By Jeanne Petit
As a new chair of the Department of History, I feel that I am standing on the shoulders of giants. I have worked under three fabulous chairs during my time at Hope College: Dr. Albert Bell; Dr. Janis Gibbs; and Dr. Marc Baer. Their leadership elevated our department in many areas, particularly the expansion of student/faculty research collaboration, the globalization of our curriculum and the consideration of the relationship between teaching, scholarship and faith. All of these chairs have participated in creating a strong historical community at Hope College, and I look forward to building on their achievements.
I wanted to convey some of the priorities we have as a department over the next few years. One of our main goals is to be more intentional in helping our students think through their vocations, both as history students and in their lives beyond Hope College. We have always talked with students about how the skills of a historian—critical reading, clear writing, and thorough research—are building blocks for a wide variety of careers. We are working on ways to have our students do more intentional reflection, both in the classroom and out, on the ways their historical training relates to their calling in life. Moreover, we want to help students find more opportunities to explore their calling through internships, job shadows, and independent research projects.
At the same time, we want our students to see the study of history as valuable beyond building a career. Historical thinking involves understanding the complexity of change over time as well as the importance of understanding multiple points of view. It makes us better citizens, community members and people of faith. During these stressful times, we hope our majors can bring much-needed historical perspective to understanding the challenges of our nation and world.
I hope you will read our blog over the next year and see the wide variety of experiences and ideas in which our faculty, students, and alumni are engaged. I would also like to put out an invitation to our alumni. If you have insights about the value of your history major or minor that you would like to share, please contact me. We would love to have you write a blog post for us.