Student Feature: Margaret Dickinson


By Margaret Dickinson ’17

Summer research is one of the main reasons I decided to come to Hope way back when I was a senior in high school. The opportunity to work within my field of interest seemed like the perfect way for me to determine if I could see myself doing that work for the rest of my life. So, I came to Hope, declared a physics major the second semester of my freshman year, and proceeded to do two years of summer research within the physics department.

Now, you are probably wondering why I’m writing for the History Department’s blog if I worked in the physics department. Well, through those two summers of work, I discovered that life as a physics researcher became less and less appealing to me. So there I was, a first semester junior studying abroad in London who had no clue what she wanted to do with her life. And that’s when I discovered my love of all things history. Through the courses I took in London, I found that I loved the type of reading and writing that are done in history courses and I wanted to do more of that kind of work when I got back home.

My first day back on campus at Hope last spring, I changed majors, advisors, and my entire class schedule. I went from having classes mostly in physics and other sciences to a schedule composed of only history classes. Throughout the semester, I found myself enjoying the work even more than before, and I began to actively pursue my interest in attending graduate school for history. So, when I was given the opportunity to do summer research within the history department, I was delighted.

This summer I worked with a group on a project for Dr. Janes. She is currently on sabbatical writing a book about the modern history of global food. For our work, we helped her build up a library of sources and began some initial research on specific foods she is planning on highlighting within her book. I got to study the history of curry and its relations to modern imperialism particularly relating to Britain and India (side note: I am interested in studying modern British political history so this was right up my alley). As a group, we also got to spend time working in the culinary archives at the University of Michigan.

This round of summer research was a very positive experience for me. Getting to spend time in the U of M archives really allowed me to better understand how in-depth history research is performed. By this point in time, I’ve realized that the more time I spend reading and writing history, the more I love it.

If anyone reading this is considering doing summer research, I would like to highly recommend that you do it. It’s clearly played a very important role in my story so far, and I have gained a lot of clarity by actually engaging in work within my fields of study. Even if you don’t plan on attending graduate school, the analytical thinking abilities and research skills that you develop through this kind of work are easily marketable in almost any field. Most importantly, the relationships that you build by working closely with faculty members is very rewarding and has certainly impacted my intellectual growth through my time at Hope.

Why I Study What I Study

Welcome, New History Professor, Wayne Tan!

wayne tan

By Professor Wayne Tan

Here I am sitting in the comfort of my office, the newest faculty member in the awesome History Department! As I’m writing this blog post, I can’t help but reflect on the one thing that I sometimes take for granted: my journey to work. I mean it in the physical sense of getting to the workplace. My office, as you might well know, is located on the 3rd floor of Lubbers Hall. On the many days when I am brimming with energy, I race up the 4 big flights of stairs to the 3rd floor without much effort. But, I can remember just as many days when I wouldn’t lift up my leaden feet and would consciously choose the convenience of a ride in the elevator.

I realize, however, that this flexibility of choice is a privilege. And, indeed, it is an immense one. How would I, if in a wheelchair-bound state, have reacted to the predicament when the elevator broke down (on the several occasions when it actually did)? What if my vision failed me someday, and I couldn’t find my way upstairs, past the heavy nondescript doors and down the hallways? Or, what if I was so seized by a paralyzing fear of heights or falling that I couldn’t venture beyond the first step? These questions seem to have a hypothetical ring to them—the imponderable what-ifs in life. Yet they are real issues to those among us who labor under the value-laden label of disability—physical, sensory, mental, and intellectual disabilities. In fact, these individuals, whom we are quick to call disabled, have populated the pages of history, at times fading out of the collective historical consciousness. As a corrective to the general linear narrative of progress, I have made them the subjects of my own research in disability studies, my field of interest and specialty.

You might ask, “Why should disability matter at all?” I’d like to invite you to join me in exploring this question in my new course “Disability and Medicine in Global History” in Spring 2017. My short answer: disability matters to us because it is about difference—being different, celebrating difference, and using difference as the starting point of our introspective frames of mind. Modern times have much to teach us. But so does our distant past. One guiding philosophy comes from 11th-century Chinese Neo-Confucian thought. Virtue, it is said, comes from knowing how to examine the things that are close at hand. No project is too daunting or ambitious, if we set our sights on the stuff of everyday life—our routines, activities, and encounters, however ordinary they may seem.


HIST 295: Disability and Medicine in Global History
MWF   1PM-1:50PM       (Spring 2017)

This is what History is all about, as well: an attitude toward learning. I am heartened by what I know, but even more encouraged to seek gems in the lessons I had not known. How much more joy I would reap if I should begin learning, not through any express recourse, but instead, one step at a time! Step by step, flight by flight, and level by level. Patiently, mindfully, and purposefully. That journey, in my view, is also a privilege.

Student Feature: Colin O’Connor

By Colin O’Connor


I came to Hope College to study history. As a freshman, I took a survey course in ancient history and learned how to write a paper as a history student in the history workshop. When I was signing up for my sophomore fall classes, I had the chance to take a course on the history of the modern Middle East with Professor Gibbs. I decided to take the course because I had not ever formally studied the Middle East and with the current news headlines of the day, I figured that knowing the history of the area would aid in my understanding of the conflict. After learning the history of the Middle East, I saw the course list for Spring 2016, and on it was a chance to put my knowledge to use in. I signed up for Hope’s Model Arab League class with Professor Awad knowing only that I would get to go to some sort of conference with the class, at some point in time. The class only met once a week on Tuesday nights and only took up a half semester, but it was a great time! In the class, we looked at the Middle East, and especially the country we would be representing in the conference, Lebanon. For most of the class time, we looked at the cultural, political, and general history of Lebanon and the greater Middle East. In class, we also took the time to practice the methods and procedures of the Model Arab League itself.  That meant going over the dialogues, line by line, that every country would have to go through to exercise motions and introduce resolutions to fellow delegations.

The day of the conference my fellow delegates and I headed out to Grand Rapids where the conference was to be held. When we arrived, we took our seat and were treated to one speaker attempt to defend Wahhabi Islam (the religion of Saudi Arabia), and another speaker discussed the details of the conference and the benefits Model Arab League provides to students. Over the course of three days, there were several planetary sessions, in which the different delegations discussed various matters pertaining to the different committees we were placed on. It was an awesome chance to put my historical knowledge to the test. I was able to defend Lebanon from other nefarious Gulf Coast countries that did not have our interests at heart. In doing so I received a distinguished delegate award from the conference from my efforts. The entire weekend was a blast at the Model Arab League, but it would not have been without the knowledge I gained from studying the Middle East.