”] and where we are most needed.” (At our course blog I also shared a critique of Buechner’s gladness/need language, by writer Laura Ortberg Turner.)

After some concluding conversation tonight, I closed by praying the prayer that accompanies Buechner’s sermon in the 2006 collection, Secrets in the Dark. May it be so for all of our students, including those who will graduate from Bethel this Saturday:

O thou, who art the God no less of those who know thee not than of those who love thee well, be present with us at the times of choosing when time stands still and all that lies behind and all that lies ahead are caught up in the mystery of the moment. Be present especially with the young who must choose between many voices. Help them to know how much an old world needs their youth and gladness. Help them to know that there are words of truth and healing that will never be spoken unless they speak them, and deeds of compassion and courage that will never be done unless they do them. Help them never to mistake success for victory or failure for defeat. Grant that they may never be entirely content with whatever bounty the world may bestow upon them, but that they may know at last that they were created not for happiness but for joy, and that joy is to them alone who, sometimes with tears in their eyes, commit themselves in love to thee and to others. Lead them and all the world ever deeper into the knowledge that finally all people are one and that there can never really be joy for any until there is joy for all. In Christ’s name we ask it and for his sake. Amen.

Wednesday’s Webisode: History in Popular Culture

Students in Introduction to History are preparing presentations on how Americans outside of the academy make meaning of the past, so we thought we’d dedicate an episode to history in popular culture. Profs. Poppinga, Kooistra, and Gehrz talk about films, TV, video games, historical fiction, etc. — both how such media can inspire interest in the past and promote misunderstanding of it. Then to echo our emphasis on popular culture, Prof. Gehrz hosts the episode as a kind of walking tour of F. Scott Fitzgerald sites in St. Paul.

Also in episode 11, we interview History alum Mike Bumann ’06, who teaches English in China for the organization ELIC, and we offer previews of the Oregon Extension program and Bethel’s master’s in teaching program.

Want to Skype with the Bethel History Department?

For us historians and other academics, one of the most promising developments to come out of the digital revolution is the way that technological change is shrinking distances, making it possible to carry on conversations instantaneously even when hundreds or thousands of miles separate people.

Skype logoThat’s certainly been a benefit of my adventures in blogging and podcasting, and a reason why we’re so intrigued by the idea of a departmental webisode. But in the last few weeks, I’ve also had a chance to experiment with another digital innovation: Skype, the telecommunications software that allows video chats via computers, tablets, smartphones, and other devices.

At the end of March, I got to talk with a group of 8th graders in Kalispell, Montana who are studying their state’s history with Taylor Ferda ’10, one of our many alumni who have gone into teaching social studies for a career.

For forty-five minutes, Taylor’s students asked me how I’d define history, how I became a historian and why it benefits even non-specialists, my favorite classes and books, my family and hobbies, and my memories of being an 8th grader. (And that was quite the trip down memory lane!) I was especially thrilled to find that Taylor has his students already working with primary sources and thinking about one of our department’s favorite themes: historical empathy.

Then earlier this week I got to be on the other end of a Skype conversation, when I invited John Fea, professor of history at Messiah College, to join the first half of our Monday evening seminar in HIS290 Introduction to History.

Our Intro students have been reading John’s book Why Study History? throughout the semester, drawing on it for their most recent essay, on what it means to think both historically and Christianly about the past. They peppered John with good questions about his intellectual autobiography (how a would-be journalist went to seminary and then grad school in history), how our discipline has changed in the last decade (e.g., academics using new media to engage more with popular audiences), his favorite historical sites to visit (colonial Philadelphia and Gettysburg), and how he eliminates personal bias from his studies of Christianity in 18th century America. (John is perhaps best known for his acclaimed book, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?)

Increasingly, I’m interested in using technologies like Skype to bring guest voices like John’s into my classes from afar. But my experience with Taylor’s Montana history class also has me wondering if more of our alumni in middle and high schools would be interested in having their former professors talk to their students… If so, please get in touch and we’ll see if we can set something up!

– Chris Gehrz

Wednesday’s Webisode: Secondary and Tertiary Sources

Now available on YouTube: episode 3 of Past & Presence, our department webisode series.

A clear theme runs through this episode: it’s hosted from locations in the Bethel University Library, features cameos by two of our librarians (one a former student of our department), and includes an alum interview with Kevin McGrew ’88, director of libraries at the College of St. Scholastica. Indeed, our HIS290 Intro to History met in the library this week to start work on an annotated bibliography assignment. To help guide them, our faculty conversation features Diana Magnuson and AnneMarie Kooistra discussing secondary and tertiary sources, the value of footnotes and bibliographies, and the significance of historiography.

Finally, look for ads for HIS320K History and the Human Environment and our travel course, HIS230L World War I (the latter featuring video shot by Sam Mulberry in Europe during the January 2015 iteration of that course).

Check Out Our New Department Webisode!

Today we’re very happy to announce the debut of Past & Presence, a weekly webisode series featuring the faculty, alumni, and students of the Bethel History Department!

Produced by Profs. Sam Mulberry and Chris Gehrz for our new Intro to History course, each episode of Past & Presence runs about 25-30 minutes and features four elements:

  • A conversation among our faculty (or, at least once, some of our TAs) about whatever the week’s big question is in Intro to History. We start with an especially big one: “What is history?”
  • An interview with a faculty member or alumnus about how they decided to study history, what they appreciate about their time at Bethel, and how they discerned their calling coming out of college.
  • Minute-long ads for fall courses (so that our first-year students can make informed choices when registration rolls around in early April) or programs like study abroad, pre-law, seminary, or grad school.
  • Interstitial linking segments hosted by Prof. Gehrz from a variety of locations around Bethel, the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and beyond, including Bethel’s old campus on Snelling Avenue, the Minnesota History Center, the North West Company Fur Post, and even some of the great cathedrals of Europe.

Look for new episodes every Wednesday through the end of spring semester, both here at AC 2nd and on our department’s YouTube channel.

Announcing Our Spring 2015 Courses

We’ll be down one historian in the spring, as Diana Magnuson goes on sabbatical, but Bethel students will still have a great set of History courses to pick from when they register for courses in a few days: (we previewed J-term courses yesterday)

HIS200L American Civilization (AnneMarie Kooistra)

HIS205U History of China, Korea, and Japan (Paul Reasoner – Philosophy)

HIS209L Christianity in America (Ruben Rivera)

HIS/POS216L American Constitutional History (Duncan McCampbell – adjunct)

HIS217UZ Hispanic Christianity (Rivera)

*HIS290 Introduction to History (Chris Gehrz)

HIS/POS305G The Cold War (Gehrz)

*HIS311 Roman Civilization (Katie Thostenson – adjunct)

HIS/GEO320K History and the Human Environment (Amy Poppinga)

HIS/POS329 African Politics (Andy Bramsen – Political Science)

HIS350 Modern America (Kooistra)

Intro to History is making its debut this spring. Both it and Roman Civ are being taught as hybrid courses, with online and face-to-face elements.

• This spring Amy Poppinga is also teaching HON205U Finding Community on the Margin in Bethel’s Honors program.

• Poppinga, Chris Gehrz, and Sam Mulberry will be teaching in GES130 Christianity and Western Culture, as will alum Scott Kirchoff ’03.

What’s New in 2014-2015? Curriculum and Courses

This year’s crop of History majors and minors at Bethel will be the first to experience a curriculum that’s been significantly revised. While our programs remain small (about 36 credits for the major, half that for the minor) and flexible (mostly giving students choices within categories), it’s been updated in several important ways:

  • Screenshot of the title sequence for "Past & Presence"
    Screenshot of the title sequence for our Past & Presence webisodes. (Click through to YouTube to see a rough cut of our “road trip” episode, culminating in a visit to Duluth, MN.)

    Probably the most notable change is that we’ve created a new course, HIS290 Introduction to History, as a requirement for both majors and minors. Blending face-to-face instruction (a two-hour Monday evening seminar) with online elements (weekly department webisodes and a course blog), HIS290 will introduce students to the theory and practice of history as a discipline, with particular emphasis on how Christians engage in study of the past and connections with vocation and career. You can read more about it at Prof. Chris Gehrz’s blog: first this introduction, then this update on what he and colleague Sam Mulberry did this summer to prepare for the webisode series, Past & Presence.

  • Students will continue to study history from multiple regions, taking two courses each from U.S., Global, and European (ancient, medieval, and modern) categories. The most important change here is in doubling the Global requirement from one course to two — at least one of which (as in the other two categories) needs to be 300-level.
  • With the new Intro course, the old Introductory category requirement goes away. (Though most of those courses still satisfy regional distribution requirements.) Likewise, with each category now requiring an upper-division course — all of which feature high expectations for writing and reading, plus elements of original research and/or historiography — the Foundation category has disappeared. (Though Modern Europe, Modern America, and Roman Civ still meet other requirements.)

One of the reasons we were able, at long last, to expand and deepen the Global requirement was the full-time addition of Amy Poppinga to our faculty. In addition to HIS328G Muslim Women in History (which debuted last year), Amy has created another new upper-division course, HIS/POS356 Modern Middle East, which premiered last week. She writes:

It has been interesting to develop my course curriculum this summer in the midst of the daily news, dominated by the struggles facing the region we will be studying. At the same time, I think students will be challenged by our need to stay on top of current events weekly, and will be enriched by building their knowledge of both the history and cultures of the countries of the Middle East. It has been hard to narrow down the selection of films and documentaries we will draw from and I am looking forward to having students assist me with determining which of these media resources will be most helpful for the students following in their footsteps. To me, that is one of the most exciting things about being a part of an inaugural course. This first group will inform how the course develops over time and I hope that these students will be excited by that opportunity.

(This spring Amy will also get a chance to teach a 200-level course on her primary field of expertise as a part of Bethel’s Honors program.)

Amid the larger curricular shifts, our capstone experience, HIS499 Senior Seminar, remains both unchanged and always unpredictable, as Prof. AnneMarie Kooistra explains: “…every new semester means a slew of new research projects from veteran History majors. I always look forward to assisting students as they get a glimpse of what it feels like to be a professional historian, and to do what they often consider their best work as Bethel students.”

<<Read the previous entry in this series of updates

Watch the Opening Titles to Our New Intro to History Webisodes!

Last week Prof. Chris Gehrz wrote at his blog about starting to plan our new course HIS290 Introduction to History, which, starting this fall, will be required of History majors and minors. It won’t be offered until Spring 2015, but this summer he and Prof. Sam Mulberry are beginning to develop the online portion of this hybrid course: a weekly series of half-hour webisodes featuring interviews with faculty, students, and alumni and conversations about the thematic questions that run through the course.

Perhaps putting the cart before the horse, Prof. Mulberry spent this past weekend producing a Mad Men-inspired title sequence for the webisode series, to be titled Past and Presence. Check it out!