Next Tuesday: Learn More about Digital Humanities at Bethel

We’re happy to report that our much-anticipated Digital Humanities program is moving forward, with the new DIG200 Intro to DH course debuting next fall. It’s being taught by Prof. Charlie Goldberg, who coordinates the DH program.

To learn more, plan to join us next Tuesday (April 4) at 10:20am in the Bethel Library. Charlie and digital librarian Kent Gerber will give an overview of DH, DIG200, and the new program. Bring a laptop or tablet to take part in a hands-on demonstration of one digital tool from the new course!

The History Department Welcomes (back) Dr. Ben Wright!

photo-on-8-20-15-at-1-49-pm-2The Fall semester has a certain cadence. The rush of September gives way to a steady October routine; as we approach the finale, Thanksgiving week allows a (too brief) respite before the mad scramble of the final weeks, when final projects compete with the Festival of Christmas and final exams. Today, we as a department pause briefly to celebrate the Christmas season and enjoy each other’s company during our Christmas party.

I’ve been looking forward to today even more because we have the honor of welcoming back Bethel alum (’05), and former history major, Dr. Ben Wright, who will speak to our students during our celebration. After graduation, Ben went on to do his graduate work at Columbia and Rice University, and is now Assistant Professor of History at the University of Texas at Dallas. Ben has wide-ranging teaching and research interests, from religion to ideas about the apocalypse across cultures, but he primarily focuses on the history of race in the U.S. Ben is also at the forefront of our profession in finding creative ways in the digital age to study history, doing trailblazing work in the digital humanities. He is co-editor of both the Abolition Seminar, an online K-12 teaching tool on the abolition movement, as well as the American Yawp, a free and online American history textbook. Ben’s visit today has perfect timing: The history department has spent a long time designing a new digital humanities major here at Bethel, which we tentatively hope to launch next fall. Ben will speak to us today about his digital projects, and how all of us, students, professors, future teachers, can harness computing power to share our passion for the past with a wider audience.

If you have some free time this afternoon, stop by HC 413 at 2:50 for some free coffee and treats, and to hear about the great work this particular Bethel alum is doing.

The WWII Film Festival

This afternoon in HIS231L World War II: the first of a two-part film festival, as student groups presented ten-minute documentaries about topics from the war. Today we learned about everything from the Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland to the German atomic weapons program, Hitler Youth, and attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler in July 1944. On Thursday we’ll watch films about Holocaust rescuers, Navajo code-talkers, African American pilots and soldiers, and the postwar refugee crisis.

Mitch De Haan introducing his group's documentary film
Mitch De Haan ’17 introduces a film on the legendary Finnish sniper Simo Häyhä, made in a group with fellow History/Social Studies Ed major Brandon Sebey ’17 and Biokinetics major Andrew Zwart ’18

It’s the third time I’ve assigned this kind of project — once before with HIS231L, and then the last time HIS230L World War I was taught on campus — but the first time it’s happened over a full semester, rather than during J-term. It was inspiring to see the quality of student work in a 200-level gen ed course: both the depth of research and the quality of digital storytelling, as students integrated narration, primary source readings, “talking head” interviews, still photos, newsreel clips, and background music.

– Chris Gehrz

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

Coming to Bethel in Fall 2016: Prof. Charlie Goldberg!

Charlie GoldbergToday we’re very happy to introduce Prof. Charlie Goldberg, who will join our faculty starting this fall!

A native of Buffalo, MN who graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Charlie is about to finish his doctorate in Roman history at Syracuse University. His research explores the intersection of politics and gender in the Roman Republic, with a particular interest in Roman ideals of masculinity.

In our department Charlie will regularly teach HIS311 Roman Civilization, as well as HIS310 Near Eastern and Greek Civilizations and HIS312 Medieval Europe. He’ll also become the newest member of the teaching team for GES130 Christianity and Western Culture. Response to Charlie’s teaching demonstration was overwhelmingly positive, with one student describing him as “incredibly engaging and personable…. You can really tell he enjoys what he does.”

In addition to teaching ancient and medieval history, Charlie will work with faculty and staff from across the College of Arts and Sciences to help develop an exciting new major in the Digital Humanities (DH). As coordinator of that program and instructor of new DH courses, Charlie will draw on his work experience with a software startup and what one English professor who met him on his campus visit called his “entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to helping facilitate cross-departmental learning…. Just as Charlie is a ‘digital native,’ he also seems to be a ‘collaborative native.'”

You can hear Charlie reflect on the role that digitization plays in his own discipline and field at the end of this extended interview, in which he also talks about the importance of a study abroad experience in fixing his desire to study ancient history.

Please join us in congratulating Charlie, and welcoming him to Bethel.

An Alum at the American Historical Association

2016 Annual Meeting
2016 Annual Meeting

Thanks to Fletcher Warren ’15 for sharing this report on his experience earlier this month at the annual meeting of the world’s largest professional society for historians.

A couple of weeks ago, I jetted off to sunny Atlanta for the 130th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA). The AHA Annual Meeting is the largest professional meeting of historians in the world and attracts more than 5,000 scholars each year. At the core of the conference are the 400-odd panel discussions, each organized around a unifying theme. These panels require the space of multiple hotel convention centers and are interspersed with various other events — receptions, workshops, poster sessions, and of course, the exhibitor hall, featuring the largest academic publishers in the world, all hawking their wares at often deeply discounted prices. In short, the conference delivers four days of unrelenting historical revelry.

I decided to attend for many of the same reasons that other scholars go: to network and see the latest research in my area (and play the dilatant in other areas), but mostly, because I thought it would be enjoyable. Of course, as a recent B.A. graduate, I was somewhat out of place; a full 80% of the meeting attendees have PhDs or are seeking them, and only 2% have attained a B.A. as their highest credential. Most historians first attend the meeting as late-stage PhD candidates interviewing for their first academic jobs, but starting earlier has benefits, not least being able to actually enjoy the meeting while not worrying about job insecurity.

What tips would you recommend for getting the most out of the Annual Meeting?

First, I would suggest attending the “How to Get the Most Out of the Annual Meeting” session. Run by the executive director and several other staff of the AHA, this session delivered (as promised) many helpful tips for first-time attendees. It was also a good chance to meet other first-timers, many of whom were relatively young — i.e. more approachable than senior scholars.

Second: talk to as many people as you can. The conference and affiliated societies organize a great number of evening receptions and soirées that are excellent places to meet people who share your interests (and eat free food). I found the poster sessions were also good opportunities for meeting other attendees in a relatively informal setting. Actively talking to other historians is not only good networking, it’s enjoyable. For example, I met a graduate student who is writing his dissertation on ghost experiences in 12th century Italy. While my research is in a totally different area, learning about his work was utterly fascinating.

(L to R) Dave Dermon (senior at Sewanee), the author, and his wife, Rebekah Warren
(L to R) Dave Dermon (senior at Sewanee), the author, and his wife, Rebekah Warren

Beyond meeting people, I suggest intentionally attending a mix of sessions, both in format and subject matter. While most of the panels I attended were on late 19th and early 20th century central European history, I also attended a sessions on topics as diverse as the Silk Road, U.S. foreign policy, and the Culture Wars. Seeing scholars discuss their work in a variety of fields can be intellectually engaging and also gives insight into the differing methodologies and concerns of the many types of historians. Besides, there are few venues that can offer the breadth and depth of subject matter that the AHA meeting does. Take advantage of the opportunity to both engage your interests and satisfy curiosity.

Finally, if flying, leave room in your suitcase for books. Many of the publishers in the exhibition hall sell deeply discounted books (some as low at $3 per paperback!). My own haul was somewhat embarrassing.

What was it like to be a recent B.A. graduate at an event dominated by PhD students and professors?

I return to this subject only because it might be a hurdle that discourages some from attending a meeting. The first few hours of the conference were quite subduing. Soon though, I reminded myself that most people are friendly and perfectly happy to talk. In fact, most people I met were delighted to find a younger person at the meeting. And while rare, I did meet several current undergraduates and first year M.A. students. In short, don’t worry about not fitting in — you won’t be alone as a first time attendee, and your initiative in attending the meeting will impress.

What did you take away from the Annual Meeting that was most valuable?

Two things come most directly to mind. First, the panels and sessions I attended were inspiring. I was struck by how varied the field of history is, both in scope and method. One of the panels I attended (on the Silk Road) featured a roundtable of historians and archeologists — a reminder that in much of ancient history, material culture and its attendant skill sets (e.g., numismatology, epigraphy, etc.) are as important as textual analysis. Indeed, the data material artifacts present is often at odds with textual sources, making it a primary concern of historians to reconcile the two. In another panel, a historian of the Cold War examined records from Soviet bloc summer youth camps in an effort to trace the ideological impact of intra-bloc transnational youth movements. Other panels blended aspects of critical theory, sociology, and ethnography. Each of these approaches represents a valid way to do history. The Annual Meeting is an excellent place to become at least minimally acquainted with the breadth and variety of the historical profession.

The book haul
The book haul

Second, as someone considering PhD programs in history, the meeting provided an unvarnished look at the profession in (much) of its variety — both good and bad. For example, the conference was filled with the ubiquitous agonization about the state of the academic job market and funding. Perhaps most interesting to me was the degree to which the conference presented a total academic culture. I finally realized just how acclimatized I had become to overhearing buzzword-filled conversations between the PhD-educated only at the end of the four-day weekend when I ventured off-site for food. Hearing the conversation of “normal” young adults for the first time in several days was somewhat jarring. I consider this aspect of the conference to be more amusing and entertaining than anything, and I thought strongly at times of Kate Fox’s tongue-in-cheek ethnography of the English; someone ought to pen a similar volume about historians (or any group of academics) in their natural element. The conference, if nothing else, is a fantastic primer of the socialization process and outcomes of history graduate school.

If the state of jobs is discouraging and the culture at times eye-rolling, the vast majority of my experiences at the meeting were inspiring and energizing. For as many challenges as the profession faces, the meeting showcased hundreds of people who are actively breaking new ground, both in research and in rethinking and repositioning the discipline for the 21st century. The ongoing Tuning Project was evident in a number of areas, including the panel sessions and poster presentations. Digital history was featured heavily as well. From what I saw, historians are clearly grappling with the new challenges and possibilities that medium offers.

What is the cost?

The cost of attending the meeting can vary quite a bit depending on the number of people splitting expenses and whether or not students can ride on a sponsoring faculty member. As a current member of AHA, I was eligible for the $82 student member conference rate. (Student memberships are $40 per year and include the monthly Perspectives magazine and the quarterly Journal of the American Historical Association — a good deal.) Current students would do well to convince a Bethel history professor to attend the conference next year; professors can bring students to the conference for only $10 each in addition to the professor’s registration costs. This makes the actual expense of the meeting negligible.

Airfare and hotel lodgings were the most significant expenses for me, although I was able to split the hotel with a friend I met while studying at Oxford. Next year’s conference is in Denver, a convenient location for Minnesotans as Frontier airlines operates direct service from MSP to Denver for less than $100 if purchased in advance. Alternatively, the 13-hour drive is very reasonable, particularly if a group attends together. I met a group of M.A. students from SUNY-Buffalo who had done exactly that. For those wishing to lower the the cost of lodging, Airbnb may be a good option, although staying on-site at the conference hotel is certainly more enjoyable and convenient.

In all, the conference was a blast. I highly encourage attendance at next year’s conference in Denver, especially for those who are:

  • Considering a career as a history professor
  • Preparing to be secondary school social studies teachers
  • Seeking to become archivists, librarians, or public historians
  • Enamoured with all types of history and history-related areas
  • Hoping to purchase an obscene number of brand new and pre-release books at bargain bin prices

In particular, I encourage current social studies education/history majors at Bethel to consider attending. While they were few in number, I found that local high school teachers consistently asked some of the most stimulating questions of panelists, particularly questions of pedagogy. For example, one question prompted a panelist to describe a semester-long learning simulation focused on the lived experience of World War I. It is as important for secondary school history teachers to be familiar with the latest research and approaches to teaching history as it is for professors. After all, secondary school teachers often have the first opportunity to instill basic historical skills and dispel erroneous ways of considering the past. The considerable number of panels on pedagogy that were presented attest to AHA’s focus on making available the resources to teach effective historical reasoning.

I’d be happy to answer further questions in the comments below. Otherwise, see you next January in Denver!

Denver
Denver

Call for Proposals: 2016 Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium

We’re honored to be hosting this year’s Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium, coming to Bethel on Saturday, April 9, 2016. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the call for proposals that went out this morning to history departments around the state.

2015 MN Undergraduate History Symposium group picture
A few of the participants at the 2015 MN Undergraduate History Symposium at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, MN
This is the third installment of the MUHS, with previous symposia having been hosted by our friends at University of Northwestern-St. Paul (2014) and Bethany Lutheran College (2015). A delegation from Martin Luther College joined the founding trio last year in Mankato, and this year we’re hoping to expand the circle further, to other church-related colleges and universities in Minnesota.

Another change this year is that we’ll be accepting proposals for presentations in three categories. As usual, we’ll invite students to report on research projects from capstone courses like our Senior Seminar, upper-division classes, and independent research projects. (Of course, because it’s an early April event, some of these projects will still be in progress, but that’s okay — it’s a chance to share preliminary findings and get some valuable feedback from faculty and peers at other schools.)

But this year we also welcome proposals from students who want to share digital history/digital humanities projects, or their reflections on internships, student-teaching placements, and other experiences connecting historical studies to the workplace.

After concurrent sessions throughout the morning, we’ll take a break for lunch (on your own, at Bethel or off-campus). The symposium will conclude with a faculty panel discussing how historians relate to various publics.

If you’re a student interested in taking part, applications are due online by March 9th. Note that you can attend even if you’re not presenting; just email Prof. Gehrz by 3/9.

Save the Date: The 2016 Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium

We’re happy to announce that Bethel will be hosting the third annual Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium — Saturday, April 9, 2016!

(Click to read summaries of the 2014 and 2015 symposia, held at University of Northwestern-St. Paul and Bethany Lutheran College, respectively.)

A more formal call for papers will be issued in January, but read the preliminary announcement below. (Or click here to download the PDF.) Note that this year we’re changing things up a bit, inviting students to present digital humanities projects or to reflect on internships or other experiences that bridged work and study — in addition to the more typical presentations of research papers.

Please feel free to email Prof. Chris Gehrz with any questions; otherwise, we’ll hope to see you next April!

We’re Hiring!

Help wanted sign
Licensed by Creative Commons (Matt Wetzler)

Some of you may recall that last spring we began a search for the newest member of our faculty. While we did end up bringing highly qualified finalists to campus for interviews and teaching observations, we were ultimately unable to conclude the search in May.

But we’re happy to announce that Bethel’s administration has reapproved the position, giving us the potential to conduct a fuller, less hurried search. Here’s the position, in case you or someone you know may be interested in applying:

We’re seeking a gifted, innovative, collaborative scholar committed to the mission of Bethel and possessing both teaching ability in the fields of ancient and medieval history and the “Expertise, vision, and leadership necessary to develop a proposal for a new undergraduate major in digital humanities.”

First, our new colleague will teach upper-division courses in ancient and medieval history (HIS310 Near Eastern and Greek Civilizations, HIS311 Roman Civilization, HIS312 Medieval Europe), and as a member of the team for GES130 Christianity and Western Culture, a multidisciplinary course that is foundational to Bethel’s gen ed curriculum. We’re committed to a curriculum that spans the breadth of human experience, including premodern history. And we think that’s all the more important for a Christian liberal arts college, where we want our students to understand the development and context of a faith whose roots stretch back into the ancient world. Moreover, ancient history comes up as often as any other field when we ask prospective and new students about their historical interests.

But second — and this is what makes the position especially distinctive — whomever we hire will have the opportunity to coordinate a new major in Digital Humanities (DH) from proposal to implementation. If the major goes ahead, this new hire will teach introductory and capstone courses in digital humanities and mentor students from a variety of disciplines as they build digital portfolios through coursework, research projects, and internships.

Thus far, an early version of the DH proposal has been shepherded by History professors Chris Gehrz and Sam Mulberry alongside digital library manager Kent Gerber. Gerber described the field for a story in the Bethel Clarion last year:

Regardless of how digital humanities is defined, it is characterized by collaboration, creativity and multiple disciplines… You will see people who know a lot about computers working with people who know a lot about humanities research in archaeology, English literature, history, linguistics, art, communication studies or library and information science.

In that story, Gehrz added that the potential major should appeal strongly to students who have a passion for fields like history but are concerned about finding a career path:

I think there are a lot of students who really do love things like literature and languages and philosophy and history and theology… Yet they have a voice in themselves saying, “What are you going to do with that?” And part of what this [program] does is suggest, “Well, I can study all of these things that I love, and at the same time I’m getting skills that are very useful for any employer.”

Our faculty, students, and alumni have already been experimenting with digital approaches to research and communication:

  • Gehrz and Mulberry have been prolific podcasters and digital filmmakers, and at Homecoming next weekend Gehrz and recent History graduate Fletcher Warren ’15 will debut their digital history of Bethel in an age of modern warfare.
  • Prof. Diana Magnuson has worked closely with Gerber and students like Warren in digitizing the holdings of Bethel and the Baptist General Conference, helping to earn our archives an award for excellence in preserving Baptist history.
  • And The American Yawp, “a free and online, collaboratively built, open American history textbook” co-edited by History/Social Studies Ed alum Ben Wright ’06, was voted Best Use of Digital Humanities for Public Engagement.

For further details about our ancient-digital position and instructions on how to apply, please see Bethel’s faculty employment page. Tentatively, our hope would be to bring finalists to campus in February.

Join Us for Homecoming 2015!

Calling all alumni — and especially those from the classes of 2010, 2005, 1995, 1985, 1975, and 1965… If you’re planning to return to campus for Homecoming next month, please plan to attend two events featuring our department’s faculty:

Bethel Homecoming 2015 logo

• On Friday afternoon, Oct. 9th, Prof. Chris Gehrz will be teaching a “class without a quiz” entitled “Remembering the Great War: Christian Perspectives on the Commemoration of World War I.” Here’s the full description:

One hundred years after it happened, how do we remember a war that killed over fifteen million people, unleashed the first modern genocide, and caused multiple political revolutions? To help us think about the commemoration of World War I – and why it’s especially challenging for Christians – Professor of History Chris Gehrz will draw on his experiences taking Bethel students to Europe, where they visit the former battlefields of the Western Front as well as sites in London, Paris, and Munich.

That talk will be at 2pm in BC 468 Benson Great Hall.

• Then on Saturday morning, Oct. 10th, History will partner with Political Science and Philosophy to host an open house for students and alumni in AC 228 (10:00-11:00am). In addition to catching up with friends and faculty (current and retired), you can check out early versions of Senior Sem research by Political Science students, and we’ll have a couple of computers available for people who want to explore Bethel at War, 1914-2014, the digital history project by Prof. Gehrz and History alum Fletcher Warren ’15 that will officially debut for Homecoming.