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.
Danny Jaderholm is a junior from Chicago with a History and Social Studies Education Grades 5-12 double-major. He is also a forward for the Bethel Men’s Soccer Team. Last year, Danny’s hair was featured in the Royal Report, but, tragically, he has since made the decision to cut it off.
When and how did you make the decision to attend Bethel?
Bethel actually wasn’t even on my list of schools that I was considering, but I knew they had a great education program. They sent me a relatively simple application, so I applied and visited during February of my senior year of high school. Meeting with the soccer team was definitely a deciding factor. The people on the team really embraced and made me feel welcome, and the team just felt right. I also sat in on Professor Kooistra’s American Civilization class and had the opportunity to answer some questions due to my previous knowledge from AP U.S. History. Meeting other students and professors, as well as participating in a college class made me realize that Bethel just felt right.
You are a History and Social Studies Grades 5-12 double-major and a member of the Bethel Men’s Soccer Team. Were your double-major and athletic participation a part of your plan when you began college? If not, how did you end up with that combination of activities?
Playing soccer was always a part of the plan, and Division III seemed both attainable and appealing. It allows for the camaraderie and friendship that comes along with athletic participation, as well as time to focus on school and other aspects of life. Being a teacher had been a goal of mine since seventh grade, so that’s where the Social Studies Grades 5-12 major came in. It seemed like a great fit, as it combines my love of history with my love of education. The history major was not originally planned for, but Social Studies Grades 5-12 and History majors are a recommended combination. I actually just added the History major last year, but I am looking forward to it (and trying to remain optimistic about the additional workload and papers).
What has been the best thing about being a student athlete, and what has been the most challenging aspect?
The guys on the team are definitely the best thing about being a student athlete. The members of the soccer team were my first friends when I arrived on campus. The age group didn’t matter either; juniors and seniors accepted freshman and took care of them, hanging out with them on weekends and providing recommendations about classes and professors during registration time. On top of that, the spiritual maturity on the team continues to amaze me. Taking my knowledge of my own faith and relaying that to the younger teammates has been a wonderful opportunity. This mentorship is beneficial for both the freshman and the upperclassmen.
I would have to say that the time commitment and workload is the most difficult aspect. Right now, I’m finding myself quite stressed from tests and deadlines for papers approaching, midterms around the corner, and our busy schedule of both midweek and weekend games. It can be hard to find time to focus on studies. Conversely, during soccer season, I find myself more structured, organized, and aware of my time, mostly out of necessity. It can be tough, but I learn from these challenges.
Does Bethel make it easy or difficult to establish a balance between being both a full-time student and an athlete?
I think that Bethel has been moving towards improving the balance between academics and athletics. When I was a freshman, I would hear stories from the seniors about professors failing students on quizzes that they missed for games, but my professors seem more aware of the inevitability of these special circumstances and more willing to cooperate with student-athletes. There are also resources in place that we (and any Bethel students) can access for assistance, such as the Academic Enrichment and Support Center. Additionally, soccer players are always able to go to the upperclassmen on the team for advice and support. Taking advantage of the people in your life, like teammates, coaches, and professors, is always a fantastic idea.
Do you find that your athletic participation complements or helps you with either of your majors?
There is definitely a strong connection between my participation on the soccer team and my education major. Talking in front of my peers, particularly during our weekly devotionals, has helped me become more comfortable and skilled at communicating my thoughts and ideas with others. Additionally, the mentorship aspect of the team continues to foster my interest in education and commitment to improving myself and others.
What are your post-graduation plans?
My goal is currently to teach high school social studies, preferably either American or global history. For now, I’d like to stay in the Twin Cities, since I’ve made connections here, but in the future, I would love to return to Chicago. I also hope to remain involved in soccer, either coaching through the high school I end up working at or with a club team.
Eventually, I would like to pursue a graduate degree, most likely a Master of Arts in History. However, pursuing a graduate degree as a teacher is a bit of a marketability conundrum. It may be easier for me to get a job starting with just a Bachelor’s degree, since those with graduate degrees come with a higher price tag.
What advice might you give to other student-athletes, double-majors, or other students?
Use the people around you, because they’re super friendly and willing to help. That’s my favorite thing about Minnesotans- even when they look intimidating, their hearts are really warm, which is great. Also, do your best to get involved through sports or clubs. Along with soccer, I’m in FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes.) One of the best aspects of going to a liberal arts school is that they don’t just focus on academic achievement, they focus on the overall betterment of students in all areas of their lives. Take full advantage of that while you can.
Connor Larson is a junior-level transfer student, majoring in History and minoring in Asian Studies. He also plans on spending the coming spring semester in China through the Best Semester program. When he isn’t drowning in the sea of reading that is the study of history, he enjoys biking in our lovely Midwestern climate, making stir-fry — a basic requirement of the Asian Studies minor — and doing even more reading when time permits. Once we discovered that we had both read 1984 in high school, he mentioned that “this person is studying. He is a double-plus good citizen. Be like this person.” In addition to his healthy admiration of Big Brother, Connor recognizes Disney’s Flynn Rider as a role model. He also has a healthy dose of suspicion towards interviewers, and insisted on asking me several of his own questions to ensure that he could trust me with his answers. Behold: the hard-earned responses to my interview questions.
You began your education at a community college in Illinois. When and how did you make the decision to transfer to Bethel?
Upon graduating from high school in 2012, I moved to Colorado. After living there until May I realized that I wasn’t really doing anything, so I moved back home and began my college education by getting an Associate of Arts degree at Rock Valley Community College in my hometown of Rockford, Illinois, which is a fantastic community college. I was mostly getting general education requirements out of the way for when I did transfer to a 4-year college, but wasn’t completely sure of what I wanted to study yet. When I started looking into different universities, I started to consider Bethel after visiting my girlfriend here. However, visiting the campus, meeting some professors, and seeing how they interact with students is what really convinced me to attend Bethel. Plus, the food was much better than it was at the other schools I was considering. (Kerry: Tragically, Connor has only eaten at the Dining Center twice so far this year.)
What has been the best thing about transferring to Bethel? Conversely, what has been the most challenging?
Going to a community college was good because it was inexpensive, I got through it quickly, and I was able to work and save up money for the future. However, there wasn’t really a community aspect and I definitely missed that. The best thing about being here is that my girlfriend is here as well as my best friend from high school, who started at Bethel for nursing this year. He and I share an apartment off campus, which is fantastic. It’s just been great to have people like that to talk to again.
In the same vein, living off-campus has been one of the more challenging aspects of transitioning into Bethel. Being off-campus and a transfer student can make it difficult to meet new people and connect with the community at large, because I don’t get to spend as much time here as most students do, and Bethel can be fairly clique-y from the outside.
I was also a bit worried about the course load at Bethel because community colleges are not necessarily known for being particularly rigorous. However, I have been doing pretty well so far, so as of right now I’ve been proving myself wrong. The main difference seems to be that there is a lot more reading here than there was at Rock Valley, or I’m actually doing the readings here instead of skipping them.
You are a History major with an Asian Studies minor. When and why did you pick out that major and minor?
I would say that I picked out my history major during my first semester at Rock Valley. The history professors at Rock Valley Community College were wonderful, and I would credit them with getting me interested in history in the first place. It was the first time in quite a while that I had been interested enough in something that I felt like I wanted to pursue it. My non-Western history and humanities courses are what particularly sparked my interest in history, so keeping that in mind, the Asian Studies minor and the global history focus for the History major made the most sense.
For those of us who are less familiar with the Asian Studies minor, what can you tell us about your minor?
From what I’ve seen so far, it’s a lot of Asian history, philosophy, and religion courses, as well as courses in an Asian language. Since I am choosing Chinese for my language, going to China will help to fulfill a lot of those requirements. It’s not a particularly difficult minor, especially if you’re also a History or a Philosophy major. It’s really great- you get to learn about another culture, and it’s not a crazy amount of work, so it doesn’t detract from your major field of study.
How do History and Asian Studies complement each other? Is there anything that makes the pairing difficult?
They complement each other well if your goal is to go into the study of Asian history. It’s particularly helpful because it assists students in learning more about Asian cultures, which assists students in properly understanding Asian history within the appropriate context. Most of us already have more of a cultural knowledge of Western cultures. Even if we aren’t experts on the Italian Renaissance or the Victorian Era, we have that cultural connection since we have been learning and living in that Western culture for our entire lives. Many of us lack that cultural connection for Asian studies, so the minor helps to bridge that knowledge gap and increase the understanding and appreciation for Asian history.
I’m also hoping to integrate my knowledge from the Asian Studies minor into my Senior Seminar for History. Depending on how burnt-out I am on the study of Chinese history after my semester abroad, I may or may not choose a topic in Chinese history to focus on. If I feel as though I need a break from Chinese history, another area I’ve been interested in is Mongolian history and culture. All we really hear about Mongolian history is Genghis Khan coming in, taking over, and doing all these things, but in reality, Mongolia itself is just a fascinating place to look at. The fact that a culture sprouted up there and stayed there, in one of the most inhospitable places on earth is amazing. I’d really love to dig more into that and learn more about how and why people would choose to settle and remain in such a harsh environment.
The pairing can be difficult because the history program at Bethel doesn’t have as much of an emphasis on Asian history as it does on American and European history. The structure of the program makes going into Asian history a little bit more challenging. I don’t blame the department for that — it’s a small area of study within a small major at a small liberal arts school. It just means that most of my history electives will be taken up on Asian history courses.
You plan to study abroad in China next semester. Can you tell me more about that? What do you hope to gain from the experience?
Bethel is not an inexpensive college. The benefit of that is that when you look at the study-abroad programs, you start to realize that many of them are the same cost as or cheaper than a semester at Bethel, so I found myself asking “why not?” My reasons for choosing China include my Asian Studies minor, as well as the fact that I am particularly interested in the history of China. It logically follows that actually going to China will supplement both my major and minor. This experience could also open doors for me if I chose to pursue a job in China in the future, as there is a high market for Chinese-speaking Americans in China. That isn’t my current goal, but it’s definitely an option. Even if, for some reason, I don’t go into the history field, China is a big player in the global economy, and having this experience would be useful for working in the business world. I am also hoping to gain additional knowledge in the Chinese language, which would be useful for communication and for pursuing a graduate degree.
What do your post-graduation educational and/or vocational plans look like?
My post-graduation plans are currently a bit up in the air. Of course, I’d like to go into graduate studies, and eventually pursue a doctorate. But I would be open to other opportunities that arise from my interests in history, China, and Asian history in general. Right now, I’m not completely committing to any specific plans because things change. I don’t want to be upset because my goals don’t come together in the way I originally planned. I could find myself drawn to different locations or opportunities, so I don’t want to nail myself down to any specifics just yet.
What advice might you give to other transfer students, particularly about opportunities like pursuing minors or studying abroad?
Take as many credits as you can at the school you transfer to. If you have the credits in place to fit in a semester abroad, and it fits with what you want to study, do it. The most important piece is planning ahead. As a freshman, it’s easy to shrug things off and say “I’ll be fine,” but it is important to have a general plan.
Another thing that’s not related to history or studying abroad would be to get involved as much as you can. It can be difficult, especially if you’re living off campus, but it’s important to get involved as soon as you can. Once the Welcome Week atmosphere wears off, it can be a lot more difficult to find ways to integrate yourself into the school’s community.
Throughout the semester, I will be interviewing a variety of history students, alumni, and professors, with the goal of answering the question: what can be done with a history major? To begin, we will be looking into some insights provided by Emma Beecken ’16, who has majors in both the History and Education departments. This post will mostly benefit current History/Education double majors, but is definitely worth a read for anyone in the department considering a future in education.
Emma Beecken is currently a senior here at Bethel, with majors in History, K-6 Elementary Education, Social Studies Education 5-12, and a minor in Communication Arts and Literature 5-8. She spends her very limited free time nannying, preparing copious amounts of baked goods, and participating on Bethel University’s forensics team, where she has experienced success at both the state and national level. She is a great lover of Disney films and The Chronicles of Narnia, and will eagerly explain that she resonates strongly with Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Lucy Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia. Below is a photograph of Emma, followed by her fascinating responses to my interview questions.
You have a triple major in K-6 Elementary Education, Social Studies Education 5-12, and History, with a minor in Communication Arts and Literature Education for grades 5-8. That is quite a few things. How did you decide on this combination of majors and minor?
When I was little, it was a constant trade-off between playing school, pioneers, and pioneer school, so I guess this combination didn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. I’ve always been passionate about children and education, and I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to be a teacher. Throughout high school, opportunities to plan and teach lessons with students of a variety of ages reaffirmed my passion for teaching younger kids. At the same time, I couldn’t help loving history. I figured I could get my history fix by adding a Social Studies Ed major, which would also increase my marketability as an educator. That turned into adding a History major when I realized that the only other classes I would need in order complete the major were courses I would be disappointed not to take. That seemed like a sign I was heading the right direction, so I went for it, summer classes notwithstanding. It was definitely the right decision.
How do you feel the Education and History majors complement each other?
Personally, I couldn’t be happier with this combination. They are very different, and yet they complement each other beautifully. The study of history teaches you to analyze, synthesize, and critically evaluate a body of information, and then make and communicate informed decisions. That is exactly what a good teacher needs to be doing. A truly loving teacher is analyzing a student, using all of the quantitative and qualitative data that’s available, and then acting on that information to do everything possible to help that child. It’s critical thinking, problem solving, the study of people, cultures, and different perspectives—basically, it’s being part of a giant history case study all the time. And yet it’s so much more, because it is helping a child who was created in the image of God, using every tool I can and every strategy I’ve learned to love that child as tangibly and as fiercely as possible. History has refined those tools, making me that much better of an educator.
There’s also an inherent benefit in teachers who love to learn about one subject in particular. I love teaching Social Studies because I love Social Studies. That in itself is going to make a world of difference to the students. This summer, for example, I was nannying, and we spent part of our days studying history. Because that’s what I love, I planned the most for it, had better ideas, and got the most excited about it, compared to other subjects. Grown-ups’ attitudes are contagious, so the kids got excited too. By the end of the summer, they were begging for more history. That provided a perfect and totally natural platform for teaching reading, writing, critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving— all of those skills critical for success, but which are much less engaging when taught in isolation. The same would be true for any other interest. If someone truly loved science or physical education, their excitement and eagerness to create the best lesson possible would result in kids who picked up those passions and all the skills snuck in with them. Adding a history major enhanced my understanding of and love for history, which will only serve to benefit my kids. At the end of the day, majoring in history was an amazing decision for more than just my desire for a “history fix,” but also for the success of my future students.
Conversely, what is the most difficult about your combination of majors and minor?
The most difficult thing about being an Elementary Education/History major is, perhaps, also one of the most beneficial: they are very different majors. Consequently, they draw very different types of people. By the time I got to upper level courses that were filled primarily with students in the major, it was almost like culture shock going from a history course to an Elementary Education class. Speaking in generals, there’s a big difference in the way the people in these majors think, organize themselves, engage in group projects, as well as a difference in personalities. This goes for professors too—even the syllabi feel a little different between the two departments. I have to recalibrate when I switch from course to course, while still trying to find my niche in both. While this can be a tad sticky, it’s also pretty wonderful. I get to see an amazing spectrum of people from all walks of life, hearing a range of ideas and perspectives, and then have to opportunity to bring all of those ideas together.
Tell me about your student teaching experience. What is the most exciting or enjoyable about it? What has been challenging for you?
Right now, I’m spending half days in a third grade classroom, which will become a full-time student teaching placement in a few weeks. My classroom is 100% English Learners and very high poverty, so it’s been a very different experience than my many practicums in suburbia. To be honest, this isn’t easy. Every single one of my twenty seven, eight, and nine-year-olds is testing low, and, as a whole, they are really struggling. And yet, every time I think about them, it’s like Mama Duck instincts kick in. I love these kids so much. I would give my right arm if that would help them. And then, at the end of the day, you leave after teaching your lesson and realize that, for a few of those kids, it wasn’t enough. They are going to need not just your right arm, but your left arm and maybe even more because they are so far behind. That can be discouraging. Yet, at the same time, it’s also extremely exciting. By God’s grace, I can do something! Seeing them understand and improve is my constant aim. The kids are amazing. I love them to pieces. Challenging or not, they are still the most enjoyable and most exciting part of each day.
You recently completed your Senior Seminar for the History Department over the summer as an independent stuy. As the only current Bethel History student who is done with Senior Seminar, what would you like to share about your senior research?
My senior research project was one of the highlights of my time so far at Bethel. I studied Hannah More, the late eighteenth century best-selling British author, who worked closely with William Wilberforce to evangelize Great Britain. Being able to immerse myself in her life through an extended period of time and extensive research was not only a great opportunity to refine my skills as a historian, but also to dive into something I adored. In this case, it was a brilliant woman of God who did amazing work for the Kingdom, serving as both a fascinating woman to research and a great role model. Dr. Gehrz expertly guided me through the process of making sense of history and faith, and I have come out of that project a stronger historian and a stronger Christian. Plus, Hannah More was just kind of awesome. My friends may have thrown me a Hannah More-themed party when I finished, but that’s another story.
Tell me about your educational and/or vocational plans post-Bethel. Has your student teaching experience influenced these plans?
My goal is to go wherever God can best use the passions He gave me to bring Himself the most glory. So, with that in mind, I’m pretty open at this point. International missions work is not out of the question, and I won’t be surprised if I end up pursuing a master’s degree in either Gifted and Talented Education, Special Education, or maybe something else completely- who knows? I’d also be extremely happy to adopt a bajillion-and-twelve children and be a homeschooling mom though, so I’m flexible. In the short term? I’d be pretty pleased to be teaching in an upper elementary classroom next year.
What advice would you have for other students who are considering pursuing degrees in both History and Education?
Go for it. Seriously. You won’t regret it, and neither will your future students. More practically, be sure to get involved. I made the mistake of feeling like I wasn’t a “real” History major because I was also an Education major, yet at the same time feeling like I wasn’t a “real” Education major. That was kind of silly. I wish I had more fully embraced the department events, people, and connections that were available for both majors, rather than discounting myself from either. In other words, double-dip on Christmas parties, because really, it’s all for the love of the students anyway.
There are a lot of reasons to choose a college major, but perhaps the worst is that it’s “practical.” Or so argues historian Cecilia Gaposchkin, who coordinates pre-major advising at Dartmouth University:
…the premise of the “practical major” is corroding college intellectual life. As students flock to the two or three majors they see as good investments, professors who teach in those majors are overburdened, and the majors themselves become more formulaic and less individualized. A vocational approach to liberal-arts education eviscerates precisely the qualities that are most valuable about it: intellectual curiosity and passion.
“The big majors,” a political scientist at Dartmouth told me recently, “collect a lot of students who aren’t really interested in the subject, and, because of the class sizes, those students lose out on highly individualized instruction.”
(For the record: a typical upper-division history course at Bethel enrolls 8-15 students.)
Gaposchkin goes on to make hopefully familiar arguments about the value of a seemingly “impractical” major like history: that it cultivates the ability to think, rather than the acquisition of information that will soon be obsolete; that the skills and vision employers most value are actually taught very well in fields like history; that mid-career salaries are actually quite strong for graduates in those areas.
So how should you pick a major? Follow your interests, advises Gaposchkin:
By releasing students from the pressure of the practical major and allowing them to study what they are sincerely interested in, we allow them to become smarter, more creative, and more able. This is what potential employers value, not course content that is likely to be obsolete once they have finished training the recent graduate.
A couple of themes run through episode 10 of Past & Presence.
First, connections between history and writing. Our conversation this week considers history as a kind of literature — and also shares some advice for students seeking to improve their writing on different kinds of assignments. And our interview this week features an alumnus who has made a career of the written word: Tim Krueger ’10, publications coordinator for Christians for Biblical Equality and editor of CBE’s magazine, Mutuality.
Then the second theme is that this is the first Past & Presence that doesn’t include any of our department’s faculty (past our regular host, Prof. Chris Gehrz). In addition to Tim, alumni are represented by Eve Burlingame ’08, site coordinator of Eidem Homestead, the living history farm in Brooklyn Park, MN that we feature throughout the episode. (See a recent graduate’s account of completing an internship with Eve at Eidem.) Our writing conversation features two of our senior teaching assistants: Jacob Manning ’15 and Fletcher Warren ’15. And instead of running ads for any of our courses, we introduce students to Bethel’s Gender Studies minor (represented here by co-coordinator Sara Shady, a philosophy professor) and its Pre-Law program (this one featuring Political Science professor Fred Van Geest).