Why It’s Okay to Be Undecided about Your College Major

Historically, about half of the History majors and minors at Bethel choose that path in their second year or later. So we want to echo the words of Bethel student Katie Johnson, who wrote an open letter this week to incoming students who feel pressured to declare a major as soon as possible:

Some people emerge from the womb and know they want to be doctors. Or writers. Or computer engineers. Or vigilantes who clean up the streets without permission of the law. Who knows. However, if you aren’t one of those people, feel free to envy their easy choices, but don’t be too hard on yourself. You have time to choose your major, even after you move into your new and shiny school and survive welcome week….

You will not be bound forever by your choices regarding your major. Or school. Or your friends even. You may even surprise yourself as you discover what you’re good at or most invested in. And that’s exciting.

In fact, Bethel has officially replaced “Undecided” as an alternative to particular majors with the “Exploratory” category, which better captures the spirit of the first year of college. Developmentally, it’s a time that’s meant to encourage self-discovery as you encounter diverse people, perspectives, and opportunities and learn to listen for God’s call on your life.

Some of Bethel's majors
Click this picture for a full list of majors and minors at Bethel

Katie, who ended up choosing an English major, adds that entering Bethel as an Exploratory major is especially well suited to our liberal arts curriculum. Rather than viewing every course choice as a zero-sum set of options leading to narrow professional pathways, you’re liberated to enjoy studying everything from the natural sciences and fine arts to Western civ courses like Christianity and Western Culture and Western Humanity in Christian Perspective and gen ed surveys like American Civilization and History of Islam.

Read Katie’s full post here. And watch this short video, featuring students who came to Bethel not knowing their major.

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Mapping Hannibal on a Snow Day

Hannibal's voyage over the alps

Bethel cancelled classes this afternoon, which deprived my Roman Civ students of my lecture on the Carthaginian general Hannibal’s daring journey over the Alps in 218 BCE. But the snow day gave me the opportunity to watch Frozen with my daughters, and think other snowy thoughts. Did you know the Alps also have snow?  Things got a little out of control and I ended up making a 3D annotated map of Hannibal’s voyage.

I’ll share my work with my Roman Civ students on Friday. I’ll also break down the process and assign my Digital Humanities students the task of making their own map later this semester. For now, take a look at the final version on Sketchfab.

 

 

 

What We Did On Our Summer Break: Faculty

It’s the first week of the new year at Bethel, but before we get too far into the fall, we thought we’d look back at what the people of AC 2nd did with their summers. We’ll hear from some students soon enough. But let’s start with a few members of our faculty:

Prof. Poppinga wake boarding off Costa Rica
Courtesy of Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga: It is hard to believe we are already back to school. I had a wonderful summer that consisted of research and writing, quality time with my immediate and extended family, and some personal time with friends. It started with me traveling with my closest friend from Bethel on a trip to Costa Rica to celebrate our 40th birthdays. We attended a week-long women’s surfing camp. It was hard work but I loved it! We met as students in the History department, and I am grateful for our enduring friendship despite many moves, job and life changes.

Then along with my good friend and colleague, Sara Shady, I received two grants to work on creating a new course for Bethel’s Pietas Honors Program. The course centers on community, spiritual identity, and interfaith engagement. Keeping with my continued interest and research in the field of Interfaith Studies, I just co-authored an article, “Building Bridges Across Faith Lines: Responsible Christian Education in a Post-Christian Society” with Marion Larson and Sara Shady for the Journal of Christian Higher Education.

Prof. Goldberg in Greece
Courtesy of Charlie Goldberg

Charlie Goldberg: I was thrilled to have been selected to travel to Greece for nine days to participate in a seminar on fostering an appreciation for the classics in undergraduate education. The seminar was run by Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies in conjunction with the Council of Independent Colleges. Along with nineteen other college professors and trip leaders Greg Nagy (Harvard University) and Kenny Morrell (Rhodes College), I toured the Peloponnese and spent time in Delphi and Athens. The group discussed strategies for raising appreciation for the classics and ancient history at small colleges, shared lesson plans, and made plans for future collaborations. I also shared my experience launching Bethel’s new Digital Humanities major with others interested in similar efforts at their home institutions, and will forever appreciate the lifelong professional and personal relationships I forged on the trip.

Diana Magnuson: I continued to collaborate with two historians at the Minnesota Population Center (U of MN). My paper with Steven Ruggles, “Capturing the American People: Census Technology and Institutional Change, 1790-2020,” was submitted in July to an American history journal. Our paper was accepted for presentation at the Social Science History Association annual meeting in Phoenix (November 2018) and will also be presented in October at the Office of Population Research, Princeton University.  We have another project underway researching the history of privacy and the U.S. Census. Then Ronald Goeken and I are expanding our research to include all major census recounts.

Sam Mulberry: I spent this summer getting back up to speed with normal Bethel work after my Spring 2018 sabbatical.  I had two major projects on my plate.  First, I worked to build academic schedules for incoming students who will be new to Bethel in the Fall.  This included both building their initial schedules as well as meeting with students throughout the summer to make changes and adjustments to their schedules.  Secondly, I taught CWC (GES130) online with Chris Gehrz and Amy Poppinga.  This was my sixth straight summer teaching this class.  Although everything in the class went really smoothly, I did spend a chunk of the summer starting to think through how the next iteration of the class might look.

First Congregational Church of Litchfield, CT
One of the places Prof. Gehrz preached this summer: First Congregational Church in Litchfield, Connecticut, whose oft-photographed building dates to 1829.

Chris Gehrz: This summer break was incredible! I spent the first five weeks of break out east, mostly doing research for my new Charles Lindbergh biography. I started at the Library of Congress (holding an impromptu alumni reunion along the way) then spent a month back at my graduate alma mater, Yale University, home of the Lindbergh Papers. While I was in the Northeast, I also had the chance to preach at three churches in Connecticut and Massachusetts, as a follow-up to my 2017 book, The Pietist Option. Meanwhile, I found time to walk the Freedom Trail in Boston, see my first game at Fenway Park, and visit Plymouth Rock. But the true highlight of my summer came in mid-July… On my way back to the Midwest, I detoured to southwestern Virginia for a week to take part in the celebration of my dad’s retirement, after 45 years of service as a pediatrician and medical researcher.

Recent Bethel Alumni Teaching History

Summer is winding down for our Social Studies Education alumni preparing to return to their teaching jobs this fall.  Joining the numerous veterans will be Andrew Fort ’18, who has a full-time position at Greenway Public Schools in Coleridge, Minnesota. Christina Sibileva ’18 has also recently accepted a teaching job at Highview Middle School (part of the Mounds View Public School District) where she will be teaching Minnesota history.

DSC01623
Spring 2018 Graduation, Dr. Kooistra, Sarah Sauer, Dr. Gehrz, Dr. Magnuson, and Andrew Fort
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Spring 2018 Graduation, Dr. Kooistra and Christina Sibileva

Interacting with students in a traditional classroom, however, is not the only way Bethel graduates have been involved in teaching history.  As Dr. Gehrz has noted, one of our best resources for teaching (and learning) Minnesota history is the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS).  In his post, Dr. Gehrz reviewed several of MNHS’s historic sites, including the Oliver Kelley Farm.  The farm features several “costumed staff,” one of whom is Mikalah Pruss ’17.  These individuals teach visitors about farming in the nineteenth century by way of “experiential” learning.  Just as our newest teachers join the ranks of other Bethel veterans, we also have veterans working in the field of public history.  Eve Burlingame ’08, for example, has spent the last several years working at the Eidem Homestead, a historical site maintained by the Brooklyn Park Recreation and Park’s Department.  My hope is that we continue to facilitate the training of ever more teachers of history–both in “traditional” and “non-traditional” classrooms. 

https://instagram.ffcm1-2.fna.fbcdn.net/vp/36ae01f22d0a0f0e14986cede27500c3/5C07FB4A/t51.2885-15/e35/35574423_1022094517947700_8309660952001773568_n.jpg
Mikalah Pruss at the Oliver Kelley Farm (Summer 2018). I found this photograph on the Oliver Kelley Farm’s website under its “social media” section featuring twitter and instagram photographs from visitors to the site.  This photo came from “amayzingbailey.”

Guess Which Christian Liberal Arts College Comes Up First If You Google “Digital Humanities Major”

 

Bethel at the top of a Google results list for "digital humanities major"

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.

Studying Abroad… at Sea

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 Sea program.

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.

Christina Sibileva on the Semester at Sea ship
Christina in her usual classroom during Semester at Sea
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.

Mekong River Delta
The Mekong Delta in Vietnam – photos courtesy Christina Sibileva
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.

<<Read the previous entry in the series

Watch Prof. Goldberg Talk Digital Humanities

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).

Alumni Teaching Roundtable: Picking a Major (or Two)

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?
Kelly Van Wyk teaching
In addition to teaching 6th grade social studies and 8th grade American history, Kelly coaches high school volleyball and softball

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.

Micayla Moore
Micayla teaches Spanish immersion social studies at Minnetonka Middle School West

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.

Read part two>>

Learn More About Our New Digital Humanities Major

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.”

Charlie Goldberg and DH students
Prof. Goldberg (center) working with DH students in the Makerspace – Bethel University

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.

What Do Bethel History Professors Do on Their Summer Breaks? (part 1)

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.

Huntington Library
The Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA – Creative Commons (Aaron Logan)

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.