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.
• 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.
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.
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.
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?
A 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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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:
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.)
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.
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.
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!
As many of us already know, quite a few history majors end up working in education (about 25% in elementary or secondary education and 13% in higher education.) However, that doesn’t just mean teaching: several of our history alumni are currently serving as school administrators. Today, Dave Lutz ’07 and Bart Becker ’01 tell us about their work as the principals of Mankato West High School and Maple Grove Senior High, respectively.
What interested you in majoring in history at Bethel? Were you planning on working in education at that point? If not, what got you interested in that field?
BB: I had always loved history as a student. I was moved by the human stories, the heroes and villains, the triumphs and tragedies, transformational events and their causes, along with the effects and how lessons from the past can be applied to today. My interest in Bethel’s history program was via my desire to play football there. As a Montana native, I had never heard of Bethel or its strong academic programs. Upon visiting with Coach [Steve] Johnson and researching about the immense educational opportunity that would be offered, I was all in.
DL: My initial interest in Bethel was connected to my faith and my family. Both of my siblings and much of my extended family attended Bethel. Initially, I was interested in a medical path, but changed directions at the end of my freshman year to earn a double-major in History and Social Studies Secondary Education. My older brother is a social studies teacher in Hastings, and history has always been an area of interest for me.
BB: I was interested in working in education from the start. I knew I wanted to teach and work with high school students, so I pursued a double-major in Social Studies Secondary Education, and History. And I was very fortunate to have G.W. Carlson as my advisor, along with the experience of taking several of his courses. He is among the most influential mentors in my life.
How did you end up with your current position?
DL: After finishing my undergrad at Bethel, I landed a teaching job in Wayzata. I taught social studies for 5 years, primarily at the middle level, then shifted roles to become a gifted and talented program coordinator for 2 more. In that time I also coached football. While teaching, I completed my master’s degree in education through St. Mary’s University. As a gifted and talented coordinator, I got my first close look at educational leadership and quickly realized that my gifts and interests were leading me towards administration. I completed my principal licensure program through St. Mary’s and shortly after accepted a job as assistant principal at Mankato East High School. After one year at East, I accepted the position of principal at Mankato West High School, where I am currently.
BB: In my final semester at Bethel (the fall of 2000), I student-taught at Fridley High School. I was then hired to teach social studies full-time for the third and fourth quarters of the 2000-01 school year at Fridley, which was a wonderful experience. In August of 2001, I accepted a teaching and coaching position at Maple Grove Senior High, where I taught primarily U.S. and World History. I earned my Master’s degree in 2004 from St. Mary’s University; they had a cohort program within our district which was very convenient. In the summer of 2008, I chose to pursue my administrative licensure through Bethel’s Ed.D. program. I moved into an administrative role as a Behavior Intervention Teacher after spring break of 2009, a position in which I remained until the end of the 2010-11 school year. I completed my K-12 Principal’s Licensure and was offered the position of Assistant Principal at Park Center Senior High. While in the same school district (Osseo Area Schools – ISD 279), it offered a completely different experience, which was highly challenging and rewarding. I earned my Educational Doctorate in April 2014, and in March of 2015 I was offered the position of Principal of Maple Grove Senior High, which I officially began on July 1. It has been quite a ride!
What about studying history at Bethel prepared you for your career?
BB: Bethel’s history program, and its professors, inspired in me a lifelong desire to learn and pursue knowledge. It greatly helped me approach a situation or an event with an open mind and a commitment to take the necessary steps to learn the context and gather differing perspectives. On a technical level, I learned how to research and formulate a thesis with a strong basis of evidence. While I may not physically type up papers in my current role, the practice of approaching a problem, pursuing knowledge about the various elements, gathering multiple perspectives and data to support, and then leading a collaborative effort to problem-solve is without question rooted in my experience at Bethel.
DL: There are several skills/takeaways from my experience as a history major that I still draw upon in my current role:
A love for reading: While some put the books down after finishing college, my experience at Bethel helped foster a love for academic reading. As a leader, I take pride in the ability to offer alternative perspectives and draw upon the work of others as I look to support staff and provide organizational direction.
Writing: Whether crafting a bulletin, completing a staff evaluation, or submitting an educational grant, I left Bethel a solid academic writer. Again, I attribute much of this to the ample “practice” I received as a history major.
Research-based decision making: While my familiarity with action research and literature reviews supported my graduate school pursuits directly, my experiences as a history student gave me an appreciation for research early in my career. In the world of education (and beyond) there are endless initiatives, programs, and models to choose from, and a firm understanding of the importance of data and research in decision-making has served me well.
Global perspective: Time spent studying Chinese politics and ancient civilizations was definitely not a waste. I gained a global perspective that still serves me today.
BB: In general, one cannot go wrong with a strong background of history. It is so beneficial in countless ways! One example – having any sense of the historical background of my students from Southeast Asia (Hmong, Lao and Vietnamese) or East/West Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, or Sierra Leone) has been of huge significance in building relationships with them and their families. The bond that is formed when a student and/or family realizes you know a part of their cultural story is priceless
Do you find that many of your colleagues majored in history or similar fields? Are there many teachers that majored in a liberal art rather than education for their undergraduate studies?
DL: School administrators come from all walks. While most have a background in teaching, some have backgrounds in counseling or other related fields. I have always encouraged education majors to specialize in an area, pick up a specialist certification, or aim for an additional minor/major. Applicant pools for great jobs are large and I believe my double-major helped set me apart from the crowd.
BB: It is common for social studies teachers to have a History major to accompany their social studies education degree. I am unable to give a specific number, though. I’d say it is less common for educational leaders to have History degrees, only because any licensed teacher can pursue a K-12 Principal’s License. Among principals and assistant principals that I’ve worked with, the following majors were earned in their undergraduate studies: counseling, social studies (four); physical education, Spanish (two); English (two); music, and business.
What is your favorite part of your job? What can be particularly challenging?
BB: There’s so much to enjoy… My favorite part of my job is interacting with our students. Kids are- without question- the largest source of joy in my career. The hour before our commencement ceremony begins is the best hour of the year- everything is done. Students have accomplished their goal, and all we have to do is wait and enjoy the moment with other students and staff members who journeyed together. It’s an amazing moment!
DL: My personal mission as a school leader is to provide an educational environment where each and every student and staff member is challenged, supported and connected. I love working with students, staff members, families, and community members in pursuit of this goal. Education is hard work, but the rewards are incredible. All it takes is one success story of a student overcoming adversity with the support of a staff member to achieve something they didn’t think was possible, and you are hooked. One of my largest challenges is maintaining balance. My job is a big one, but my faith and my family are my first priority. As I gain more experience, I am learning how to work more effectively and set certain limitations to gain a sounder home/work life balance.
BB: I love the collaboration with staff and families, and I love seeing the amazing professional work of our staff- the art of teaching. We have some truly phenomenal teachers. Moreover, I truly enjoy the strategic planning to accomplish our system priorities. This is the hard stuff, but it’s our job. We have to innovate to improve the quality of education and meet the growing needs of our students, particularly our students of color. Our achievement gaps are predictable by race, and we have to own that, acknowledge it, and learn about the role of race and culture in education. Without racial consciousness, any success will be limited and gaps will persist.
What is your favorite memory from your time as a Bethel history student?
DL: I really enjoyed my history professors. Many were brilliant, yet very relatable, and I found their classes interesting. The staff at Bethel (history and beyond) care about their students as individuals and are invested in their future success. This is a theme I have and will continue to carry forward in my own work with students.
BB: Tough question… There are so many great memories. Ultimately, I loved Senior Seminar. It was structured at the time where various professors from other departments would present a one-hour lesson on a topic of their choice, and that was truly remarkable. Seeing masters of their art and craft give you a personalized lesson about something they are most passionate about was incredible. Applying bits of their wisdom to my own research for my thesis was very beneficial, as well.
All in all, I have nothing but positive experiences and memories from my time as a Bethel history student. I loved every minute of it, and only wished that I would have applied myself more (which is always easy to say in hindsight.) Specifically, though I was always broke, I wish I would have found a way to study abroad for a semester. There were so many opportunities, and I would encourage everyone to strongly consider it.
Today we’re happy to share the story of Joylynn (Corum) Israel ’07, a History/Social Studies Education major who earned her master’s degree in social work (MSW) from the University of Minnesota and now serves as a therapist at a mental health clinic.
Joylynn, you majored in History and Social Studies Education while at Bethel. How did you become interested in history, and who or what inspired you to want to teach it?
I think it is part temperament and part environment, as are a lot of things. I have always been drawn to stories. As a little girl, I’d make up elaborate “back stories” for the dolls I was playing with. My father read history books and conveyed wonder and awe when talking about how our world presently was intricately interwoven by the choices, connections, and chances of the past.
A very poignant memory of mine in my school age years occurred with my eighth grade ULE teacher, when she shared her photos of a trip to Auschwitz concentration camp. I remember feeling this strong mix of horror and fascination. My teacher ended the lesson by saying something that has stuck with me, “If we do not remember our past, we are doomed to repeat it.” At that point, I started to embrace history as more than knowing and enjoying the story, I took on that it is my responsibility to know the events in the past to help guide a more promising and bright future. Naturally, part of that responsibility is to foster awe, wonder, and care in the next generation.
It can be challenging to find time to study abroad (especially for Education majors), but you had a couple of experiences outside of the United States. What stands out in your recollection about your time in England and Hong Kong? Would you recommend that our students — including Social Studies Ed majors — find a way to spend part of their college careers studying abroad?
My undergraduate experience was a defining time in my life. When people ask me to pick from all the highlights or ask what I do not regret, it is always that I spent time abroad.
My world opened up and I view living abroad as a way of practicing my craft. A medical student learns first from a book and then does a medical procedure. A historian, or social studies specialist, learns about the events and then immerses himself or herself in the environment that produced the story. It’s beyond seeing the monuments. Often, the monuments began to blur together to be honest. For me, the scenery, the vibe, the native perspective, and active participation brought me to a new level of understanding of my world and myself. I remember hiking in a green layered with more green forest in Ireland and believing in the faeries that stole the child that Yeats wrote about. I remember walking on Omaha beach in Normandy knowing that my feet tread safely on the sand once soaked with blood, terror, and fierce mission. You can feel it.
In China, we visited an orphanage filled with female children, children with deformities and disabilities, and those from the poorest of the poor. Some of them could speak English but many didn’t have the capacity or knowledge to do so. Yet, here we were laughing, investing, enjoying, cuddling, and playing with each other. I realized how incredibly human I was in that moment and humanity cannot be fully realized without connection. I was vulnerable and filled with gratitude for my life. I held an infant baby that day that spent most of her days lying in a crib because there was not enough staff to hold them all. I repeatedly whispered in her ear, you are so loved. It’s a drop in a bucket in her life journey and probably made no real difference. And yet, history is full of drop in the bucket moments that changed our lives forever.
I recommend all students spend time abroad as a part of their education, especially those intending to be the champions and curators of our histories.
After graduation, how did you decide to move from teaching into social work? Was social work something you had already been thinking about in college?
I spent some time teaching in non-traditional roles with AmeriCorps and as a behavior specialist in my home city after graduating. I found myself wanting to go deeper into the personal stories of my students than time or the role allows when teaching. I worked with diverse students, most experiencing trauma before high school and living in poverty, and I felt a sense of angst about it all. Teaching in the classroom didn’t seem to fit me anymore and I took some time off to figure out what would fit better. I traveled and worked abroad in Australia. One job I had was being an au pair for a family whose mother was dying from terminal cancer. It was during that year of crossing through grief with three young boys and their father in the most intimate setting possible, their home, that I realized I wanted to go back to get my Master of Social Work.
Were you somewhat unusual among your grad student peers in that you had majored in a humanities field like History, rather than Social Work itself? Did you feel well prepared for your MSW program?
I was not unusual at all for majoring in a humanities field in my undergraduate work before going through my MSW program. I was envious that those that had an undergraduate degree in social work were able to get their MSW in one year, as opposed to my two, but that was the only benefit I encountered. The majority of people I went to school with at the University of Minnesota came from diverse degree routes.
I felt prepared and successful throughout my time at the U of M. Social Work is the profession of aligning with others to accomplish a goal collaboratively, and there is a lot of crossover in knowledge, concepts, and practice with humanity fields.
Tell us a bit about your current job. Do you see any connections between that work and your undergraduate studies in History?
I currently work as a group and individual therapist at a mental health clinic. Again, I am working with stories. This time, the stories are personal histories, which of course developed within the context of community history. My work is to help others understand and analyze their stories so that they can open themselves up to all the possible paths forward. I am a historian, meaning maker, and teacher with my clients, amongst other roles.
My eighth grade teacher’s words still ring true: “If we do not remember the past, then we are doomed to repeat it.” It’s from accepting our past that we have the opportunity to change our present.
Students in Introduction to History are preparing presentations on how Americans outside of the academy make meaning of the past, so we thought we’d dedicate an episode to history in popular culture. Profs. Poppinga, Kooistra, and Gehrz talk about films, TV, video games, historical fiction, etc. — both how such media can inspire interest in the past and promote misunderstanding of it. Then to echo our emphasis on popular culture, Prof. Gehrz hosts the episode as a kind of walking tour of F. Scott Fitzgerald sites in St. Paul.
Also in episode 11, we interview History alum Mike Bumann ’06, who teaches English in China for the organization ELIC, and we offer previews of the Oregon Extension program and Bethel’s master’s in teaching program.