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>>

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Senior Sem Topics for Spring 2019

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?

Nicholas II and his family in 1913
The Romanovs in 1913 – Wikimedia
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?

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?

1899 cartoon on dime museums
1899 cartoon ridiculing “dime museums” – Wikimedia
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.

Brendan Veary (History/Social Studies Education 5-12): Pederasty in Classical Greek Culture

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.

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…

Highlights from the 2018 Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium

Over the weekend students and faculty from our department took part in the fifth annual Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium (MUHS), joining peers from the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, Bethany Lutheran College, Martin Luther College, and our hosts, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

Six Bethel History majors presented their research at Saturday’s three concurrent sessions:

  • Kerry Bloomfield, “Evangelical Marriage Manuals from 1970-1979”
  • Andrew Fort, “The Quintessential American Cowboy”
  • Hannah Harville, “The Christian Palestinian Experience with, Involvement in, and Response to the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict since the First Intifada”
  • Nelson Menjivar, “Catalonia and Spain: Origins of a Nationalist Movement”
  • Sarah Sauer, “The Moderating Role of Virtus Romana in Augustine’s Desacralization of Nature”
  • Matt Velasco, “The Development and Impact of the Confessing Church”

(Most of these students are currently taking HIS499 Senior Seminar and will be giving more final versions of their research papers on Monday, May 21, 6pm, CLC 109. All are invited!)

Faculty members Amy Poppinga, AnneMarie Kooistra, and Chris Gehrz moderated panels during the symposium, and Prof. Poppinga spoke on the closing faculty roundtable (“Students’ Religious Literacy in a Pluralistic Society”).

(If you’d like to see some highlights from various sessions, Prof. Gehrz live-tweeted the symposium at the hashtag #MUHS2018.)

Thanks to Dr. Tycho de Boer and the rest of our hosts from Saint Mary’s for putting on a fine symposium. We’re looking forward to having MUHS return to Bethel next year.

Meet Our Majors: Emma Beecken ’16

Throughout the semester, I will be interviewing a variety of history students, alumni, and professors, with the goal of answering the question: what can be done with a history major? To begin, we will be looking into some insights provided by Emma Beecken ’16, who has majors in both the History and Education departments. This post will mostly benefit current History/Education double majors, but is definitely worth a read for anyone in the department considering a future in education.

Emma Beecken is currently a senior here at Bethel, with majors in History, K-6 Elementary Education, Social Studies Education 5-12, and a minor in Communication Arts and Literature 5-8. She spends her very limited free time nannying, preparing copious amounts of baked goods, and participating on Bethel University’s forensics team, where she has experienced success at both the state and national level. She is a great lover of Disney films and The Chronicles of Narnia, and will eagerly explain that she resonates strongly with Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Lucy Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia. Below is a photograph of Emma, followed by her fascinating responses to my interview questions.

An image of Disney's Belle next to her biggest fan, Emma Beecken
From left to right: Disney’s Belle and Bethel University’s own Emma Beecken. The similarities are stunning, aren’t they?

You have a triple major in K-6 Elementary Education, Social Studies Education 5-12, and History, with a minor in Communication Arts and Literature Education for grades 5-8. That is quite a few things. How did you decide on this combination of majors and minor? 

When I was little, it was a constant trade-off between playing school, pioneers, and pioneer school, so I guess this combination didn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. I’ve always been passionate about children and education, and I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to be a teacher. Throughout high school, opportunities to plan and teach lessons with students of a variety of ages reaffirmed my passion for teaching younger kids. At the same time, I couldn’t help loving history. I figured I could get my history fix by adding a Social Studies Ed major, which would also increase my marketability as an educator. That turned into adding a History major when I realized that the only other classes I would need in order complete the major were courses I would be disappointed not to take. That seemed like a sign I was heading the right direction, so I went for it, summer classes notwithstanding. It was definitely the right decision.

How do you feel the Education and History majors complement each other?

Personally, I couldn’t be happier with this combination. They are very different, and yet they complement each other beautifully.  The study of history teaches you to analyze, synthesize, and critically evaluate a body of information, and then make and communicate informed decisions. That is exactly what a good teacher needs to be doing. A truly loving teacher is analyzing a student, using all of the quantitative and qualitative data that’s available, and then acting on that information to do everything possible to help that child. It’s critical thinking, problem solving, the study of people, cultures, and different perspectives—basically, it’s being part of a giant history case study all the time. And yet it’s so much more, because it is helping a child who was created in the image of God, using every tool I can and every strategy I’ve learned to love that child as tangibly and as fiercely as possible. History has refined those tools, making me that much better of an educator.

There’s also an inherent benefit in teachers who love to learn about one subject in particular. I love teaching Social Studies because I love Social Studies. That in itself is going to make a world of difference to the students. This summer, for example, I was nannying, and we spent part of our days studying history. Because that’s what I love, I planned the most for it, had better ideas, and got the most excited about it, compared to other subjects. Grown-ups’ attitudes are contagious, so the kids got excited too. By the end of the summer, they were begging for more history. That provided a perfect and totally natural platform for teaching reading, writing, critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving— all of those skills critical for success, but which are much less engaging when taught in isolation. The same would be true for any other interest. If someone truly loved science or physical education, their excitement and eagerness to create the best lesson possible would result in kids who picked up those passions and all the skills snuck in with them. Adding a history major enhanced my understanding of and love for history, which will only serve to benefit my kids. At the end of the day, majoring in history was an amazing decision for more than just my desire for a “history fix,” but also for the success of my future students.

Conversely, what is the most difficult about your combination of majors and minor?

The most difficult thing about being an Elementary Education/History major is, perhaps, also one of the most beneficial: they are very different majors. Consequently, they draw very different types of people. By the time I got to upper level courses that were filled primarily with students in the major, it was almost like culture shock going from a history course to an Elementary Education class. Speaking in generals, there’s a big difference in the way the people in these majors think, organize themselves, engage in group projects, as well as a difference in personalities. This goes for professors too—even the syllabi feel a little different between the two departments. I have to recalibrate when I switch from course to course, while still trying to find my niche in both. While this can be a tad sticky, it’s also pretty wonderful. I get to see an amazing spectrum of people from all walks of life, hearing a range of ideas and perspectives, and then have to opportunity to bring all of those ideas together.  

Tell me about your student teaching experience. What is the most exciting or enjoyable about it? What has been challenging for you?

Right now, I’m spending half days in a third grade classroom, which will become a full-time student teaching placement in a few weeks. My classroom is 100% English Learners and very high poverty, so it’s been a very different experience than my many practicums in suburbia. To be honest, this isn’t easy. Every single one of my twenty seven, eight, and nine-year-olds is testing low, and, as a whole, they are really struggling. And yet, every time I think about them, it’s like Mama Duck instincts kick in. I love these kids so much. I would give my right arm if that would help them. And then, at the end of the day, you leave after teaching your lesson and realize that, for a few of those kids, it wasn’t enough. They are going to need not just your right arm, but your left arm and maybe even more because they are so far behind. That can be discouraging. Yet, at the same time, it’s also extremely exciting. By God’s grace, I can do something! Seeing them understand and improve is my constant aim. The kids are amazing. I love them to pieces. Challenging or not, they are still the most enjoyable and most exciting part of each day.

You recently completed your Senior Seminar for the History Department over the summer as an independent stuy. As the only current Bethel History student who is done with Senior Seminar, what would you like to share about your senior research? 

A portrait of Hannah More, the subject of Emma Beecken's senior research project
A portrait of the great Hannah More, described by Miss Beecken as a great “lynch pin of history.”

Brownies from the aforementioned Hannah More-themed party, each accompanied by the title of one of Hannah More's books
Brownies from the first-ever Hannah More party. You may notice that each brownie comes with a Hannah More book recommendation.

My senior research project was one of the highlights of my time so far at Bethel. I studied Hannah More, the late eighteenth century best-selling British author, who worked closely with William Wilberforce to evangelize Great Britain. Being able to immerse myself in her life through an extended period of time and extensive research was not only a great opportunity to refine my skills as a historian, but also to dive into something I adored. In this case, it was a brilliant woman of God who did amazing work for the Kingdom, serving as both a fascinating woman to research and a great role model. Dr. Gehrz expertly guided me through the process of making sense of history and faith, and I have come out of that project a stronger historian and a stronger Christian. Plus, Hannah More was just kind of awesome. My friends may have thrown me a Hannah More-themed party when I finished, but that’s another story.

Tell me about your educational and/or vocational plans post-Bethel. Has your student teaching experience influenced these plans?

My goal is to go wherever God can best use the passions He gave me to bring Himself the most glory. So, with that in mind, I’m pretty open at this point. International missions work is not out of the question, and I won’t be surprised if I end up pursuing a master’s degree in either Gifted and Talented Education, Special Education, or maybe something else completely- who knows? I’d also be extremely happy to adopt a bajillion-and-twelve children and be a homeschooling mom though, so I’m flexible. In the short term? I’d be pretty pleased to be teaching in an upper elementary classroom next year.

What advice would you have for other students who are considering pursuing degrees in both History and Education?

Go for it. Seriously. You won’t regret it, and neither will your future students. More practically, be sure to get involved. I made the mistake of feeling like I wasn’t a “real” History major because I was also an Education major, yet at the same time feeling like I wasn’t a “real” Education major. That was kind of silly. I wish I had more fully embraced the department events, people, and connections that were available for both majors, rather than discounting myself from either. In other words, double-dip on Christmas parties, because really, it’s all for the love of the students anyway.

Highlights from the 2015 Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium

On Saturday six people from our department represented Bethel at the second annual Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium. Hosted this year by Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato after our neighbors at Northwestern kicked off the event in 2014, the symposium featured undergraduates from Bethel, Bethany Lutheran, Northwestern, and Martin Luther College presenting research findings on a wide variety of historical topics.

The first Bethel presenter was Jacob Manning ’15, who shared his Senior Seminar project on the disparate influences on Adoniram Judson, a pioneering American missionary in Burma in the early 19th century. Some highlights from Jacob’s presentation via Prof. Gehrz, who was live-tweeting the event:

Then Kelly Van Wyk ’15 spoke in the post-lunch session about her research (also from Senior Seminar) into American women of the 1940s as seen through the lens of superhero comic books.

Then Prof. Gehrz opened the closing faculty panel with his comments on “Western Civilization and the Christian Liberal Arts.” (Look for them later this week at his personal blog.) In addition to him and the two presenters, students Cody Bishop ’15, Maurice Do Carmo ’16, and Elizabeth Hynes ’16 attended the symposium.

Thanks again to Ryan MacPherson and our friends at Bethany for hosting. The 2016 Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium will be next spring on Bethel’s campus.

History Majors Win 1st and 3rd Place in 2015 Library Research Prize!

Congratulations to Fletcher Warren ’15, winner of the 2015 Bethel University Library Research Prize for his Senior Seminar paper, “‘A Long Way from Minneapolis’: Minnesotans in the Spanish Civil War.” And to Kelly Van Wyk ’15, winner of 3rd place in the same competition for “The Paneled Lives of Extraordinary Women: Comic Books, Superheroines, and American Women in the 1940s” (also from Senior Sem).

The trophy for the BU Library Research Prize
Yes, this coveted trophy!

Drawing on primary sources at multiple archives in addition to the holdings of the Bethel Library, Fletcher explored the motivations and experiences of the sixty Minnesotans who fought in the International Brigades during the 1936-1939 conflict in Spain. The Library prize is not the first contest Fletcher has won with work connected to this project, which he’s now developing into a book-length manuscript. A chapter detailing the ideological background of the Minnesotan volunteers for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War won the Undergraduate Prize in the 2014 George Watt Essay Competition, from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives in New York.

You can learn more about Fletcher’s research on April 30, 10:15am in the Bethel Library, when he gives a talk on his project and the coveted research prize trophy is again handed over to the History Department. (Taylor Ferda won the inaugural competition in 2010, followed by Matisse Murray in 2013.)

Kelly will be presenting her innovative work on comic books as a primary source at the Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium — April 25 at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, MN.

Highlights from Last Night’s Senior Seminar Presentations

Last night we hosted one of our favorite events of the year, as family, friends, and faculty gathered in CC 430 to hear students in HIS499 Senior Seminar present their research for the semester.

(If you’re new to the History Department… Senior Sem is the capstone course in our major; students conduct original research projects on topics of their choice, meeting Monday nights for a seminar discussion of the discipline of history, and working closely with the instructor — Prof. AnneMarie Kooistra this fall — to produce a lengthy paper and formal presentation.)

For those who couldn’t be there in person, Prof. Chris Gehrz shared some highlights on our department Facebook page. You’ll see that there were some interesting themes running through the four presentations: two had to do with the intersecting histories of masculinity and Christianity; two sought to retrieve the stories of 19th century Americans.

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

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.