Associate Professor of History

Courses Taught
Educational Background

B.A., Bethel University
M.A., Luther Seminary
PhD, University of Exeter

Get to Know Prof. Poppinga

What’s your favorite primary or secondary source to teach in a course at Bethel?

I have two favorites. One is the slave diary of Omar Ibn Said. The only slave diary written in Arabic, Said’s words demonstrate that many slaves were not only highly educated but also that slaves coming from Africa often held (and sadly lost) strong religious identities. Said was a practicing Muslim and his narrative challenges common stereotypes, such as the notion that Islam is new to the West, Muslim and Arab are synonymous, or that Islam is inherently violent.

Second, I enjoy reading “The Plague at Athens” by the ancient Greek historian Thucydides. Part of his larger History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides recounts what he observes in Athens as the city is ravaged with plague. He goes into great detail listing his observations of symptoms, the plague’s spread, and what he hypothesizes (based on observable evidence gathered) could be the causes. In the field of environmental history, this is often considered the “first” writing — an historian straying from their primary practice of documenting human actions to describing what was happening in the natural world and trying to determine a connection between the two.

What’s one of your favorite places in the world to visit? Why do you love being there?

Hawaii! I love everything about it! Each island has its own personality and vibe. So many things to enjoy: the history, the blend of cultures, the landscape, the ocean, the lifestyle. I love being near and in the water. I would love to teach a class on Hawaiian history that synergizes colonial history/white arrival with indigenous culture and practices deeply tied to landscape and geography.

Where do you go to church? What’s something you especially like about that congregation and its ministry?

Our family has been attending Awaken West Seventh in St. Paul since December 2018. Awaken is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church and is a relatively new congregation. I see many of my former students from Bethel at Awaken, and I have come to really enjoy these interactions. I am convicted and inspired by our pastoral teachings, and I value Awaken’s approach to community engagement and how to be a positive and helpful servant in the world.

If we asked the people who know you best to describe you, which three adjectives would they be most likely to use?

Friendly. Sensitive. Hyper.

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