As I wrote yesterday at my personal blog, perhaps the rarest thing in American higher education is a truly distinctive academic program… and Bethel offers one in the form of our new Digital Humanities major.
So whether you’re a prospective student, a high school teacher or guidance counselor, an employer, or simply an interested alum, get in touch with Prof. Goldberg if you’d like to learn more about DH at Bethel.
Today we’re happy to revive our occasional series featuring students who have spent a semester abroad. Christina Sibileva ’18 is a Social Studies Education 5-12 major and History minor; she was kind enough to answer some questions about her experience of the unique Semester at Seaprogram.
How’d you decide to major in Social Studies Ed? Was it something you knew you wanted to study when you started college, or did you choose it later on?
As a freshman at Bethel, I knew I wanted to pursue a major that allowed me to work with people. During my first two semesters, I believed the way I would work with people would be in the medical field. Through trial and error of the science courses at Bethel, I realized at the end of my first year that the medical field was not for me. In the summer before sophomore year I was flipping through the Bethel catalog for a new major and found myself intrigued by the courses offered in a Social Studies Education 5-12 major. As I began my first semester of the sophomore year with a completely different course load, I realized my skills and interests lined up quite nicely with the courses being offered in my major. I began feeling confident in my ability to grow within my field and step into a career path that allows me to be challenged by learning every day. The social sciences within my major correspond well with the way I perceive elements in life and allow abstract thoughts to mingle with concrete thoughts in terms of history, geography, and the other various topics in Social Studies.
Likewise, what sparked your interest in spending a semester off-campus? Was it hard to fit that kind of program into the Social Studies Ed major?
There were days where I looked outside at the snowy campus of Bethel and found myself regretting choosing a college with a limited climate range. One day I was informed of a program called Semester at Sea, and later on, I saw some peers were currently on the study abroad program, which allowed me to commit to seeing how I could spend a semester off-campus. Due to discovering about the program well into my second semester of sophomore year there were hurdles to jump through in order to fit the program into my schedule. Fortunately, my advisor was willing and able to work with me to ensure the courses I needed would work with my major on the study abroad program and also to ensure I took required courses at Bethel in different semesters than my semester off-campus. The biggest hurdle to face is running into courses that are taught in certain semesters either in the fall or spring, but working with my advisor and registrar allowed me to create a unique schedule to fit all the pieces in and still be on track for graduation.
You picked a particularly distinctive experience. Can you just tell us a bit about Semester at Sea, how you heard about it, and why you went with that option?
Looking at the website alone for Semester at Sea gave me enough insight on wanting to pursue the program. The images on the website include a shipboard community where students live on a ship as their campus and take classes there as well. The locations the program can take you is another reason I became committed to pursuing the program right away. Scrolling through the list of destinations in Asian and African countries allowed me to realize this is a program that can provide me a unique learning experience. I can honestly say I was sold right away with the program because there was something that simply felt right about it, similar to my major choice.
[See also our earlier interview with Meloni Rudolph ’94, who worked for Semester at Sea as a student life staff member.]
What were the most formative aspects of that semester? Any particularly evocative memories of the places and people you visited?
The shipboard community stands out. There were 600 students from various parts of the world embarking on this journey together to study abroad and learn through a broad range of experiences. Within this community, there were unique conversations that occurred allowing each community member to share experiences from the study abroad program, or learn from one another through sharing each person’s story. The community allowed a space to process each experience, learn from one another, and feel refreshed to collect more experiences and memories in each new day that came.
Along the journey, the experiences that stood out the most include taking a seat in a foreign country on a bench and soaking in the new surroundings. With each day there was something new to stimulate your senses, whether that was a new language or culture, climate or season, as we were circumnavigating the globe. I especially remember trekking through Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam in various forms of transportation to have an opportunity to take a tour of the Mekong River Delta. Seeing how local communities live and rely on the river was eye-opening and breathtaking. I was able to catch a glimpse into the daily lives of the locals in that specific region and I find myself in awe of the transformative capacity of such an experience.
How did studying abroad broaden or deepen your understanding of history, or shape how you’re going to approach education?
Through this experience I found myself being able to interact with history in a new format that was unattainable at Bethel. Courses in my program were taught by faculty who have lived and experienced cross-cultural historical events or provided insight on how they learned about various elements of history.
Through visiting various countries and being able to explore classrooms in Asian and African countries, I was able to interact with students and teachers about their educational systems specific to their country. One moment from India that stands out was interacting with those students in the classroom about how much they love to learn. I was really intrigued by the passion for education within various classrooms I visited because these students shared similar passions with me. Despite language barriers and varying cultural values; our shared passion to seek and pursue knowledge through education became common ground. The students I met in these various Asian and African cultures showed me how much they wanted to learn from me and made me realize one important reason I want to be a teacher: how much I wanted to learn from them. I discovered my own passion for becoming a global citizen and bringing pieces of who I am, what I have learned, and what I desire to learn into the classroom to inspire my students to become global citizens. Semester at Sea inspired me to continue seeking these moments of being able to learn from students and families abroad simultaneously as I am able to teach students about the places I have been, the places I am going, and connect curriculum to these stories.
Look who’s the latest professor featured in Bethel’s Meet the Faculty series of brief video interviews:
Please consider sharing this with people you know who might be considering Bethel: it’s a great way to get the word out about our exciting new major in the Digital Humanities.
And check out earlier installments of the series, which has featured humanities colleagues like Sara Shady (Philosophy/Gender Studies), Chris Moore (Political Science/International Relations), and Scott Winter (English/Journalism).
One of the historic strengths of our department has been preparing middle and high school social studies teachers — both through the multidisciplinary Social Studies Ed 5-12 major that we coordinate with the Education department and through our own History programs. (Here’s a current map of teaching placements.) To get an inside view of that kind of career, we asked five recent grads teaching in middle and high schools (urban, rural, and suburban) to reflect on their time at Bethel and their path to the classroom. This is the first in a three-part series.
Why did you major in Social Studies Education 5-12? Is that what you planned to do when you came to Bethel?
Micayla Moore ’16 (Minnetonka Middle School West – Excelsior, MN): I came into Bethel planning on the Social Studies Ed major, but I always say I finished my teaching degree for different reasons than I started it. My mom was a social studies teacher and I had always loved the subject and teaching others. (They had me pegged when my classmates voted me most likely to return to Hutchinson High School as a teacher.) But I really decided to stick with social studies ed when I realized, around my sophomore year, the impact of education as a vehicle for social change. I saw the power that solid education and good teachers can have in improving individual lives, families, and communities.
Kelly Van Wyk ’15 (MOC-Floyd Valley Community Schools – Alton, IA): When I first came to Bethel, I definitely had not planned on majoring in education, but the Lord has a sense of humor. When psychology and sociology proved to be ill-fitting, I switched to history simply because I had always loved the material and figured that it would be at least an interesting use of my time. Eventually, I picked up a few education courses to try out the major and after my first few field experiences with middle schoolers, my course was set.
Daniel Rimmereid ’15 (Franklin Middle School – Minneapolis, MN): Halfway through my college experience I realized that I cared deeply about education and believed in its power to impact and effect change. I also loved the humanities and wanted to continue talking about them with students and passing that love onto them.
For those of you who have worked in middle schools… what drew you to that age?
KVW: The students were what hooked me. One of my passions is mentoring youth and the fact that middle level education is all about developing the whole person showed me that I absolutely love working with middle-schoolers. Many of my field experiences were with middle schoolers and I always enjoyed their enthusiasm and genuineness. Most high schoolers develop an edge and guardedness which makes them really skeptical of anything “over the top” in their book. My sixth-graders look at something that is “over the top” (e.g. dunking their social studies teacher in a dunk tank) and still think it’s socially acceptable to enjoy it. Emphatically.
MM: I always saw myself in a high school setting. I remember distinctly praying in my Intro to Education course, “Lord, please don’t send me to a middle school” for my placement, and I of course went to middle schools for every placement until student teaching. So I didn’t see myself in middle school, but I slowly warmed up to the idea. Now, I enjoy it and see it as a great fit for my personality and life stage.
Zach Haskins ’14 (Shakopee High School – Shakopee, MN): I taught middle school the first two years out of college. The funny part is that while at Bethel I told myself I would never teach at a middle school. However, I really enjoyed teaching middle school students. You should think about teaching middle school if you are quirky and like to nerd out about history stuff in class. Middle school students have an appreciation for quirkiness and they can be more enthusiastic than high schoolers about things they learn. Yes, they do have more energy, but when it is channeled the right way it can make for an awesome job.
MM: You should think about teaching middle school if you’re energetic, creative, and like a challenge.
DR: You should think about teaching middle school if you want to laugh everyday, have a thick skin, and are really sarcastic. They are funny and you will be very entertained. I am also frequently blown away by how they think about the world and how smart they are. I did not expect it, but enjoy parts of it.
All of you added a second major in History. What’s proven to be the most important benefit of double-majoring? Why should Social Studies Ed students do the extra work to complete the History major?
Joe Held ’13 (Centennial High School – Lino Lakes, MN): I have had colleagues who teach history and only had one or two intro-level courses in college. By majoring in history you are building your content repertoire. This will be beneficial to your students and you will need to spend less time relearning things when you get hired.
ZH: A major in history sets a social studies teacher up well to be knowledgeable in their content areas. In my first year at Shakopee High School I was assigned to teach AP US History, which is a tough course to teach. I felt much more comfortable because I had taken 21 credits worth of US History courses during my time at Bethel. If you are just a Social Studies Education major you get introduced to the various topics in social studies, but you will not dive in to the topics as much as you will when you have that second major. It also was a big help when I took the MTLE tests that allow graduates to get their teaching licenses. The MTLE tests that focus on content are difficult to pass, but the History major definitely made it more manageable. I would definitely encourage anyone to double major because it is not take that many more credits and it will help you to stand out when applying to jobs.
MM: The reading, writing, and research skills I learned in my history major, as well as the added content knowledge of U.S. history, have proven to be invaluable in my work as a teacher. I am a better investigator of sources and quality curriculum to use in my class. I am a better reading and writing coach. I am better at facilitating critical conversation around history and students’ perceptions.
KVW: My history major was invaluable. I honestly believe I would not be able to do my job without the critical thinking skills I fostered through studying history. Abilities such as recognizing various historical perspectives, wrestling with complexity on issues you wish were black and white, close-reading strategies of various sources, and taking informed action based on textual evidence (just to name a few) are all skills that serve me as an educator; especially now that Iowa has just recently re-written our social studies standards at all levels with an emphasis on these very skills.
JH: More importantly, majoring in History makes you more marketable. If you are applying for a Global Politics or World History position, schools are far more excited about an applicant who can say they took numerous courses on Middle East/Islamic history. It sets you apart from other candidates.
ZH: Definitely get a second major (like History) to make yourself more marketable in the job search.
JH: But for my part, the most beneficial aspect of majoring in History was in shaping my perception of the importance of history. Teaching is so much more than conveying information. It is about igniting an interest in learning itself. My History major, more than anything else, taught me that history gives you power to understand how world events were, are, and will be connected.
MM: Most importantly, my history degree informed my worldview and helped me realize the importance of considering historical narratives and using a variety of sources and perspectives when studying history. These two concepts are fundamental in each course that I teach.
KVW: Not only does this education benefit me professionally, but also on a more personal level. I feel like studying history has equipped me to be a better American citizen, a better informed contributor to the community in which I live, and a more studious Christian. Yes, I would definitely major in both history and social studies education again in a heartbeat.
Check out Bethel News for an article about our new major in Digital Humanities! Here’s a small taste:
In a pioneering move, Bethel recently became one of the first Midwestern liberal arts colleges to offer a B.A. in Digital Humanities. The major, which officially launched in September, challenges students to use modern skills like graphic design, data analysis, and programming to explore humanistic questions traditionally posed in fields like literature, history, and philosophy.
“Increasingly, there is incredible anxiety about having something useful to bring to the job market,” says Assistant Professor of History Charlie Goldberg, who designed the major. “This is our attempt in the humanities to deliver marketable skills to students while also encouraging them to pursue their passion.”
Prof. Goldberg is just wrapping up the first semester of DIG200 Intro to Digital Humanities, the gateway course for the major. Bethel reporter Jenny Hudalla notes that the class meets on Wednesday evenings
in the Makerspace, a new space in the library dedicated to innovation and creativity. Right now, they’re working with archived blueprints of alternative building plans for Bethel’s campus. Students will bring them to life with 3D printers, creating a tangible version of the Bethel that could have been.
“A lot of students are coming in fresh and a little intimidated about the tech component, but they’re making these really cool projects,” Goldberg says. “It’s important for people to know that they can succeed in this thing without a technology background.”
If you have any questions about majoring in DH (and how it can complement a History or Social Studies Education major), Prof. Goldberg would be happy to talk with you.
The calendar has turned from May to June. Spring grades are (almost) in. The Bethel campus is quiet, and even the Upper Midwest is starting to warm up.
So what will our faculty do this summer? Three share their plans today; look for the rest next week.
Charlie Goldberg is reflecting on a fruitful if frenetic Year One as a Bethel History professor. Even though his time with the History Department’s ’17 grads was relatively short in comparison with other faculty, he will cherish the memory of his first graduating class, and looks forward to continuing the relationships he’s forged with younger students next year. His summer will be a busy one, mostly spent designing two new courses for the fall: an upper level History course on Medieval Europe, and Intro to Digital Humanities, part of the new Digital Humanities major at Bethel, which the History Department has spearheaded. Prof. Goldberg is also traveling to British Columbia in early June for a week-long Digital Humanities workshop on big data textual analysis. Later, in July, he will guest lecture in a graduate course on the Digital Humanities and material culture at the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Library, where he will share his experience from the major online project on Roman coins he conducted with his Roman Civ students. Prof. Goldberg will spend any remaining free time with his daughter, Nora, growing vegetables in their garden plot in Blaine, which will either lead to a successful August harvest or else a forthcoming self-help book, entitled, Gardening with Toddlers: A Survival Guide.
Throughout the summer months Diana Magnuson will continue working at the History Center, Archive of Bethel University and Converge. This work consists of accessioning materials, serving patrons, digitization projects with the Bethel Digital Library, and updating the HC website. Prof. Magnuson is also engaged in several collaborative research projects with colleagues from the University of Minnesota, with deadlines for two paper submissions in July and one conference paper accepted for presentation in November. She is the archivist for the Minnesota Population Center (at the U of MN) and over the summer will continue to curate their collection and exhibit space. For a little added summer spice, Prof. Magnuson has jury duty, but on most summer evenings you can find her at a soccer field somewhere in the state of Minnesota.
AnneMarie Kooistra‘s plan for the summer includes a research trip to the Huntington Library and Gardens. The bulk of here research will be on Los Angeles criminal court records ranging in dates from 1862-1893. Most of the cases involve individuals arrested under the charge of “keeping a house of ill fame.” She hopes to spend the rest of the summer writing, gardening, cooking, reading, and hanging out with family.
The closing session of this year’s Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium featured a faculty roundtable on academic freedom. Professors Tycho de Boer, from St. Mary’s University, and David Sellnow, from Martin Luther College, also spoke. The following were my remarks:
In October 2015, the Atlantic Monthly carried a story about the ways in which sex-harassment policies were being used to “diminish” free speech on a variety of college campuses. The article claimed that compromised free speech was due, at least in part, to pressure from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights which has helped perpetuate the idea that “illegal sexual harassment extends to campus speech with any sexual content that anyone finds offensive.” Professors, consequently, have found themselves under attack to the extent that professors at Harvard are apparently “jettisoning teaching tools that make any reference to human sexuality.”
As a person who both researches and teaches in the field of sexuality and gender within American history, I found the article interesting and yet not surprising. The refrain of sexual misconduct and/or sexual scandal on college campuses is by now rather commonplace. From my vantage point, the arguments surrounding academic freedom and sexuality are minor compared to the problems confronting students in their navigation of the treacherous concept of what passes for “consent” with regard to their sexual activities. But. Here we are.
The Atlantic Monthly article noted that the harassment policy which seems to have diminished free speech has at its heart the goal of protecting students from exposure to ideas that make one uncomfortable and that such a goal is antithetical to education. It is unfortunate that even in the larger academic context, ideas surrounding sexuality and/or gender tend to be ones that are linked to creating a particularly uncomfortable situation. But it also makes me feel a little better about the peculiar context of talking about sexuality here at Bethel.
A couple of years ago, Bethel University had a conversation about a proposed gender studies minor. The pressure against the minor came not from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights or from students but from a number of faculty who expressed skepticism about the minor. One colleague, for example, asked if it was possible that those working in the field really had the “academic freedom” to “work from within a framework of biblical sexuality, as Bethel understands it,” a reference, I presume, to Bethel’s Covenant for Life Together which claims that sexuality is one of God’s good gifts but states that “monogamous, heterosexual marriage” is the proper context for “sexual intercourse and other forms of intensely interpersonal sexual activity” and condemns pornography, and sexually exploitative or abusive behavior as well as sexual harassment.
I think it is, and while I certainly strive to be transparent about my own beliefs, preferences, and feelings about sexuality, I also believe my commitment to a truly liberal arts education means that my students and I together confront ideas that make us uncomfortable. It is sometimes uncomfortable, for example, to acknowledge that in spite of Bethel’s commitment to a particular sexual ethic, Christians do not agree among themselves what “biblical sexuality” is. Views differ among individual Christians, by denomination, by culture, by time period even. Acknowledging those differences is often more uncomfortable than, for example, studying the history of homosexuality, pornography, venereal disease—all topics which we discuss in the History of Sexuality in the United States course. Studying the history of the sexual landscape of the past, knowing it too had its own pitfalls and complexity, I think makes us better equipped to enter into dialogue about how to approach the current sexual landscape—one that we share with a diverse group of people and communities, not just Christians who subscribe to Bethel’s interpretation of biblical sexuality.
I think that we do a great disservice to ourselves if we believe that silence and avoidance of uncomfortable topics or subjects will cause them to go away, and I’m grateful for the opportunity I have to engage in frank discussions with students about such topics. I am also grateful that the students taking my class seem to see the value of developing historical empathy for a range of views that don’t necessarily align with their own. Part of the success of the course, though, relies on what I think the original intention of the sexual harassment laws may have been, namely, to treat the people around you, with respect. Again, Bethel approaches this goal from a fundamentally different direction from the Department of Education. I doubt, for example, that the concept of imago dei appears in any of their documents, but possibly we may be trying to create what could amount to a similar learning environment which seeks to create a safe space for all people to learn together even while working through uncomfortable, even earth-shattering and heartbreaking ideas. Because, really, as much as the world is beautiful, it is often, too often, one that breaks our hearts. And that is more than uncomfortable, it is tragic. We won’t be better at coping with tragedy, however, by pretending it doesn’t exist.
The Faculty Senate President asked me to do devotions for our Faculty Senate meetings today, because, as he said, “I’m hoping you might be willing to say a few words about G. W.” Here are my few words:
In their first years here, Bethel students are encouraged to learn about the past—in part—to see their story in the context of the “cloud of witnesses” that have gone before them. While Hebrews 11 points them to figures like Abraham and Moses, it is perhaps instructive for us to look at the example of a more recent addition to this cloud of witnesses, namely GW Carlson.
The word that springs first to mind regarding GW is “avuncular.” I’m not sure, for example, that any of his advisees ever knew that there was such a thing as a degree evaluation, because GW basically just told them what they were going to take. And, he adhered to a strict code of patronizing locally-owned restaurants, sometimes much to the chagrin of his colleagues. Although I have forgotten much of my 2-day interview experience at Bethel University, one vivid memory that remains is of dining with the History Department faculty at Roseville’s Countryside Restaurant, famous as much for its down-home atmosphere as for its broasted chicken. Broasted chicken?
As I continued to ponder GW, however, I thought it might be more fitting to describe him as an evangelist. And although GW would deny he adhered to any formal creed, he certainly had a particular message.
#1. Love and read books. Lots of them.
#2. Love Bethel, but make sure you go see the rest of the world too. At the information sessions for potential students, GW always told them they needed to figure out how to leave this place, at least for an interim, preferably for a whole semester.
#3. Love people. For over four decades, GW was the heart of this institution, and his pietism was evident in the way that he treated people. He recognized difference as an asset and embraced it. He relished personal contact, and he was a strong advocate of resolving conflict—not through the impersonal medium of telephone or email—but by walking the halls. He made an effort to see and know people, and in that way, he demonstrated for me what pietism could mean.
When I think of GW’s legacy, what he leaves behind, I immediately think of all of his disciples out there in the world: particularly the social studies education majors. Few escaped with a stand-alone Education major, because GW felt that a second major in, say, history helped such students understand they needed to love books. Few escaped without an off-campus experience of some kind. But, most of all, I like to think that none escaped learning GW’s central message, and that they are out there now, walking the hallways of their respective institutions, practicing GW’s pietism.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, who by a voice from heaven didst proclaim, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord; Multiply, we beseech thee, to GW, Stacey, Lynda, and all those who rest in Jesus, the manifold blessings of thy love, that the good work which thou didst begin in them may be perfected unto the day of Jesus Christ. And of thy mercy, O heavenly Father, vouchsafe that we, who now serve thee here on earth, may at last, together with them, be found meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; for the sake of the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Something like a quarter of Bethel students who graduate with a degree in History or Social Studies Education end up working for secondary or elementary schools. Most teach subjects like US and world history, government, psychology, and economics in middle and high school, while a few have moved into special education or administrative roles. Many wear a second hat as a coach or student government adviser. (And several Bethel-trained social studies teachers have returned to their alma mater, including our director of admissions, the new chair of our Education Department, and one of our own professors.)
Because of the sterling local reputation of our programs, you’ll find our graduates teaching virtually everywhere in the Twin Cities: in public, private, charter, and alternative schools; from Minneapolis and St. Paul to first- and second-ring suburbs. Still others work in cities and towns in other parts of Minnesota, and you’ll even find our alumni in states like Iowa, Illinois, and Montana.
(This map is a work-in-progress. If you see someone missing — we’re no doubt light on alumni from the 1970s and 1980s — or notice information that needs to be updated, please let us know.)
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.