• We expect 45 students to present historical research at this year’s symposium! That eclipses the previous record of 37, set the first time we hosted in 2016.
• We’ll be welcoming guests from eleven colleges and universities, including previous MUHS hosts University of Northwestern-St. Paul (2014, 2017), Bethany Lutheran College (2015), and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota (2018). We’ll also welcome back several schools whose students or faculty were on campus three years ago: Augsburg University, Concordia College-Moorhead, Martin Luther College, St. Olaf College, and the University of St. Thomas.
• Three departments will be making their first appearances at MUHS: our St. Paul neighbors at St. Catherine University, plus Wartburg College (Waverly, Iowa) and Dordt College (Sioux Center, IA) — the first symposium participants to come from beyond Minnesota.
• One more first… This year’s symposium will begin with a keynote speaker: Kent Whitworth, the executive director and CEO of the Minnesota Historical Society. A recent guest in our Intro to History class, Kent will share remarks and answer questions about the future of public history and the History Relevance campaign.
If any other Bethel students, faculty, or alumni are interested in attending the symposium, there’s no registration fee. Just get in touch with me to help us get a final head count.
Today we conclude our roundtable discussion with History alumni-turned-attorneys Wade Adamson ’09, Gina Schulz ’07, and Aaron Thom ’08. In part one they recalled how they decided to study law. Today: applying to law school, and how Aaron, Gina, and Wade got where they are in their careers.
What advice would you give students who are considering applying to law school? What should they be considering as they discern if that’s the right path for them?
Wade Adamson (J.D., William Mitchell, 2013): First of all, you should know that it is a huge financial decision to make. Not only do you have any student debt from undergrad that you might be carrying, but you will likely also incur more (sometimes significantly more) debt to finance your time in law school. That, coupled with the fact that you are foregoing three years of income during your time in law school, means that you will likely graduate from law school in a significantly worse financial position than you otherwise would be if you did not go to law school, and significantly behind your peers in that regard.
Gina Schulz (J.D., University of Michigan, 2014): I had plenty of classmates who went straight from undergrad to law school, but personally I don’t think that’s a good idea. Even with scholarships, law school is a huge investment and most students take on a lot of debt. I think it’s worth spending some time figuring out whether it’s something you actually want to do before you have $200k in loans to pay back.
WA: Understand that a law degree is no guarantee of a job, nor is it a guarantee of a financially lucrative job, as many people assume. You might find yourself called to a career path in public service or simply unable to compete for the more highly-compensated legal jobs based on your resume and/or work experience. In that case, the repayment of large amounts of student loan debt can significantly impact your life in the years to come.
GS: Take some time off and try some things and grow up a little bit. (I certainly needed to). If you know what kind of law you want to practice, find something to do in a related field. I wanted to do public-interest law, and it helped my application that I served for a year with AmeriCorps. But I also spent two years waiting tables full time, and I don’t regret that at all. (As it turns out, the skills required in some areas of legal practice are surprisingly similar to those you develop in a busy restaurant.)
Aaron Thom (J.D., University of Minnesota, 2011): Decide whether you like dealing with conflict and competition. Particularly in litigation, conflict is constant and inevitable—on all fronts. There’s conflict between lawyers vying for the same client, conflict between associates competing for a partner’s approval, attorney-client conflict regarding strategy and resolution of difficult issues, conflict between attorneys on opposing sides of a dispute. The stress of an attorney’s job is well recognized. What isn’t so clear—at least it wasn’t to me—was how much, and how many different manifestations of, tension exists.
WA: You should make sure you know what being a lawyer actually means. Find attorneys to connect with and talk to them about their jobs to get a better sense of what the day-to-day life of an attorney is like. Given the huge investment in time and money necessary to complete law school, you should be as certain as you can be that it is the right career path for you. If your idea of the life of an attorney is based on TV and movies, that is a sign that you have not done much research or investigation into what your future will be.
GS: To the extent that you can, talk to lawyers in different fields to figure out what their lives look like. Lawyers get requests to have coffee and talk about their careers all the time, and most of them are happy to do it. I didn’t have any connections to lawyers when I was applying, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. If that’s your situation, feel free to reach out to me and I can find you some people to talk to.
If they do decide to go to law school, what can they do to strengthen their application?
WA: Law school applications are similar to undergrad applications in that the schools say there is a “full-picture” approach to admissions and that every application is evaluated in its entirety, including work experience, personal essays, etc. However, you should know that absent some sort of extraordinary feature to your application, it will likely come down to two numbers: undergraduate GPA and LSAT score.
GS: Law school admissions are more straightforward than other graduate programs. You can generally predict where you will get in by looking at the median GPA and LSAT of the schools you’re applying to (although I think this is starting to change). It’s not fun advice, but one of the best things you can do is keep up your GPA and study hard for the LSAT. (Hope is certainly not lost if your numbers aren’t strong, but it’s worth working hard to do the best you can.)
WA: The best thing you can do right now for your law school application is perform well in undergrad and earn the highest GPA you can. Bethel is a great school, but you are not attending Harvard or Stanford or some other Ivy League school where a less-than-stellar GPA may be overlooked. You should be ensuring your GPA is an accurate reflection of your intelligence and ability as a student. Once you are ready to start thinking about applying for law school, you should obtain LSAT prep books to prepare for the LSAT and attempt to earn the highest score possible. This will likely involve many, many hours of preparation to familiarize yourself with the LSAT and perform practice exams.
AT: I think if a student wants to set him/herself apart from the pack, he/she’ll choose an area in which to specialize (like science, to use the example I mentioned yesterday) during college rather than waiting until law school to start shaping his/her future career. Law is such a diverse field. The study and practice of law itself does not determine a lawyer’s focus or direction. The lawyer needs to choose what she or he wants to do — and it’s best to start making these decisions as early as possible to avoid merely drifting into a legal field that is not of interest to the student. Lawyers who lack passion are soon to be not lawyers anymore.
Tell us a bit about your path from law school to your current job.
AT: I went from law school to the firm Robins Kaplan. It was exhausting and trying, but I loved it. I received amazing experience from day 1 — literally. I then did a short stint at Madel before starting my own firm with my colleague, and favorite lawyer in the world, Sam Ellingson.
WA: My decision to go to law school was impacted by the economic situation in the United States at the time. I graduated in December 2008, which was in the heart of the Great Recession. Jobs were hard to come by at a time when the country was losing hundreds of thousands of jobs per month. My plan was to attend law school with the idea that by the time I graduated three years later the economy would have rebounded. Unfortunately, I was not the only person with that plan in mind. The year I entered law school, 2010, was the highest year of enrollment in the history of the United States. That meant a lot of competition amongst students, as law school courses are graded on a curve and there were more students to compete against.
GS: It took me awhile to figure out where I belonged in the legal profession, in part because I went to law school without any idea of what that meant.
WA: During law school I thought I wanted to be a litigator and pursued opportunities to be in the courthouse as much as possible. I was a judicial intern for a federal district judge in Minneapolis the summer after my 1L year, an intern at a county attorney’s office the summer after my 2L year, and an intern for a federal magistrate judge while also studying for the bar exam the summer after I graduated. Once I passed the bar exam I took a job as a judicial law clerk for a judge in Anoka County. I felt incredibly fortunate to have that job given the huge numbers of law students entering the job market at that time coupled with the fact that legal hiring was still far below the pre-recession levels. At the same time, I knew I did not want to be a litigator. After a few months of work, I began to think about what my next job would be. I had given the judge I worked for a commitment that I would stay for at least one year, so I still had about 8 months to go on that commitment, but I knew I had to start working hard to set myself up for a good opportunity come that time.
GS: Soon after graduating, though, I clerked for a judge on the Minnesota Court of Appeals, where I saw the appellate public defenders practice. Even though I had no background in criminal law, I finally saw a job that looked right for me: representing indigent clients in criminal appeals. After a couple of years in other (great but not quite perfect) positions, I got the job.
WA: I spent nearly a year networking and meeting as many transactional attorneys as I could before and after work for breakfasts, coffees, and/or happy hours. Through those efforts I met two attorneys at Gray Plant Mooty, and eventually they had an opening for an associate attorney that I interviewed for and was hired. I worked there from August 2015 through this past February, when I started a new position as an associate attorney for the new Minneapolis office of a large, national firm called Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr.
What’s most enjoyable and most challenging about your work?
WA: My practice has been focused on transactional commercial real estate work since I began in private practice in 2015. I really enjoy helping my clients accomplish their business goals and playing a key role in the success of their companies. I enjoy being a transactional attorney because my role is to help make deals happen, which are beneficial to my clients. The completion of any project is usually a time of celebration for the client, which I also enjoy being a part of.
GS: It’s truly my dream job, and I feel lucky every day that I get paid for doing what I love. The caseload can be stressful, the stakes are generally pretty high, and I make way less money than I would at a firm. But, in the end, I read and write and think for a living, and I get to do that on behalf of clients I like and a cause that I believe in. It’s pretty great.
WA: The most challenging part of my job is how stressful and demanding it is. There can be tight deadlines, long days/nights at the office, working on the weekends, etc. The job of an associate attorney at a large law firm is certainly not a 9-5 job, and in an era of constant connectivity, I can’t really ever “disconnect” from the office, which can be taxing.
AT: I enjoy the work I’m currently doing more than anything I’ve ever done before. We choose what cases to take, and how we litigate them. Our practice is what we make it. Of course, that can be stressful. But it’s more exhilarating than anything.
What’s your favorite memory as a History major at Bethel?
Wade Adamson: Probably my Senior Seminar course. While it was a huge time commitment and stressful, it was also very enjoyable to be able to complete such a large project and came with a sense of accomplishment when I had completed it.
Aaron Thom: I have a lot of great memories as a History major: writing a Senior Seminar paper with guidance and inspiration from Dr. Gehrz, whose passion for history is second to none… presenting my Senior Sem project for the class—I hadn’t realized until I started talking out loud about it how genuinely excited I was about the subject matter… Dr. Kooistra’s method of teaching history by exposing students to literature/art/film reflective of the time period in question… Ruben Rivera’s contagious love for the cultures and countries and history of Latin America… History department pizza parties…
Gina Schulz: I spent a semester at Oxford and — as corny as this sounds — it was really life-changing. The classes were one-on-one, and I had to write a research paper every week and read it out loud to the professor who challenged every claim. It was terrifying but/and made me into a much better thinker and writer.
AT: …G.W. Carlson’s spontaneous stories in lieu of discussions about the textbook readings he’d assigned…
WA: I also really enjoyed working as a TA for the late G.W. Carlson for most of time at Bethel.
GS: I generally have very pleasant memories of my time in the history department! I loved the classes and the professors, and I feel really grateful for the small class sizes and individual attention, especially toward the end when I needed a lot of guidance in preparing for life after graduation.
At what point did you decide to go to law school? Did you think of yourself as a pre-law student while you were at Bethel?
AT: I decided to go to law school before I started college — when I was a high-school mock-trialer. I didn’t consider myself a pre-law student while at Bethel. I just took each class for what it was. But some of my classes—such as American Constitutional History—were law-focused.
WA: I never considered myself “pre-law” at Bethel. All throughout undergrad, I had assumed I would end up in education, either as a K-12 teacher, like both my parents, or, once I realized that was not for me, as a history professor at a college or university somewhere. It wasn’t until I had decided against those options, and was working a job I did not particularly like, that I decided to go to law school.
GS: Did I think of myself as pre-law at Bethel? Not at all! I didn’t even consider law school until I was three years out and had no idea what to do with my life. I registered for the LSAT on a whim, and the rest just kind of happened. I do not recommend this approach.
WA: I decided to go to law school after I had graduated from Bethel and was working for a company down in Eagan, where I worked for a year and a half after graduating a semester early from Bethel. I had always kept the idea of law school in the back of my mind, but it was not my first choice of career when I entered undergrad at Bethel.
AT: Because law has such a rich history, I think it would make sense for Bethel to offer something like a “pre-law” package—even if this is just a recommended group of classes as opposed to something formal that results in a degree or title. [At Bethel Pre-Law isn’t a major, but faculty advising plus recommended courses.] This package could also include philosophy classes because philosophy and law also have an interesting relationship — scholars like William Blackstone, Carl Llewellyn, H.L.A. Hart, Ronald Dworkin, and others could be studied. It could also include an economics class emphasizing law and economics (e.g., Friedman, Coase, and Richard Posner) and anti-trust theories.
AT: I also think it’s important, however, for law students to have an area of focus beyond just “pre-law.” This will help shape the lawyer’s future. For example, if a student has a good mind for science and wants to be a lawyer, she or he should study chemistry, biology, etc., and potentially be a patent attorney.
Traditionally, History has been a popular college major for future law students. Did you feel like your History major at Bethel prepared you well for law school?
GS: I do think my History major prepared me well for law school. Law isn’t static and it doesn’t develop in a vacuum, so understanding historical context is extremely valuable. The practical research and analytical tools you gain studying history are also very transferable.
WA: I was a History major with minors in Political Science and Spanish. I think in many ways my undergraduate education did prepare me well for law school. A History major develops, or at least should develop, an ability to read and synthesize large amounts of information from reading long and occasionally dense material, which is what you will be doing a lot of in law school. It is also a major that involves discussion and consideration of political ideologies and debates throughout history, which informs a person’s understanding of the role of government and the law in the daily lives of a nation’s citizens. These concepts are foundational to the study of the law.
AT: The critical thinking skills, ability to think logically and linearly, and practice in advancing arguments have all been helpful to me. But I have difficulty disaggregating my history, English lit, and philosophy combined educational experience, so I can’t say much more about how history helped me in particular.
Is there anything you wish you would have done differently to prepare for law school?
GS: In hindsight, I wish I would have taken at least one class on American constitutional history and at least one Political Science course. I went to law school with only the foggiest idea of what the Constitution was and how the government works (sad, but true), and those are pretty foundational concepts. Also, I wish I would have taken Spanish!
WA: Law school is also a unique educational environment that involves studying, reading, and writing in an entirely novel way. In that respect, there is no real preparation for law school. No other field of study or undergraduate major will teach someone legal writing, or how to brief a case, or how to perform issue-spotting for law school exams. In that respect, I do not think I would have done anything differently in my undergraduate studies to prepare myself for law school.
Tomorrow: applying to law school and finding a job.
Join us Thursday, April 4th for Alumni Trivia Night 2019!
Yes, it’s a night of pub trivia with the departments of History, Political Science and Philosophy. Co-sponsored by Bethel’s Office of Alumni Relations, there will be prizes, free food, and a chance to spend an hour or so testing your trivia knowledge with faculty, alumni, and current students. We’ll start around 5pm at The Exchange Food & Drink in New Brighton, just off the County Road E2 exit from I-35W.
History students and alumni might be interested in two faculty talks coming up in the Bethel University Library’s Prime Time series:
• For American history and politics buffs… This Thursday morning (3/7, 11:15am) Political Science professor Mitchell Krumm will examine how Federalists and Anti-Federalists used the ideas of the French philosopher Montesquieu to articulate “dramatically different conceptions of liberty.” Dr. Krumm is teaching our cross-listed American Constitutional History course this spring.
• Then on the other side of Spring Break, our own Profs. Sam Mulberry and Chris Gehrz will talk about the importance of professors using blogs, podcasts, and other media to “‘think in public’ about teaching, scholarship, and the integration of faith and learning” (Tu 3/26, 11:15am).
Historically, about half of the History majors and minors at Bethel choose that path in their second year or later. So we want to echo the words of Bethel student Katie Johnson, who wrote an open letter this week to incoming students who feel pressured to declare a major as soon as possible:
Some people emerge from the womb and know they want to be doctors. Or writers. Or computer engineers. Or vigilantes who clean up the streets without permission of the law. Who knows. However, if you aren’t one of those people, feel free to envy their easy choices, but don’t be too hard on yourself. You have time to choose your major, even after you move into your new and shiny school and survive welcome week….
You will not be bound forever by your choices regarding your major. Or school. Or your friends even. You may even surprise yourself as you discover what you’re good at or most invested in. And that’s exciting.
In fact, Bethel has officially replaced “Undecided” as an alternative to particular majors with the “Exploratory” category, which better captures the spirit of the first year of college. Developmentally, it’s a time that’s meant to encourage self-discovery as you encounter diverse people, perspectives, and opportunities and learn to listen for God’s call on your life.
Katie, who ended up choosing an English major, adds that entering Bethel as an Exploratory major is especially well suited to our liberal arts curriculum. Rather than viewing every course choice as a zero-sum set of options leading to narrow professional pathways, you’re liberated to enjoy studying everything from the natural sciences and fine arts to Western civ courses like Christianity and Western Culture and Western Humanity in Christian Perspective and gen ed surveys like American Civilization and History of Islam.
Read Katie’s full post here. And watch this short video, featuring students who came to Bethel not knowing their major.
Bethel cancelled classes this afternoon, which deprived my Roman Civ students of my lecture on the Carthaginian general Hannibal’s daring journey over the Alps in 218 BCE. But the snow day gave me the opportunity to watch Frozen with my daughters, and think other snowy thoughts. Did you know the Alps also have snow? Things got a little out of control and I ended up making a 3D annotated map of Hannibal’s voyage.
I’ll share my work with my Roman Civ students on Friday. I’ll also break down the process and assign my Digital Humanities students the task of making their own map later this semester. For now, take a look at the final version on Sketchfab.
Joni Mitchell has a song called “A Case of You” in which she muses about the influence of another on her writing: “Part of you pours out of me/ In these lines from time to time.” We’ve just had our second meeting in Senior Seminar, and part of the class consisted of conferences with students about potential topics. As I met with them, I kept thinking about Joni Mitchell because I could see the influences of other history professors not only in their topics, but also in the ways that they talked about history–how they see the past, what kinds of sources they want to use, and later (when we came together as a class) their views about intersections of faith and the discipline. Really, this is a team-taught course. And I am thankful for all the ways my colleagues will pour out of these students in their lines, from time to time. (And thanks, specifically, to Dr. Gehrz for his editing on this post and for the links!)
Collin Barrett (History/Pre-Med): Masculinity in Medieval Clergy
I’m seeking to understand how medieval clergy defined masculinity and if that definition was distinct from the rest of their society. How did clergy understand masculinity, for example, in the context of their participation in the “bride” of Jesus Christ? Did their definitions of masculinity have an impact beyond the medieval world?
Justin Brecheisen (History/Business): The John Williams Gunnison Massacre
In 1853, the Pahvant Utes in Utah ambushed and massacred an expedition led by U.S. Army Captain John Williams Gunnison. According to rumors, Mormon authorities—a group with whom Gunnison had interacted and written about—instigated the massacre. I am interested in exploring how this massacre reflects the relationship among the United States government, the Mormon authorities, and the Utes.
Phia Carlson (History): U.S. Reception to the Romanov Executions
The Romanov Dynasty was the final imperial family to rule over Russia. Myths and legends swirl regarding the final days of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, and I am interested in what contributed to the family becoming the subject of much fantastical speculation. What, for example, did the newspapers like the New York Times have to say about the family’s final days?
Caitlan Hart (History/Elementary Education): Women’s Roles in Classical Sparta and Athens
Although women were second-class citizens in both classical Athens and Sparta, there are distinctions in how the women lived in these two places. I am interested in how these roles and views on women varied based upon whether they lived. What factors contributed to these differences?
Kyle Kilgore (History): Racial Justice and the NFL
As an athlete, I have experienced first-hand how sports has the ability to draw people together. Yet, as the recent protests by players in the National Football League have highlighted, sports can also provide an important venue to express a desire to see greater racial justice. What is the history of race in the NFL?
Los Angeles Rams running back Kenny Washington, the first African American player in the post-World War II era – Wikimedia
Ida B. Wells’ 1892 pamphlet on lynching – Wikimedia
Zach Meinerts (History/Political Science): Lynching in the Post-Reconstruction South
Potentially using the debates in the Congressional Record in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century over the implementation of a federal anti-lynching law, this project would delve into history of lynching in the United States. If possible, the paper would explore both the sexual and religious connotations of lynching during this period.
Nelson Menjivar Lopez (History): El Salvador’s Civil War
The Salvadoran Civil War lasted for over a decade. Murders, abductions, and U.S. involvement in the conflict tore the country apart. While some fled the war for the United States, others remained in the country to witness the brutality on both sides. Using interviews with family and friends who were directly involved in the war, my project will show that the ramifications of this conflict can still be seen in both politics and daily life.
Logan Olson (History/Political Science): Native American Involvement in the U. S. Civil War
Although much historical attention has focused on the key battles and key figures in the U.S. Civil War, the story of Native American involvement can get left out. My research examines the role of Native Americans in this conflict and how their involvement impacted their relationship with the U.S. government in the post-war period.
Haley Shearer (Art History): Dime Museums and Vaudeville
Dime museums, often part of traveling vaudeville acts, tended to be popular forms of entertainment for working-class people in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One of the ways these museums differentiated themselves from “institutionalized museums” tended to be in their efforts to both educate and entertain the masses. In addition to P. T. Barnum, who were the people associated with these museums? What kind of “education” was “entertaining” to the masses and why?
Luke Sherry (History/Pre-Med): Logging in Northern Wisconsin
The history of logging encompasses several possible questions. What was life like for an average lumberjack? How did logging change the ecology of both the northern woods? What was the environmental impact more generally? How did the exit of the logging camps and companies affect local communities? The digital collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society, which include twenty volumes of material of memoirs, records, journals, and explorer’s narratives, will help dictate the direction of my research.
Historians such as Ruth Karras and David Halperin have written extensively about the sexual culture prevailing among Greek men during the classical period. One aspect of that culture was pederasty. My project will focus on this practice and whether the Greeks were the first people not only to condone it but to integrate it into their culture.
Andrew Zwart (History/Biokinetics): Nikita Khrushchev and the Deescalation of Soviet Tension with the West
Following the death of Josef Stalin, there was a 30-year period before Mikhail Gorbachev came to power. During that period, Nikita Khrushchev made some critical changes that allowed the Soviet Union to transition from Stalin’s iron fist to Gorbachev’s de-escalation of tensions with the West. I plan to look at Khrushchev how accomplished this transition without losing the complete support of the Soviet people.
Ever since CWC: The Radio Show debuted in the summer of 2006, AC 2nd has been a hub for podcasting at Bethel. History and Political Science faculty collaborate on several current podcasts, including:
• Election Shock Therapy: Political scientists Chris Moore, Andy Bramsen, and Mitchell Krumm analyze current events in American and international politics — and sometimes the politics of fictional worlds like Middle Earth and the Star Wars universe.
• Amy Makes Us Try Stuff: On hiatus for the moment, as Prof. Poppinga enjoys her sabbatical, this podcast is exactly what the title says — she tasks Profs. Moore and Mulberry with trying TV shows, restaurants, etc., then they report back on the experience.
• Live from AC2nd: An occasional series of roundtable discussions featuring Profs. Mulberry, Moore, Poppinga, and other Bethel professors, the most recent episode had psychologist Sherryse Corrow, physicist Nathan Lindquist, and economist Tim Essenburg talking about beauty.
You can find all these podcasts on the Live from AC2nd network, which can be found at Podbean, iTunes, and Facebook. The network’s new Facebook page also includes links that follow up on or preview new episodes.
Earlier this week at The Anxious Bench, I mentioned five books that I’m planning to read for Black History Month: biographies of Frederick Douglass and Jackie Robinson, plus a study of Catholic civil rights activism in Chicago, an analysis of the impact of the black church on the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Jemar Tisby’s widely-acclaimed history of Christian complicity in racism.
But I’m no expert, so I appreciate that Dr. Kooistra (here atAC 2nd) and Dr. Magnuson (at our Facebook page) have also shared resources related to African American history. And today, I’m happy to welcome back our colleague Ruben Rivera, Bethel’s chief diversity officer and the instructor of our Minorities in America class, who recommended three more books to read this month.
There are numerous books about the African American experience in a racialized USA. What I like about Rankine’s is that, with the exception of a few pieces in it, the highly personal experiences are conveyed in the form of vivid short prose poems. I have often been asked what microaggressions are. Still others believe the term was invented by liberals. Read Rankin’s book and you’ll know what microaggressions are and that they are very real.
The Hate U Give is a young adult novel that has been adapted for a major motion picture by the same name. It deals with ripped-from-headlines issues: racial profiling; policing in communities of color; and most explosively, the killing of unarmed black men by white officers.
This book comes in the form of a letter to his son Samori in the context of the need to make sense of recent killings of black men by police. Very well written, thoughtful, moving, and certain to stimulate questions about what it means to live in a black body in America.