Congratulations to the Doctors Thostenson!

We’d like to interrupt our usual summer hiatus long enough to congratulate two former students — two siblings! — who have recently completed PhD’s in their respective fields.

• Katie Thostenson ’05 earned her doctorate in classics from the University of Edinburgh for her examination of the historical context of the early Christian apologist Tertullian, specifically his views on women, the body, and sexual difference. While Tertullian was “conservative in his recommendations for men and women, reflecting more closely non-Christian assumptions about male and female bodies that fix women in the subordinate position of a sexual hierarchy,” she concluded that he nonetheless challenged the patriarchal assumptions of his time “in his vision of primordial and eschatological states where men and women are not bound by secular institutions, but live in the fullness of God.” A former adjunct professor in our department who reflected on her experience with graduate education in the UK in this 2014 roundtable interview, Katie now lives in Munich, Germany with her husband Kai, an economist.

Katie and Jimmy Thostenson
Katie and Jimmy earlier this year near Asheville, NC – photo courtesy of Katie Thostenson

• Then Katie’s brother Jimmy won an Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, for his research towards creating an energy efficient toilet (an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). While he majored in Applied Physics as a member of Bethel’s class of 2010, Jimmy also completed a History minor, for reasons he shared in this 2013 blog post:

I often defend my minor in history to STEM people as being as important, if not more important, to me than my major in applied physics. Why? Because of the tangible, practical skills I built through learning about various times in history. It wasn’t facts about the Cold War or the order of Roman emperors I took away that was important, it was how I learned to build and argue my view points, research topics I knew nothing about, critically think about biased material, balance other argued view points, and many other skills which are missed when students ask, “How will studying the humanities land me a job?” To this end, I would say that while applied physics was what allowed me to be considered for a job within a STEM occupation, a minor in history was what set me apart from the pool of candidates and also gave me the skills I needed to be a successful employee.

Jimmy lives in Durham, North Carolina. His wife Melissa Gwynn ’10, exhibition and publications manager at Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art, also has connections to our department: she majored in Art History at Bethel and wrote her senior paper for us on the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich.

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Alumni Law Roundtable: From Law School to a Legal Career

Today we conclude our roundtable discussion with History alumni-turned-attorneys Wade Adamson ’09, Gina Schulz ’07, and Aaron Thom ’08. In part one they recalled how they decided to study law. Today: applying to law school, and how Aaron, Gina, and Wade got where they are in their careers.

What advice would you give students who are considering applying to law school? What should they be considering as they discern if that’s the right path for them?

Wade Adamson (J.D., William Mitchell, 2013): First of all, you should know that it is a huge financial decision to make. Not only do you have any student debt from undergrad that you might be carrying, but you will likely also incur more (sometimes significantly more) debt to finance your time in law school. That, coupled with the fact that you are foregoing three years of income during your time in law school, means that you will likely graduate from law school in a significantly worse financial position than you otherwise would be if you did not go to law school, and significantly behind your peers in that regard.

Gina Schulz (J.D., University of Michigan, 2014): I had plenty of classmates who went straight from undergrad to law school, but personally I don’t think that’s a good idea. Even with scholarships, law school is a huge investment and most students take on a lot of debt. I think it’s worth spending some time figuring out whether it’s something you actually want to do before you have $200k in loans to pay back.

University of Michigan Law School
University of Michigan Law School – Creative Commons (Andrew Horne)

WA: Understand that a law degree is no guarantee of a job, nor is it a guarantee of a financially lucrative job, as many people assume. You might find yourself called to a career path in public service or simply unable to compete for the more highly-compensated legal jobs based on your resume and/or work experience. In that case, the repayment of large amounts of student loan debt can significantly impact your life in the years to come.

GS: Take some time off and try some things and grow up a little bit. (I certainly needed to). If you know what kind of law you want to practice, find something to do in a related field. I wanted to do public-interest law, and it helped my application that I served for a year with AmeriCorps. But I also spent two years waiting tables full time, and I don’t regret that at all. (As it turns out, the skills required in some areas of legal practice are surprisingly similar to those you develop in a busy restaurant.)

Aaron Thom (J.D., University of Minnesota, 2011): Decide whether you like dealing with conflict and competition. Particularly in litigation, conflict is constant and inevitable—on all fronts. There’s conflict between lawyers vying for the same client, conflict between associates competing for a partner’s approval, attorney-client conflict regarding strategy and resolution of difficult issues, conflict between attorneys on opposing sides of a dispute. The stress of an attorney’s job is well recognized. What isn’t so clear—at least it wasn’t to me—was how much, and how many different manifestations of, tension exists.

WA: You should make sure you know what being a lawyer actually means. Find attorneys to connect with and talk to them about their jobs to get a better sense of what the day-to-day life of an attorney is like. Given the huge investment in time and money necessary to complete law school, you should be as certain as you can be that it is the right career path for you. If your idea of the life of an attorney is based on TV and movies, that is a sign that you have not done much research or investigation into what your future will be.

GS: To the extent that you can, talk to lawyers in different fields to figure out what their lives look like. Lawyers get requests to have coffee and talk about their careers all the time, and most of them are happy to do it. I didn’t have any connections to lawyers when I was applying, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. If that’s your situation, feel free to reach out to me and I can find you some people to talk to.

If they do decide to go to law school, what can they do to strengthen their application?

WA: Law school applications are similar to undergrad applications in that the schools say there is a “full-picture” approach to admissions and that every application is evaluated in its entirety, including work experience, personal essays, etc. However, you should know that absent some sort of extraordinary feature to your application, it will likely come down to two numbers: undergraduate GPA and LSAT score.

GS: Law school admissions are more straightforward than other graduate programs. You can generally predict where you will get in by looking at the median GPA and LSAT of the schools you’re applying to (although I think this is starting to change). It’s not fun advice, but one of the best things you can do is keep up your GPA and study hard for the LSAT. (Hope is certainly not lost if your numbers aren’t strong, but it’s worth working hard to do the best you can.)

WA: The best thing you can do right now for your law school application is perform well in undergrad and earn the highest GPA you can. Bethel is a great school, but you are not attending Harvard or Stanford or some other Ivy League school where a less-than-stellar GPA may be overlooked. You should be ensuring your GPA is an accurate reflection of your intelligence and ability as a student. Once you are ready to start thinking about applying for law school, you should obtain LSAT prep books to prepare for the LSAT and attempt to earn the highest score possible. This will likely involve many, many hours of preparation to familiarize yourself with the LSAT and perform practice exams.

AT: I think if a student wants to set him/herself apart from the pack, he/she’ll choose an area in which to specialize (like science, to use the example I mentioned yesterday) during college rather than waiting until law school to start shaping his/her future career. Law is such a diverse field. The study and practice of law itself does not determine a lawyer’s focus or direction. The lawyer needs to choose what she or he wants to do — and it’s best to start making these decisions as early as possible to avoid merely drifting into a legal field that is not of interest to the student. Lawyers who lack passion are soon to be not lawyers anymore.

Tell us a bit about your path from law school to your current job.

Aaron Thom
Aaron today – Thom Ellingson

AT: I went from law school to the firm Robins Kaplan. It was exhausting and trying, but I loved it. I received amazing experience from day 1 — literally. I then did a short stint at Madel before starting my own firm with my colleague, and favorite lawyer in the world, Sam Ellingson.

WA: My decision to go to law school was impacted by the economic situation in the United States at the time. I graduated in December 2008, which was in the heart of the Great Recession. Jobs were hard to come by at a time when the country was losing hundreds of thousands of jobs per month. My plan was to attend law school with the idea that by the time I graduated three years later the economy would have rebounded. Unfortunately, I was not the only person with that plan in mind. The year I entered law school, 2010, was the highest year of enrollment in the history of the United States. That meant a lot of competition amongst students, as law school courses are graded on a curve and there were more students to compete against.

GS: It took me awhile to figure out where I belonged in the legal profession, in part because I went to law school without any idea of what that meant.

WA: During law school I thought I wanted to be a litigator and pursued opportunities to be in the courthouse as much as possible. I was a judicial intern for a federal district judge in Minneapolis the summer after my 1L year, an intern at a county attorney’s office the summer after my 2L year, and an intern for a federal magistrate judge while also studying for the bar exam the summer after I graduated. Once I passed the bar exam I took a job as a judicial law clerk for a judge in Anoka County. I felt incredibly fortunate to have that job given the huge numbers of law students entering the job market at that time coupled with the fact that legal hiring was still far below the pre-recession levels. At the same time, I knew I did not want to be a litigator. After a few months of work, I began to think about what my next job would be. I had given the judge I worked for a commitment that I would stay for at least one year, so I still had about 8 months to go on that commitment, but I knew I had to start working hard to set myself up for a good opportunity come that time.

GS: Soon after graduating, though, I clerked for a judge on the Minnesota Court of Appeals, where I saw the appellate public defenders practice. Even though I had no background in criminal law, I finally saw a job that looked right for me: representing indigent clients in criminal appeals. After a couple of years in other (great but not quite perfect) positions, I got the job.

Wade Adamson
Wade today – Saul Lehrer

WA: I spent nearly a year networking and meeting as many transactional attorneys as I could before and after work for breakfasts, coffees, and/or happy hours. Through those efforts I met two attorneys at Gray Plant Mooty, and eventually they had an opening for an associate attorney that I interviewed for and was hired. I worked there from August 2015 through this past February, when I started a new position as an associate attorney for the new Minneapolis office of a large, national firm called Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr.

What’s most enjoyable and most challenging about your work?

WA: My practice has been focused on transactional commercial real estate work since I began in private practice in 2015. I really enjoy helping my clients accomplish their business goals and playing a key role in the success of their companies. I enjoy being a transactional attorney because my role is to help make deals happen, which are beneficial to my clients. The completion of any project is usually a time of celebration for the client, which I also enjoy being a part of.

Gina Schulz
Gina today – photo courtesy Gina Schulz

GS: It’s truly my dream job, and I feel lucky every day that I get paid for doing what I love. The caseload can be stressful, the stakes are generally pretty high, and I make way less money than I would at a firm. But, in the end, I read and write and think for a living, and I get to do that on behalf of clients I like and a cause that I believe in. It’s pretty great.

WA: The most challenging part of my job is how stressful and demanding it is. There can be tight deadlines, long days/nights at the office, working on the weekends, etc. The job of an associate attorney at a large law firm is certainly not a 9-5 job, and in an era of constant connectivity, I can’t really ever “disconnect” from the office, which can be taxing.

AT: I enjoy the work I’m currently doing more than anything I’ve ever done before. We choose what cases to take, and how we litigate them. Our practice is what we make it. Of course, that can be stressful. But it’s more exhilarating than anything.

<<Read the previous post in the series

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>>

Welcome Back to Bethel, Prof. Annie Berglund!

When HIS205U History of China, Korea, and Japan meets for the first time tonight, its professor will be making a return to our department: Annie Berglund graduated summa cum laude from Bethel in 2013 with a double-major in History and Social Studies Education. After teaching middle school for two years, Annie moved to Seoul in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in international studies at Korea University. This fall she came back to Bethel as an adjunct instructor in GES130 Christianity and Western Culture, and is eager to teach her first History course this spring. Thanks to Annie for taking the time to answer some questions about her journey away from and back to Bethel!


Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the History Department as a student?

Let me set the scene. It’s the last history presentation of my entire undergraduate career. I labored for months making my PowerPoint slides and adding in many hours of research so that I could be prepared for the audience of my peers, my professors, and my family members. My boyfriend at the time, Mike, had one task: feed me this easy question at the end of my presentation to help me look better. Being one of the quietest students in class, he very slowly and mechanically raised his hand the second I ended the presentation.

“Yes, Mike?”

In a painfully monotonous, rehearsed voice, he responded: “What was one interesting news article you read for your paper?”

The front row full of history professors couldn’t hide their laughter as they clearly saw through Mike’s poor acting and my pathetic scheming. Don’t worry, it does end well. We both managed to graduate and even married each other.

Annie Berglund and Mike Vangstad in Japan
Annie Berglund ’13 and Mike Vangstad ’13 in Japan’s Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden – photos courtesy Annie Berglund

How did you decide to go to graduate school in Korea?

People ask me this question a lot: Why Korea? Every time I give an answer, it’s a little different, as there were so many factors that drew me to Seoul. Chief among them was my plan to study South Korea’s asylum-seeking policies. They are the first country in Asia to establish their own stand-alone refugee act outside of simply following UNHCR mandates. I hoped to study their recent act to see what loopholes remain and how those inconsistencies affected the acceptance of particular subgroups of asylum seekers, from those suffering from religious persecution to those fleeing state-backed gender- and sexuality-based violence.

A less academic answer, though? I wanted a little adventure.

What was your favorite part of living in Seoul?

Annie Berglund in SeoulA unique part about living abroad is that, whether you’re currently in your home country or currently abroad, you tend to see the other location through rose-tinted glasses. My gut answer is: “Everything! Everything about Seoul is my favorite!” In reality, adjusting to life in a country where I had few contacts, where the dominant language is one of the hardest for native English speakers to learn, and where everything from transportation to housing has different, unspoken rules is no easy task. But I also like a good challenge! I miss the feeling of anonymity when walking through downtown streets of a city of 10 million people. I miss jumping into taxis and making small talk in Korean with the ajeossis as they take me from cat cafes to outdoor shopping districts to mountain hiking trails. Mostly, I miss my Korean friends who – for two years! – constantly bent over backwards to help their American friend with the smallest and largest of tasks. True heroes in my book.

What’s it been like coming back to Bethel as a professor?

Amazing and terrifying. I will never get over calling my professors by their first names. Ever.

What are you most looking forward to teaching in HIS205U this spring?

First, I’m excited to discuss the role that women played throughout East Asian history. From the Roman patrician women who ushered in the Silk Road trade routes by driving the demand for silk made by seamstresses in far-off Xi’an, to the impassioned speech by Madame Chiang Kai-shek to the U.S. Congress seeking aid during Japanese attacks on China in World War II, we will study many cases of extraordinary women who — some for better and some for worse — influenced the narrative of East Asian civilization.

Second, I have that nervous-excited feeling about showing one of my favorite films to my students. Made in 2017, A Taxi Driver (or Taeksi woonjunsa) is one of the highest grossing films in South Korea to date. It centers on the experience of an average, “Joe Schmo” taxi driver in Seoul who unintentionally smuggles a German reporter into the city of Gwangju in 1980. The city, a stronghold for students protesting martial law, was barred off to the outside world while government troops fired upon the Chonnam University youth. For the world to see the footage of this massacre, the taxi driver and reporter risked their lives to get back to Seoul. The Gwangju Uprising (or the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement) is a jarring, brutal event that illustrates the price many ordinary people paid in East Asia for the sake of democratization.

What Can You Do With a History Major? Work in Washington, DC

I’m in Washington this week to conduct research at the Library of Congress. But while I’m here, I thought I’d reconnect with a few of our alumni working in and around DC. The scene last night at an Italian bistro near Capitol Hill:

Prof. Gehrz with Bethel alumni in Washington, DC

Going clockwise from the bottom-left, allow me to introduce:

  • Andy Burmeister ’04, who started in Washington as a legislative staffer and now works as a contract lobbyist with Lockridge Grindal Nauen.
  • Kyle Peterson ’05, who has worked at the U.S. State Department for about ten years, primarily helping with the economic reconstruction of Iraq and other aspects of American foreign aid.
  • Peter Williams ’04, who is an attorney and senior policy officer for the Special Victims’ Counsel program for the National Guard Bureau, assisting victims of sexual assault. (Peter first talked to us about being an Army lawyer in this 2012 interview.)
  • Caleb Graff ’10, who works as professional staff for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, specializing in health care policy. (Learn more from his 2014 interview with us.)

You can also find these four on our graduate/professional school map: Caleb, Andy, and Kyle earned master’s degrees in American government, public administration, and international relations, respectively; Peter went to law school at the University of St. Thomas.

So what can you do with a History and/or Political Science degree from Bethel? Work in politics, government, and law in our nation’s capital!

Alumni Teaching Roundtable: Grad School and Final Advice

Today we wrap up our three-part alumni conversation on teaching in middle and high school. Thanks once more to our outstanding panelists: Micayla Moore ’16, Kelly Van Wyk ’15, Daniel Rimmereid ’15, Zach Haskins ’14, and Joe Held ’13.

Have you started work on a master’s degree? How did you pick the school and program? At what point in the career would you recommend that teachers go back to school?

JH: Teaching provides financial compensation with attaining a master’s degree. I chose to begin my M.A. rather quickly after starting teaching so as to move along the “Steps and Lanes” as soon as possible. I got my Master’s in Educational Leadership from Concordia University Saint Paul (CSP). I had considered Bethel for a master’s degree, but there is benefit to getting an education from a different school. Multiple perspectives and schools can enrich personal growth.

MM: I just started my master’s in instructional design from Western Governor’s University (WGU). It’s an all online, flexible way to get your master’s. WGU is known for its progressive model of competency-based instead of credit-based education, which means if you can show you’re competent in a topic within the program, you can essentially demonstrate that and move on in the coursework so you don’t waste time and money on
information/skills that you’ve already mastered.

Middle schoolers in Micayla Moore's cultures elective course
Some of Micayla’s Spanish immersion middle schoolers in action, designing class flags for a cultures elective

ZH: I started my master’s in educational leadership at St. Mary’s University in the Fall of 2017. I picked the program because it was one that many of my co-workers have gone through, and it is available entirely online. This makes it much easier as a teacher and a coach to be able to get that education.

JH: I chose Concordia’s program for a few reasons. The first being cost. CSP was markedly more affordable than some of the neighboring universities with the same program. The second being the CSP has a reputation for offering pretty rigorous master’s programs. I have many colleagues who received master’s degrees from other universities, and they talk about how they barely had any work. You get out of learning what you put into it. I absolutely love research and paper writing — I know, I’m strange that way — so I wanted a difficult program that would challenge me.

ZH: I would recommend starting your master’s as soon as you feel settled where you are working. I wanted to be at least in my second year at a building before starting. This allows you to adjust to a new school and then tackle your master’s later.

MM: I don’t know that I’d recommend doing it your first year of full-time teaching like I am. (It’s a little stressful!) But I would say do it when you’re younger if you can. I’m only a month or so into it, and it’s already provided immediate benefits to my teaching.

JH: Having completed my M.A. in Educational Leadership, I am now in the middle of getting my Educational Specialist Degree (again, at CSP). This is essentially a step in between a master’s and a doctoral degree (Ed.D). Once I complete this program, I will receive my administration license from the state of Minnesota. This will allow me to pursue becoming a principal down the road if and when I choose.

Any closing advice for current or prospective students thinking about teaching social studies?

MM:  Get involved with youth now in whatever capacity possible. Whether that’s tutoring, volunteering with youth groups, after school programs, etc. Spend time with kids. Get to know them. Spend time in different communities with people of different cultures. You can be so solid in content knowledge and your passion for social studies, but if you can’t connect to your students it means nothing.

ZH: Pursue what you love. Everyone knows that teachers do not make the most money, but you can do something that you really enjoy. Take courses that you find interesting and that will challenge you to make yourself a better teacher.

DR: I would say commit to a school for at least three years. That may seem like a long time but I think that after that you will really know if you want to teach and you will give yourself time to grow as a teacher. The third year really is so much better than the previous two. And get a mentor ASAP. Having someone observe me and give feedback bimonthly changed my teaching so much. It truly made me a much better teacher.

KVW: Think about teaching middle school if you can see yourself working with kids who are beginning to develop self-reliance but also are young and highly impressionable. It takes a lot of patience, clear communication, creativity, problem-solving, flexibility, stability, and humor. Most of all, you must be comfortable with teaching students in all areas: academically, socially, emotionally, etc. Do not go into middle school education if you are only comfortable with the academic side of teaching, or you will be miserable and your students will be miserable.

Kelly Van Wyk and some MOC-Floyd Valley middle schoolers
Kelly and some of her middle school students from Alton, Iowa

DR: I always want more Bethel grads to try teaching in Minneapolis or St. Paul. We could always use more Christians, and those schools are often short on teachers. There are some awesome staff who have really made their life mission teaching here, and I love my colleagues who have given their life to these kids. They are an inspiration to me daily.

JH: The most challenging aspect of being a teacher is planning for the unexpected. Let me tell you a quick story. A few weeks ago, I went to bed at night expecting to teach the next day about the historical importance of the Berlin Wall. I had a killer lesson plan ready and was feeling good about the next day. When I got to school, the following happened:

Period 1) Found out one of my student’s siblings committed suicide; that student had a breakdown/seizure in class.

Period 2) Unexpected school lock down because a student made a threat to the school on social media.

Period 3) One of my students had the stomach flu and threw up in my garbage can during my lesson.

Period 4) Blessedly, nothing happened so I spent that hour trying to get the smell of vomit out of my room.

Period 5) Caught a student vaping in the back of my class and had to get security to come down because he would leave to go to the office.

Each of these things happened in the middle of my super awesome and killer lesson plan. In fact, none of my classes finished what I was hoping to get done. They were completely distracted and had very little interest in the Berlin Wall. Weird, right?

The perspective I would pass along is to remember three things: 1) You must have a sense of humor to be a teacher. Do not take yourself too seriously. 2) Plan to be flexible. Something unexpected will always happen. The sooner you can find peace with that, the less emotionally traumatic teaching will be for you. 3) Finally, remember why you love to teach. It is, and must be, always about the students. These students are with you everyday for a semester. What impact do you want to have? Remember that some things in life are more important than any lesson plan that you made. Build relationships and continue to cultivate those relationships throughout the year. If you show them that you care for them as individuals, I guarantee that they will begin to find excitement in that content that you are going to be teaching them.

MM: Teaching and learning social studies with young people is worth it. There is such a need for kind, compassionate educators in today’s schools. Students need to be known, loved, nurtured, and challenged, and that’s what you get to do as a teacher.

KVW: Just throwing this out there: you can major in history and find a job outside of social studies education. Don’t feel like education is your only option if you major in the humanities!

<<Read the previous post in this series

Check Out a Map of Our Alumni in Grad School

Among its many other benefits, a Bethel History major is terrific preparation for anyone likely to continue their education in a graduate or professional program. Our graduates are well prepared for the rigorous reading, research, critical thinking, and writing required in advanced levels of education.

While a few of our alumni have continued further with their original field of study, most have gone beyond history and pursued master’s and doctoral degrees in everything from library science to social work, dentistry to nursing, education to public policy, archeology to business, seminary to law school. Some stay in Minnesota, but our graduates can be found studying around North America and the United Kingdom.

In fact, so many of our alumni are in grad school that it’s hard to keep up. So if you see anyone missing from this map — or if anything needs to be updated or corrected — please email Prof. Gehrz.

History Teachers at the 2018 Conference on Faith and History

This fall the Conference and Faith and History (CFH) will be celebrating its 50th anniversary as it holds its biennial conference (Calvin College, Oct. 4-6). One of the oldest Christian academic societies in North America, CFH describes itself as “a community of scholars exploring the relationship between Christian faith and history” and primarily aspires “to encourage excellence in the theory and practice of history from the perspective of historic Christianity.” Bethel has long had faculty participate in CFH, with Prof. Gehrz currently serving on the group’s executive board.

Conference on Faith and History logo

While most CFH members are college and university professors and graduate students, we want to echo program chair John Fea’s invitation for middle and high school teachers to consider attending the conference. The schedule is still taking shape, but John reports that there will be a special session just on the role of secondary school teachers in CFH, and that several such educators have already proposed papers. Plus it’s a chance to engage in some continuing education as you hear papers and talks from leading scholars in a variety of fields (not just church/religious history). We’ll share the full schedule once it’s set, but the list of plenary speakers includes Margaret Bendroth (author of The Spiritual Practice of Remembering) and Robert Orsi (History and Presence).

Oh, and you’d have the chance to spend a few days with Bethel faculty: Profs. Gehrz, Goldberg, and Poppinga have all proposed papers or sessions for this year’s meeting.

Hope to see you at CFH 2018!

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.

Hard, But Important Advice for Those Thinking about Grad School in History

Last year we hosted a multi-part interview with three of our alumni who have either finished a PhD in History or are nearing the end of their doctoral programs. As the last post in that series emphasized, those who are considering this track need to be aware of the realities of the job market for new PhDs in history (and related fields).

Unfortunately, that market is only getting tighter. The current issue of Perspectives, the newsletter of the American Historical Association, features an article on that topic. The whole article is worth a read if you’re thinking about continuing your studies at the doctoral level. But this graph alone speaks volumes:

American Historical Association graph contrasting new PhDs with available jobs

Yes, there are almost twice as many new History PhDs as jobs being advertised for them. (And that doesn’t take into account people in the second, third, fourth, etc. years of searching…)

That sobering reality prompted historian Beth Allison Barr to share some advice for potential grad students, at the Anxious Bench blog. For example:

Beth Allison Barr
Beth Allison Barr – Baylor University

1. Don’t do it unless this is truly your calling. If you cannot imagine yourself doing anything else, than apply. Otherwise, don’t bother. It isn’t worth it.

2. Don’t go unless you get full funding for at least 4 years (you really can’t afford to come out of the PhD with debt). Also, don’t go unless you are accepted into one of your top choices. Seriously. If neither of these things happen, then go work for a year, improve your c.v., and try again. But don’t settle for a 3rd, 4th, 5th choice, especially without sufficient funding.

3. If you don’t have an MA, get one first. An MA will help you decide if you really want the academic life. It will also provide evidence for PhD admission that you can complete an advanced academic degree.

Read her full post here. And even more importantly, talk to your professors here for their take. We don’t want to discourage qualified candidates who truly can’t imagine following another path. But we also want to advise you well.

(Of course, the other way to approach this problem is to think about how a History PhD can prepare you for other kinds of careers, in and out of academe. That’s been a huge conversation of late within the AHA. Perspectives has published a series of profiles and interviews about historians in “alt-ac” careers.)