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 book to teach in a course at Bethel?

Down to Earth: Nature’s Role in American History by Ted Steinberg is tied with Growing Up Muslim: Muslim College Students in America Tell Their Life Stories, eds. Andrew Garrod & Robert Kilkenny.

Outside of the Bible and your research/teaching fields… what’s the best book you’ve read recently? What did you appreciate most about it?

Last year I read both novels published by Irish author Sally Rooney: Normal People and Conversations with Friends. I loved both, but Normal People was one of those books that captured a spot in my heart and on my literal shelf of favorites. I was recently reading a book review by NPR critic Clare Marie Schneider. She suggested that short stories “don’t need a plot that will carry you through a consistent world. Instead, you’re satisfied if the snapshot, overexposed and off-center as it is, offers you a tender moment of observation.” When I read that I thought, “Gosh! That’s it!” It is a lovely description of the books I tend to enjoy most — where I kind of just get to eavesdrop on someone’s life for a period of time. Even though neither of these novels by Rooney are short, they encapsulate Schneider’s definition. Now Normal People also exists as a series on Hulu. I thought it was a rare, excellent adaptation that felt as rich as the book. But, please read the book first!

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. 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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