This fall the Conference and Faith and History (CFH) will be celebrating its 50th anniversary as it holds its biennial conference (Calvin College, Oct. 4-6). One of the oldest Christian academic societies in North America, CFH describes itself as “a community of scholars exploring the relationship between Christian faith and history” and primarily aspires “to encourage excellence in the theory and practice of history from the perspective of historic Christianity.” Bethel has long had faculty participate in CFH, with Prof. Gehrz currently serving on the group’s executive board.
While most CFH members are college and university professors and graduate students, we want to echo program chair John Fea’s invitation for middle and high school teachers to consider attending the conference. The schedule is still taking shape, but John reports that there will be a special session just on the role of secondary school teachers in CFH, and that several such educators have already proposed papers. Plus it’s a chance to engage in some continuing education as you hear papers and talks from leading scholars in a variety of fields (not just church/religious history). We’ll share the full schedule once it’s set, but the list of plenary speakers includes Margaret Bendroth (author of The Spiritual Practice of Remembering) and Robert Orsi (History and Presence).
Oh, and you’d have the chance to spend a few days with Bethel faculty: Profs. Gehrz, Goldberg, and Poppinga have all proposed papers or sessions for this year’s meeting.
Earlier this spring Prof. Chris Gehrz joined two other winners of Bethel’s Faculty Excellence Award in Teaching to reflect on “habits of the mind” for effective teachers. While Joey Horstman (English) took noticing and Sara Shady (Philosophy) reflected on persisting, Prof. Gehrz described teaching as an act of wondering. You can watch that presentation here:
Greetings all! I am glad to have the opportunity to introduce my digital self to the readers of AC 2nd. I am Charlie Goldberg, and the calendar informs me that we are somehow two months into my first semester as a professor of History here at Bethel. My first weeks have been exciting, often hectic, but incredibly rewarding. As I’m sure you can all relate from intense stretches of newness in your own lives, the life of a first-year professor can sometimes feel like racing from one crisis to the next. Even on the busiest of days, though, it’s easy to bring to mind the many enriching conversations I’ve had with students, faculty, and others here at Bethel, each one a reminder of just how lucky I am to pursue my passion for cultivating a deeper understanding of the past in young people.
Today, I’d like to contribute to “The Things They Carried” Series, introduced by my colleague Sam Mulberry, where we history professors document the material “stuff” that makes our job possible. Below, I’ve chosen a few items that are representative of my first several weeks here. Some pertain to my research, and some to my teaching, but in whatever way, they create a mosaic of the odyssey of a first year professor of History.
1. Thing Explainer by Randall Munroe. This was a recent gift to me from my wife, Rachel. I was having “one of those weeks” where, for whatever reason, nothing seemed to be going right. This was her way of helping me remember that one of my gifts, and indeed the core of my job, is in “explaining things.” After reading the first few pages, I became fascinated by Munroe’s project, which is to illuminate complicated scientific processes by using only the thousand most common words in the English language. So, for example, instead of a “nuclear missile,” Munroe describes a “machine for burning cities.” Instead of a “cockpit,” we read about “stuff you touch to fly a sky boat.” As part of my duties here at Bethel, I am in the midst of proposing a new major in the Digital Humanities, which (among other aims) hopes to deliver some marketable, high-tech skills to Humanities students. As anyone learning how to use new technology can attest, though, it’s very easy to get bogged down in complicated jargon, which only impedes learning. Munroe’s book is therefore a good exercise in the importance of simplicity and economy of words.
2. Digital Humanities Proposal 4.2. When I was hired to propose our new DH major, I was lucky enough to count on the tireless work that others in our department and around campus had put into this new venture, perhaps most notably Professor Chris Gehrz. In the past weeks, various committees around campus have discussed the new major, and this proposal has become my handbook to explaining our vision for the major, and what we hope it will provide for our students.
3. CWC Reading Packet. Most semesters, I will teach Christianity and Western Culture, which probably needs no introduction for our readers. When I was writing my dissertation at Syracuse University, I was laser-focused on all things ancient Rome. It has been such a breath of fresh air to teach CWC because of its goal of connecting the entire swath of western history through the centuries. It is reminder of the power of the past to speak to us across the abyss of time.
4. Roman Power. A common refrain I heard as I finished up my doctorate, moved across the country, and began to teach here at Bethel, was how difficult it is for a new professor to find time for research during their first year. Lesson plans need to be written, syllabi designed, and university procedures learned. I count myself lucky on the rare occasion to have even an hour or two in the week to read an article in my field of ancient history. But as a professor, remaining connected to our individual areas of expertise is important. Because writing a book review is a relatively small burden that even I can hope to complete, I’ve committed to reviewing William Harris’ Roman Power in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review. I may not be able to finish up the article I’ve hoped to complete this year, but reviewing Harris’ book will allow me to remain connected to important conversations in Roman history.
5. American Quarter. I had high hopes of this being a photo of a Roman denarius, but unfortunately it has not arrived in the mail yet. But this is my way of announcing an exciting project I am designing for HIS311 Roman Civilization for next Spring. I have procured a few dozen Roman coins, fresh from an archaeological dig in Europe. Next semester, my students and I will clean, catalog, and identify each coin, and then bring them to interested readers via the Bethel Coin Project, which will present our findings online. It will serve as my first attempt at incorporating DH tools in my own classroom here at Bethel.
6. Field Notes. Despite my need to live and work “in the digital world,” I’m still rather “analog” at heart. Perhaps it’s the classicist in me. For example, I typically carry this trusty notebook wherever I go, be it to class, a meeting, or back to my office to lesson plan. As our world becomes increasingly digitized, It’s important to remember that we remain, to put it crudely, meat bags, with earthly instincts and sentiments. Sometimes nothing helps me gather my thoughts quite like writing them out by hand.
“The Things They Carried” is not only the title of a short story collection by Tim O’Brien but also series of articles in Foreign Policy Magazine. In these articles, a writer at Foreign Policy profiles a person with a unique job in the world of international relations by creating a photo spread of the items that they carry with them as they perform their duties. This series was pointed out to my by my colleague in the Political Science department Chris Moore. It seemed like an interesting way to use physical objects to tell a a person’s story and to profile who they are and the job they do. He challenged me to create a similar series on our departmental blog to highlight the people in my department and the work that they do. I agreed. As a guinea pig to test how this would work, I started with myself. Among other things, I am one of the people who teach Bethel’s Christianity and Western Culture (CWC) course. These are the things that I carry to when I go to give a lecture.
1. Paper Box Lid – I am often seen walking around campus caring the lid to a paper box filled with the items I need for class or meetings. People who see my at a distance think that I’m carrying a pizza or a box of doughnuts. I end up disappointing them with the in-edibility of the items that are actually in the box. In my office I have a stack of eight extra boxes for when my current box begins to break down.
2. Class Announcements – One of my jobs in CWC is to coordinate the team of Teaching Assistants(TAs) for the class. At the beginning of each lecture one of the TAs reads the announcements to the class. This is both to let students know about upcoming events and to get the TAs comfortable speaking in front of 130 students.
3. Lecture Notes – When I first started lecturing in CWC, I would write out the text of my whole lecture. Now I’ve moved to starting my lectures by building my PowerPoint and then writing out my lecture talking points on a printout of my slides. My goal is to not have to make reference to my notes while I’m giving a lecture, but it is always helpful to have them with me when my mind inevitably goes blank.
4. Zoom Audio Recorder – For about a decade I have been audio recording CWC lectures – both the lectures give and those given by my colleagues. We use these lecture recordings to help orient new faculty to the course as they are writing new lectures. I also listen to a recording of my lecture from the previous semester in morning before class to help me review the content that I need to cover.
5. Printouts of PowerPoint Slides – It is part of my job to manage disability accommodations for the students in CWC. I bring printouts of the PowerPoints to give to the students who require this as part of their accommodations.
6. Dry Erase Makers – When CC313 – the lecture hall where CWC is taught – was remodeled in the summer of 2015, the chalkboards were removed and replaced with whiteboards. I am not a huge fan of whiteboards largely because I have anxiety about the markers dying on my in the middle of class. For this reason I bring a box of black dry erase markers for specific CWC use in CC313. I put blue tape on the ends of the markers to label them as CWC markers. The ones that are bundled in the rubber band and brand new, while the un-bundled markers have been used. Once a marker starts to fade, it needs to be recycled.
7. Diet Mountain Dew – I am both addicted to caffeine and not a fan of coffee. So Diet Mountain Dew is pretty ever-present as my caffeine deliver system.
8. iPod Touch – I don’t own a cell phone, but my iPod Touch is a necessary piece of my daily routine. I rely on in for e-mail, texting, and as my timepiece. I don’t listen to music much, but I do listen to lots of podcasts. I also use by iPod to listen to recordings of my old lectures in order to prepare for future classes.
9. Keys – My keys are actually an important item to have in class, because inevitably I will forget to bring something to class and will need to run back to my office at the last minute. There are more keys on this key ring than are necessary. I actually only know what four of these keys are for. I’m not even sure where the others came from, but I’ve carried them around for over a decade.
10. “To Do” List – Every morning I start my day by writing a “To Do” list. It includes all of my daily appointments and all of the tasks that I need to complete. I carry it with me throughout the day and check off tasks as they are accomplished. I’m pretty certain I’d me unable to do my job without this regular routine.
11. Pens – I am never without a number of pens, and most of them are green. I do all of my grading in green pen and ask the my TAs do so as well. This was something that I inherited from my mentor and predecessor Virginia Lettinga.
12. Clicker – I move around quite a bit when I teach and I use a significant number of timings and animations in my PowerPoints. Having a clicker keeps me from being tethered to my laptop. I got my first clicker as a gift from Mike Holmes. Although that clicker eventually broke, I still carry keep it in my computer bag because a gift from Mike Holmes is pretty cool.
13. Laptop Computer – I typically bring my computer to class and hook it up to the classroom projector. I do this because I’m kind of picky about my PowerPoints and I like to use specific not standard fonts at times. If I run the slideshow off my my computer, then I feel more confident that everything will work. I also use my computer as a portable podcast and movie studio for other aspects of my job.
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.
Thanks to Fletcher Warren ’15 for sharing this report on his experience earlier this month at the annual meeting of the world’s largest professional society for historians.
A couple of weeks ago, I jetted off to sunny Atlanta for the 130th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA). The AHA Annual Meeting is the largest professional meeting of historians in the world and attracts more than 5,000 scholars each year. At the core of the conference are the 400-odd panel discussions, each organized around a unifying theme. These panels require the space of multiple hotel convention centers and are interspersed with various other events — receptions, workshops, poster sessions, and of course, the exhibitor hall, featuring the largest academic publishers in the world, all hawking their wares at often deeply discounted prices. In short, the conference delivers four days of unrelenting historical revelry.
I decided to attend for many of the same reasons that other scholars go: to network and see the latest research in my area (and play the dilatant in other areas), but mostly, because I thought it would be enjoyable. Of course, as a recent B.A. graduate, I was somewhat out of place; a full 80% of the meeting attendees have PhDs or are seeking them, and only 2% have attained a B.A. as their highest credential. Most historians first attend the meeting as late-stage PhD candidates interviewing for their first academic jobs, but starting earlier has benefits, not least being able to actually enjoy the meeting while not worrying about job insecurity.
What tips would you recommend for getting the most out of the Annual Meeting?
First, I would suggest attending the “How to Get the Most Out of the Annual Meeting” session. Run by the executive director and several other staff of the AHA, this session delivered (as promised) many helpful tips for first-time attendees. It was also a good chance to meet other first-timers, many of whom were relatively young — i.e. more approachable than senior scholars.
Second: talk to as many people as you can. The conference and affiliated societies organize a great number of evening receptions and soirées that are excellent places to meet people who share your interests (and eat free food). I found the poster sessions were also good opportunities for meeting other attendees in a relatively informal setting. Actively talking to other historians is not only good networking, it’s enjoyable. For example, I met a graduate student who is writing his dissertation on ghost experiences in 12th century Italy. While my research is in a totally different area, learning about his work was utterly fascinating.
Beyond meeting people, I suggest intentionally attending a mix of sessions, both in format and subject matter. While most of the panels I attended were on late 19th and early 20th century central European history, I also attended a sessions on topics as diverse as the Silk Road, U.S. foreign policy, and the Culture Wars. Seeing scholars discuss their work in a variety of fields can be intellectually engaging and also gives insight into the differing methodologies and concerns of the many types of historians. Besides, there are few venues that can offer the breadth and depth of subject matter that the AHA meeting does. Take advantage of the opportunity to both engage your interests and satisfy curiosity.
Finally, if flying, leave room in your suitcase for books. Many of the publishers in the exhibition hall sell deeply discounted books (some as low at $3 per paperback!). My own haul was somewhat embarrassing.
What was it like to be a recent B.A. graduate at an event dominated by PhD students and professors?
I return to this subject only because it might be a hurdle that discourages some from attending a meeting. The first few hours of the conference were quite subduing. Soon though, I reminded myself that most people are friendly and perfectly happy to talk. In fact, most people I met were delighted to find a younger person at the meeting. And while rare, I did meet several current undergraduates and first year M.A. students. In short, don’t worry about not fitting in — you won’t be alone as a first time attendee, and your initiative in attending the meeting will impress.
What did you take away from the Annual Meeting that was most valuable?
Two things come most directly to mind. First, the panels and sessions I attended were inspiring. I was struck by how varied the field of history is, both in scope and method. One of the panels I attended (on the Silk Road) featured a roundtable of historians and archeologists — a reminder that in much of ancient history, material culture and its attendant skill sets (e.g., numismatology, epigraphy, etc.) are as important as textual analysis. Indeed, the data material artifacts present is often at odds with textual sources, making it a primary concern of historians to reconcile the two. In another panel, a historian of the Cold War examined records from Soviet bloc summer youth camps in an effort to trace the ideological impact of intra-bloc transnational youth movements. Other panels blended aspects of critical theory, sociology, and ethnography. Each of these approaches represents a valid way to do history. The Annual Meeting is an excellent place to become at least minimally acquainted with the breadth and variety of the historical profession.
Second, as someone considering PhD programs in history, the meeting provided an unvarnished look at the profession in (much) of its variety — both good and bad. For example, the conference was filled with the ubiquitous agonization about the state of the academic job market and funding. Perhaps most interesting to me was the degree to which the conference presented a total academic culture. I finally realized just how acclimatized I had become to overhearing buzzword-filled conversations between the PhD-educated only at the end of the four-day weekend when I ventured off-site for food. Hearing the conversation of “normal” young adults for the first time in several days was somewhat jarring. I consider this aspect of the conference to be more amusing and entertaining than anything, and I thought strongly at times of Kate Fox’s tongue-in-cheek ethnography of the English; someone ought to pen a similar volume about historians (or any group of academics) in their natural element. The conference, if nothing else, is a fantastic primer of the socialization process and outcomes of history graduate school.
If the state of jobs is discouraging and the culture at times eye-rolling, the vast majority of my experiences at the meeting were inspiring and energizing. For as many challenges as the profession faces, the meeting showcased hundreds of people who are actively breaking new ground, both in research and in rethinking and repositioning the discipline for the 21st century. The ongoing Tuning Project was evident in a number of areas, including the panel sessions and poster presentations. Digital history was featured heavily as well. From what I saw, historians are clearly grappling with the new challenges and possibilities that medium offers.
What is the cost?
The cost of attending the meeting can vary quite a bit depending on the number of people splitting expenses and whether or not students can ride on a sponsoring faculty member. As a current member of AHA, I was eligible for the $82 student member conference rate. (Student memberships are $40 per year and include the monthly Perspectives magazine and the quarterly Journal of the American Historical Association — a good deal.) Current students would do well to convince a Bethel history professor to attend the conference next year; professors can bring students to the conference for only $10 each in addition to the professor’s registration costs. This makes the actual expense of the meeting negligible.
Airfare and hotel lodgings were the most significant expenses for me, although I was able to split the hotel with a friend I met while studying at Oxford. Next year’s conference is in Denver, a convenient location for Minnesotans as Frontier airlines operates direct service from MSP to Denver for less than $100 if purchased in advance. Alternatively, the 13-hour drive is very reasonable, particularly if a group attends together. I met a group of M.A. students from SUNY-Buffalo who had done exactly that. For those wishing to lower the the cost of lodging, Airbnb may be a good option, although staying on-site at the conference hotel is certainly more enjoyable and convenient.
In all, the conference was a blast. I highly encourage attendance at next year’s conference in Denver, especially for those who are:
Considering a career as a history professor
Preparing to be secondary school social studies teachers
Seeking to become archivists, librarians, or public historians
Enamoured with all types of history and history-related areas
Hoping to purchase an obscene number of brand new and pre-release books at bargain bin prices
In particular, I encourage current social studies education/history majors at Bethel to consider attending. While they were few in number, I found that local high school teachers consistently asked some of the most stimulating questions of panelists, particularly questions of pedagogy. For example, one question prompted a panelist to describe a semester-long learning simulation focused on the lived experience of World War I. It is as important for secondary school history teachers to be familiar with the latest research and approaches to teaching history as it is for professors. After all, secondary school teachers often have the first opportunity to instill basic historical skills and dispel erroneous ways of considering the past. The considerable number of panels on pedagogy that were presented attest to AHA’s focus on making available the resources to teach effective historical reasoning.
I’d be happy to answer further questions in the comments below. Otherwise, see you next January in Denver!
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.)
This past Wednesday and Thursday, the family and friends of Prof. Stacey Hunter Hecht said farewell at two memorial services, first at Bethel and then at Stacey’s church. Today and then into next week, we’re going to share some tributes to Stacey from some of the people of the Political Science and History Departments. First up, G.W. Carlson reflects on Stacey’s many accomplishments as a teacher and department chair, particularly emphasizing her commitment to promoting civil discourse.
During the 2004 presidential elections Stacey was deeply troubled by the experience of a Bethel University student. A young woman was passing by the Bush campaign table and said, “Wrong party.” The students behind the table stated, “Wrong school.” Stacey and other students expressed the need to respond. They supported the effort to create a student organization that would “bridge the gap between people of faith who find themselves disagreeing politically, to equip Jesus followers with information to help them make biblically informed decisions about their voting choices and to provide a safe place for Bethel students to register to vote who do not strongly identify with one political party or another.” Stacey liked two bumper stickers “God is not a Republican or a Democrat” and “Just Politics.”
In 2006 both Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine and James Dobson from Focus on the Family came to St. Paul to spread their political and religious ideas. Pam Miller, the Star Tribune writer, called me and asked about these two events. I told her that Bethel political science students were coordinating both of these events and they were friends. Students were encouraged to hear both of the speakers. Miller didn’t believe this because she thought that Bethel promoted a monolithic conservative viewpoint. I put her in contact with both the leaders of the Young Republicans and Young Democrats. What she found out was that Stacey’s understanding of the department’s task on civil discourse seems to have been working.
Stacey was significantly concerned about the polarizing nature of American politics and the need to promote a commitment to civil discourse. At an alumni event in 2012 the political science department featured a dialogue about the fall presidential elections. Stacey organized the event which featured two students supporting different presidential candidates, a presentation on evangelical voting patterns, and an understanding of the diverse evangelical political options. Above all, Stacey wanted to suggest that the purpose of the Political Science department was to allow students to have a mature understanding of their political viewpoints, value civil dialogue with those who disagree and seek the common good.
* * * * *
Stacey began her teaching career at Bethel in 1997. Early she taught in the adult program while she was working on her dissertation at the University of Minnesota, which she completed in 2000. Bill Johnson, John Lawyer, and I came to the conclusion that we wanted Stacey to be a full-time member of the Political Science faculty. Bill Johnson was willing to rearrange some of his teaching load to facilitate this appointment. She served Bethel University in a number of assignments as a political science professor from 1997-2015.
On January 16, 2015 I received a request from arts and humanities dean Barrett Fisher which saddened me greatly. Stacey had been diagnosed with breast cancer and would be on medical leave in the spring. He asked if I would be willing to teach her two American Government classes at 8am and 9am. These were hours of the day in which I always wondered whether real learning could take place. And I hadn’t taught this course since 1972 — when the Nixon/McGovern election was happening.
I always believed that my friend Stacey would make it through the awful medical options and be a cancer survivor who would once again do what she did best – to engage the academic minds of students and play an effective role in their spiritual and intellectual development. This was not to happen. I learned last Wednesday afternoon, December 9, that she had died at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. With tears and great grief I was able to interact with several of Stacey’s students and faculty friends, which allowed me to get through the afternoon.
Wednesday evening I had the opportunity to reflect on my experiences with Stacey and affirm her wonderfulness as a colleague by reading through the emails we had exchanged over the past fifteen years. I am glad that I had not deleted out these emails since 2000. While browsing through the emails I recognized five major characteristics of a colleague I will miss.
First, she was the coordinator of Constitution Day events at Bethel.
Constitution Day celebrations on campus were required by a law passed under the influence of Senator Robert Byrd, who attached the requirement to a spending bill in 2004. Colleges were to establish events on September 17 to commemorate the day in 1787 when the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the last time to sign the document. (Byrd was known for always carrying a Constitution in his pocket.)
The Political Science department is responsible for carrying out this assignment, and Stacey was the person who planned most of these events. They were often quite educational and enjoyable experiences. I remember the showing of the film Gideon’s Trumpet. Stacey asked the coordinator of the Dakota County public defender’s office to join the event. A tornado warning and a requirement that all faculty and students seek shelter for almost 45 minutes interrupted the event.
Two other events were part of my memory. One was a reading of the Constitution in the AC Lounge. I wanted to make sure that I could read the First Amendment, the Baptist contribution to the Constitution. A second was the discussion of failed constitutional amendments such as the repeal of the 18th amendment (Prohibition) and the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment. Frequently, the department passed out small copies of the Constitution to each student.
Second, she was a political science scholar who took her academic commitments seriously.
Her earliest accomplishment was an article, “Religion and the Bill of Rights,” in Corwin Smidt’s In God We Trust (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2001). While she was suffering this fall we learned that Stacey and David Schultz (political science professor at Hamline University) were editors of Presidential Swing States: Why Only Ten Matter (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2015).
Stacey also participated on numerous academic panels and wrote several significant book analyses. Stacey engaged a CCCU National Workshop in June 2008 on the topic “Integrating Our Faith, Our Work, and Our Personal Life.” One of my most memorable experiences was when Stacey chaired a panel in which I participated on the topic “Evangelical Political Ideologies: Can We Agree to Disagree?” for a Community Life Gathering at Bethel Seminary in October 2014.
Third, Stacey was an extremely effective teacher.
Several times I had the joy of writing letters of support for Stacey for promotion or tenure renewal. Her teaching effectiveness was affirmed by the student ratings of her classes. Student evaluations reflected a strong appreciation of Stacey’s knowledge of the material and the methods she used in the classroom. Her students learned that many political issues had diverse perspectives and quality judgments needed to be advanced.
One of her greatest assets was the ability to engage students who needed an adult mentor outside the classroom. She took the time to respond to students whose journeys have not been easy and provided each with meaningful guidance and support. I have already received several phone calls and emails from students who wanted to share their stories with me.
Several times during her tenure Stacey would comment on the number of students who left Bethel and were successful in the world of electoral politics. Sometimes we advanced the idea that the role of Bethel’s Political Science department is to train the next generation of Republican leaders. Stacey also rejoiced at the number of majors who are doing well in other professions such as public service, Christian ministry, non-profit institutions, law and teaching.
One of the students she enjoyed was Chris LaTondresse who worked with Jim Wallis at Sojourners after he graduated from Bethel. Chris was one of the students who was impacted by the 2004 “wrong school” experience and wrote an essay about it in Sojourners magazine. In a recent post Chris noted that Stacey was one of his favorite professors at Bethel because she helped introduce a
young, evangelical, conservative, college freshman to a world of ideas and perspectives that were missing from my worldview: the connections between faith and the common good, the biblical call to social justice, a vision for faithful citizenship centered around enlisting all segments of society (business, government, civil society, religion, education, healthcare) on behalf of the most vulnerable.
He added that his “earliest questions around vocational discernment were forged over coffee conversations in her office while plotting out classes for the next semester and dreaming of engaging the world beyond Bethel. She will be dearly missed by all, but her legacy lives on, embodied in thousands of former students who, like me, are better citizens and better Christians as a result of her influence in our lives.”
Recently, this positive engagement was seen in Stacey’s relationship with Zoe Vermeer, Bethel’s current student body president. Stacey recommended that I use Zoe as a Teacher’s Assistant when I took over her American Politics classes. She wrote: “Zoe Vermeer is my TA extraordinaire, and she can do almost anything, including possibly walk on water. She took the course last year as a first year student, and TA’ed for it in the Fall. Zoe also went to China with me last January, and has been my student in two other classes. She is bright, incredibly conscientious, and on top of it all, spiritually growing and mature… Honestly, she is just amazing and should be able to let you know exactly how I’ve run things, if you want/need to know.” Her advice was accurate.
Fourth, Stacey set high standards for members of the department.
She desired faculty in the Political Science department to have a strong Christian commitment. They should also be concerned about academic excellence, collegiality, and teaching effectiveness. This was expressed in many ways but was most found in the journey the department took, under her leadership, to find replacements for long-time faculty members as they retired: Bill Johnson, John Lawyer, and myself. Now that the change over has taken place, it is interesting to celebrate the birth of new children and see young children playing in the hallways. This hadn’t happened for a long time.
Stacey was determined to hire only faculty that would meet her criteria. It was a long and not easy process. After one set of interviews she wrote that the saga to replace John Lawyer continued: “Tonight I believe I shall order a very large pizza or some such for myself and hopefully the combination of fat and carbohydrates will lull me into some kind of a nice stupor…which I sorely need after this afternoon’s interviews…. Continue to pray that the right candidate would come forth.”
In an email to Bill Johnson, Stacey celebrated the success in finding the right International Relations candidate. She wrote “We have finally hired an IR person!!! Chris Moore, who just defended at Ohio State will be joining us in the fall. His work is on insurgencies, and he also had expertise in Political Psychology, so he should round things out nicely here. He’s a lively and engaging teacher, so we’re anxious to have him fully ‘in harness.’”
Similar issues were addressed earlier in Fred Van Geest’s hiring. When he told Stacey that he expected to move to Minnesota and start in the fall, she could only say one word: “Hallelujah!” Stacey was also really pleased when, most recently, Andrew Bramsen brought his expertise in comparative government and African politics to the department.
Now the crisis for the department will be to address one core question: How do we replace Stacey? Can we find someone who meets the high standards that she had for Bethel’s Political Science department?
Fifth, Stacey was effectively engaged in interacting with the broader public on significant political science issues. In doing so she advocated for and modeled a Christian commitment to civil discourse.
One of the major contributions Stacey made for the larger political discussion was her frequent participation on Almanac. This is a lively news discussion show on public television. Almost every Friday evening a panel was pulled together which included local scholars and politicians to discuss some of the major issues of the day. Humorously, when Stacey notified her father about her first appearance on Almanac and encouraged him to watch it, he responded by commenting on her wonderful hairstyle. Many of us would spend Friday nights listening to Stacey’s humorous evaluation of current political issues. She was a valued participant.
Yesterday afternoon we lost a member of the Almanac family. Stacey Hunter Hecht passed away after nearly a yearlong battle with cancer. She headed up the political science department at Bethel University and was a regular member of our political science panel. We will miss her intelligent and witty analysis on the couch, both in the studio and at the State Fair.
Several Sundays ago Cathy and I had the privilege to visit with Stacey. We sat together for about an hour talking about her health, issues at Bethel, larger political campaign questions (i.e. how do you understand Trump?), and the impact of her health issues on the family. She had an oxygen tube and seemed to tire after about an hour. However, she was alert and engaging. She was always politically informed and enjoyed a “civil dialogue” on important issues. I will miss her greatly.
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Stacey’s advice and counsel on the need for Christian political science professors at Bethel to be advocates for civil discourse remained a priority throughout her entire tenure. For a 2012 article in Bethel Magazine. Kelsey Lundberg interviewed Stacey, who suggested that the desire to build a sense of community in the United States necessitated a commitment to civil discourse. She referenced the relationship between Republican president Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, a Democrat. They spent time together off the congressional floor. Stacey suggested that “when the business of the day was over these two Irishmen would sit around together and tell stories. So there was a common community of life in Washington, D.C., that people were part of, a whole lot more than they are now.”
Stacey was concerned that polarization and uncivil discourse had trickled down from national venues to the local level – into our neighborhoods, workplaces, and social circles. She argued that “we are no longer sitting down and watching the same six o’clock news at night. We’re not all reading the same newspapers and then having a conversation about it. Instead we have all these hyper-partisan outlets, and the volume is amped up to create this political infotainment.”
My favorite memory of working with Stacey was a joint paper we wrote for a religion and politics conference at Calvin College in May 2002. Both of us were intrigued by the following question: Why do Evangelical Christians worship together on Sunday and vote differently on Tuesday? Entitled “Evangelical Political Ideologies: Can We Agree to Disagree?”, the paper analyzed the five diverse evangelical traditions: Fundamentalist Far Right, Evangelical New Right, Traditional Evangelical Conservative, Evangelical Liberalism and Evangelical Counter-Culture.
Stacey concluded her section of the essay by suggesting that
American religious politics works best when it is derived not out of hatred for America but out of a love for our community. A Christian concept of hope and justice remain prime motivators to a continuation of the dialogue both within the church and between the church and the larger community. Can we agree to disagree? The answer is yes. It is an essential component of American democratic politics and an extension of a Biblical commitment to civility and community. The evangelical community can best advance their agendas through a free church in a free democratic society.
(We completed our journey to Calvin by doing what all good political scientists would do: find time to visit the Gerald Ford Presidential Library. We both commented on the overwhelming tragedy of the Watergate experience and its emphasis in the museum displays.)
In honor of Stacey’s life and witness, let us commit ourselves to a life that values the Christian faith, attempts to cultivate a sense of community, and always values a civil discourse that seeks to find common ground.
– G.W. Carlson
See also the four eulogies shared at Stacey’s Bethel memorial service by colleagues Chris Gehrz, Diana Magnuson, Fred Van Geest, and John Lawyer.
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.