Alumni Feature: Tara Tappert, Ph.D.

tappert-taraTara Tappert ‘73 may have graduated from Hope over 40 years ago, but her enthusiasm for learning and teaching hasn’t waned.

I am continually making and re-making the focus and direction of my career—teacher, writer, curator, editor, events planner, and advocate.

After getting her undergraduate degree in History, Dr. Tappert received an M.S.L.S. in Library and Archives Administration from Wayne State University before going on to earn her Ph.D. in American Civilization from George Washington University.

For the past six years, Dr. Tappert’s main research has been on the arts and the military in the U.S. She is particularly interested in how the arts were used for rehabilitation and vocational training during and after the First World War; how arts and crafts continued to play a role in soldier well-being and efficacy during and after the Second World War; and how art making positively impacts military service members and families today.

tappert-arts-and-militaryDr. Tappert has launched a grassroots initiative called The Arts & The Military, a program which offers learning experiences, community-based arts making workshops, and provides access to a collection of contemporary artwork available for exhibitions. The ART-ifacts collection offers “nearly 300 objects made by contemporary veterans, military family members, and civilians interested in issues of war, violence, and trauma.”

At the core of my work is an interest in the cultural role of art making as a way to deal with war trauma and violence.

IMG_1051_2.JPG_croppedIn 2014, Dr. Tappert was the David B. Larson Fellow for Health and Spirituality at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, where she continued her research on arts and crafts making as a creative response to war trauma. At the end of her fellowship year she presented an illustrated lecture—Art from War: Documenting Devastation/Realizing Restoration.

During the summer of 2014 Dr. Tappert participated in an National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute, World War I and the Arts: Sound, Vision, Psyche, at the University of Cincinnati.  And this summer, she will be participating in another NEH Summer Institute on Veterans in Society, at Virginia Tech.wwi-psyche


Internships with Dr. Tappert are available for current students. Check in with the Career Development Center to set up a meeting to discuss opportunities or contact the History Department chair, Jeanne Petit.

Student Feature: Rebecca Fox

By Rebecca Fox

Me in front of Dolbadarn Castle.

I knew that I wanted to study abroad almost as soon as I came to Hope.  I even knew exactly where I wanted to study: Wales.  Since I love Welsh literature and history, I longed to explore the breathtaking Welsh mountains, to see where my favorite stories took place, and to finally be able to practice my novice Welsh!

There was one hitch in my plan:  Hope doesn’t have any study abroad programs in Wales.

Dr. Baer, my advisor for my history major, encouraged me throughout the process of tracking down and applying for a suitable program, and even helped me in my research.

For several months we weighed options together to find the best program for my interests. I was so glad to have a guide, especially since I was nervous about courses that would meet my goals and also transfer well back to Hope.

Downtown Bangor.

Finally, we set on a semester-long program in the city of Bangor—a college town on the coast of Northern Wales which was nestled in a valley between the high peaks of Snowdonia and the Isle of Angelsey.

You know, Wales–pretty much Middle-earth.

At Prifysgol Bangor (Bangor University), I took courses in Welsh language and history, medieval literature and Celtic and Anglo-Saxon archeology, all of which transferred seamlessly back to Hope.

While most of the classes I took were in familiar fields, I had never taken an archeology course before.  Hope doesn’t offer any courses in this area, but Prifysgol Bangor considers archeology to be a sub-field of historical studies.

At first I felt very much out of my depth, but I quickly fell in love with British medieval art.  The knowledge of British literature and history that I had acquired at Hope had primed me to deeply appreciate the intricate artistry of the Celts and Saxons.  The highlight, though, was certainly traveling to see several 1,000-year-old carved stone crosses in various fields and village squares.

A cuddly wild pony near the waterfall at Abergwyngregyn.

I spent four-and-a-half months studying Anglo-Saxon reliquaries, sculptures and jewelry—at least, when I wasn’t hiking in the mountains, visiting crumbling castles, burying myself in the university’s wood-paneled library, drinking tea in cozy pubs on rainy evenings or hunting down a few of Merlin’s legendary haunts.

I’m so grateful for the students who welcomed me into the Bangor Christian Union.

It wasn’t all fun and games, though. I’m not really the poster child for studying abroad.  I don’t have wander lust or anything like that–I’m a home-body who loves to build community.  I also had a really great boyfriend, roommate, church, and academic community back at Hope College.  Despite the hospitality and kindness of people I met in Bangor, leaving home was really hard for me, and I had lots of tear-filled Skype sessions and times of loneliness and frustration while I was abroad.

However, it was absolutely worth it.

I learned that travel is not just for the “free spirits” among us, but is also for anyone who has a deep longing to learn.

Hope’s History department offers a variety of classes and offers an excellent education, but it can’t cover everything. That is why I’d encourage anyone with a specific academic passion to take advantage of the opportunity that they have here; rarely will you find so much support for whatever you want to achieve. In fact, I’d say that the best thing about Hope’s History department that its faculty go above and beyond in helping students pursue their individual goals—whether on campus or abroad.

Faculty Feature: Albert Bell

By Al Bell

I guess it’s appropriate that I should be the first faculty member to introduce myself since I’m the senior member of the department, both in age and in terms of service. I came to Hope in 1978. I’ve had the children of some of my first students in my classes.

If someone had asked me in 1978 to list five states where I would like to live, Michigan would not have appeared on that list. But I have enjoyed living in Holland and being part of the Hope community. Three of my children and both of my grandchildren live in Michigan. I have lost one daughter to California (she hates cold weather).

History has always been interesting to me for two reasons: 1) People’s lives in other times and other cultures have an intrinsic fascination. I want to understand why they do/did things the way they do/did. 2) Everything that happens in our world today is the result of what has happened in the past. Understanding the past gives us a fuller understanding of what we’re seeing and hearing in the news today.

Everything that happens in our world today is the result of what has happened in the past.

The first page of our website says that “historians are society’s storytellers.” I’ve taken that more literally than most people and have written several mystery novels set in ancient Rome. I use a real person, Pliny the Younger, as the detective in the novels. Pliny wrote a number of letters which show him as an inquisitive, skeptical person—just the sort to investigate crimes. His two letters on the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD are the basis of the modern study of volcanoes. The books are based on research I’ve done throughout my entire academic career. Reviewers have said they learned a lot about life in ancient Rome while enjoying a good read.

Check out my web site.

Hope History in the News

Inventing America, Episode 1 (“Making a Nation”), a “live” interview with four of the nation’s Founding Fathers filmed before a live audience at Hope College in December 2014 will be featured on PBS stations around the country this July 4th. “Making a Nation” highlights the origins of the Declaration of Independence.  If your local PBS station does not carry it the program is available online.

Professional actors portrayed Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and John Dickinson, while Hope History professors Marc Baer served as moderator and Fred Johnson as interviewer in a followup Q & A session.