Spring Stories 2020: Chapter 2

The spring semester of 2020 has not worked out the way any of us expected it to, or hoped it would. Since Hope College announced, on March 10, that we would be moving to on-line education after Spring Break, we have all been on unfamiliar pathways. We are figuring out how to manage, one day at a time. As historians, we also know that we are living through historic changes. Future historians will study this period, and write about it, and help us understand it, with the benefit of perspective that we can’t have right now.

If you would like to contribute, please send your contribution to Professor Gibbs. There’s no deadline. We’ll keep posting at least through the first week in May, and if the community finds this project helpful, we’ll keep going over the summer.

I hope you and those you love are all well. We miss you, and we’ll look forward to hearing from you.

– Dr. Gibbs

Caleb Corell, Senior from Grand Rapids, MI

Currently I have so much time in my days to be filled, and so many different options.  Simple “amusement” is not the answer to what I should fill my days with; rather, I should fill my days with activities that help edify creation. 

I am constantly reminded of the generic dullness of what life could be like right now without interests.  By interests, I am not referring to the “interest” of watching The Office or anything that may amuse oneself.  Because, as I recently discussed in a poli sci class, amusement is the opposite of the intent of creation–it drowns time in meaningless, murky, activities. 

To amuse is a word that comes from the late 1400s in France.  It has roots in an old French word, amuser.  This word refers to a fool, hoax, make fun of, or cause to amuse.  The word amuse then means to divert attention, beguile, or delude.  Later on, when the word adapted into middle English it meant to distract from serious business.  Although this word, amuse, has changed over time, the word, bemuse, retains the original meaning of the word.

 “Muses” were, in Greek mythology, created to remind humans of the existence of beauty.  In other words, the muses’ intent was to edify creation.  Thus, the word “amuse” or “amusement” means lacking in true edification of beauty, or not in the pursuit of creating beauty.

The need for drowning time in thoughtless devotion to what is now slowly becoming a “hobby,” watching Netflix or Hulu, has engulfed society in its clutches.  One need only to stop and listen to a first date these days to realize the pervasiveness of this issue.  The fallback question while on a date is “what show are you watching right now?”

Writing this post makes me sound like I sit on a throne high above while condemning the masses, but I am no better.  After a full day, there is nothing I want more than to sit down and watch a TV show, let my mind go to mush for a couple hours.  This though, is the issue right now.  Watching Netflix or Hulu is the easy way out.  Let the mind sit, stagnant, as the cold glow of a TV screen fills one’s senses.  I give in to this impulse more than I’d like.

During this time of social quarantine, I am trying to break that habit. I have devoted myself to reading books for pleasure and not for a requirement.  Instead of waking up and watching TV, I try to spend time reading books that will “edify creation” by reminding me of my interests.  I am currently reading Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang. This book reminds me of my favorite recreation, outdoor adventure.  Abbey’s detailed descriptions of the American southwest allow me to recall my own outdoor adventures.  But more importantly, it reminds me to search after the beauty in creation and to seek the adventure that allows me to use the body that has been given to me through creation.

I do not advocate for outdoor adventure right now, but rather when we have the chance to leave our homes to seek the places that push us towards the beauty of creation.  The best time to start building good habits that will help in times of more freedom is right now.  Not when we get out of this time of quarantine. 

The point of this post is not to convince the reader to analyze political philosophy or seek outdoor adventure, but rather, to look to the places that hold true interest and edify creation.  In this, true beauty will reside and as Dostoevsky said, “beauty will save the world.”

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”

-Edward Abbey from his book Desert Solitaire

Caleb’s backpacking shoes. Hopefully they will get some use soon.

Spring Stories 2020: Chapter 1

The spring semester of 2020 has not worked out the way any of us expected it to, or hoped it would. Since Hope College announced, on March 10, that we would be moving to on-line education after Spring Break, we have all been on unfamiliar pathways. We are figuring out how to manage, one day at a time. As historians, we also know that we are living through historic changes. Future historians will study this period, and write about it, and help us understand it, with the benefit of perspective that we can’t have right now.

We can, though, think, talk, and write about our own experiences. In this blog series, “Spring Stories 2020,” the Hope College History Department has invited all of our students—majors, minors, and other students enrolled in our classes—to think about and document their experiences. We have invited students (and faculty!) to submit short essays (a paragraph or a few) or creative works about their experiences in the time of the coronavirus. We hope many—even all!—of our students will choose to participate. We’re on a winding and unfamiliar road, and we are not physically together. We can be a virtual community, though, and we hope that you will contribute your own ideas, and benefit from the contributions of others.

If you would like to contribute, please send your contribution to Professor Gibbs (gibbs@hope.edu). There’s no deadline. We’ll keep posting at least through the first week in May, and if the community finds this project helpful, we’ll keep going over the summer.

I hope you and those you love are all well. We miss you, and we’ll look forward to hearing from you.

-Dr. Gibbs

Aine O’Connor, Senior from South Bend, IN

“Almost two summers ago I wrote an article about the 1919-1920 Spanish flu in Holland for the Joint Archives. I remember being frustrated at being asked to write a whole article about an event that didn’t seem to have much of an impact on Holland. There’s no story here, I thought. And who will care?

View of Centennial Park from Aine’s Hope College Housing

Suddenly, lots of people care. Lots of people care because one hundred years ago Holland closed its churches, and its schools, and its restaurants. Hope College moved to remote learning, in this case through correspondence classes. One hundred years ago people shut down their lives for the summer, trying to stop the spread of disease. And in a wildly unexpected turn of events, one hundred years later people are doing the exact same thing.

A new generation will now stop taking things as simple as church bells for granted. Both our futures and our present-day lives have been upended, as friends move home and goodbyes that weren’t supposed to happen for another month… happen virtually? Or don’t happen at all? These times are strange and difficult and surreal and painful and isolating. But history has taught me that I cannot actually call them unprecedented, and there is an incredible comfort in that. Because when the flu in Holland finally started to go away a hundred years ago, they held a parade. Because of them, I have to hold out hope for future celebrations.”

Katy Smith, Freshman from Plymouth, IN

Quarantine Reality

by Katy Smith

Unprecedented. Crazy. Life-changing. 

Words I hear on humankind’s tongue everyday.

Flatten the curve, they urge. 

“This is history in the making,”

I try to remind myself, watching the world

from the window of my bedroom.

Talk of apocalypse and dystopia seem to become 

reality. The grim, morbid brutality 

of that sentence is not lost on me. 

Some say because we’ve watched Mother Nature

suffer for so long, staying silent and turning

our eyes away, that now it is our turn. 

Some believe this is proof that humankind

is the problem. 

I refuse to be quite that dark. 

I hear this was inevitable, it was going to happen

one day or another. 

Classmate after classmate packs up their

swimsuits and cameras to escape on a lavish

impromptu vacation, while we are stuck in unplanned

staycation in our kitchens. 

I seethe watching them, posing on the beach

only continuing to perpetrate harmful

stereotypes older generations pin on us. 

Be responsible! I want to shout.

But all I do is log off for an hour. 

“Don’t forget to turn in those essays due

this week,” I sort through emails. 

A professor gives a heartfelt speech about mental

health, during this trying time. I tuck

those words into my back pocket when 

trying to do work becomes pointless. 

Poet in Quarantine

My phone dings. 

A passive aggressive email from that same

professor about how we are not working

hard enough.

I bike down my country backroad

to escape. The truth of this monstrous matter

is we must give grace to our fellows. It is all we can give––

though if you can donate masks, please do.

Some of us are working from home

Some of us are mothering and teaching baby siblings

Some of us are unexpectedly unemployed

Some of us are sick and scared

Some of us are compromised, covering for shelter

Some of us are relapsing into another breakdown

Some of us are struggling to get out of bed

Humankind must look at the sun each day,

call a friend just to hear each other’s voices,

go for a walk and listen to the birds sing,

cry and yell and scream and punch a pillow, for God’s sake!

Make art and clean the house,

stick to a schedule or throw the schedule away for a week,

sing in the shower so loudly your throat aches,

do homework to the best of your ability and

recognize that your quality of work will not be the same

and that is okay.

Above all, humankind has to 

hold tightly to one another, even if that means virtually;

Give hope like it’s candy on Easter;

Remember today and turn the phone off about tomorrow;


Reach out to your mother, your sister, your

childhood neighbor. 

Remind one another that we are strong beyond belief.

Hope, grace, and love. It’s all we can give.

Keep sharing your stories with us and join us in this time of #KeepingHope.

Fall Into Our New Courses!

We know – the last thing you are thinking about in these cold winter months is this fall, but registration is right around the corner! Take a look below at the upcoming upper-level History classes coming this Fall 2020 semester and save your picks for when registration starts in the week of March 30th.

HIST 141-01: The Historian’s Vocations (Gibbs) – MWF 12-12:50p

Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay

Do you love history, but struggle to answer when people ask you, “What are you going to do with that history major (or minor)?” In this course, we will examine the ways the study of history can become the foundation of your larger vocations in life, whether in a career or as a civically-engaged member of your community. We will consider how the skills you will develop as a historian (reading critically, researching widely, writing effectively) provide a foundation for a variety of careers, as well as for a life of meaning and purpose. As part of this course, students will work with the Boerigter Center for Calling and Career, learn practical skills, such as how to write a resume, and develop a plan for pursuing experiential learning opportunities that will aid in vocational exploration and discernment.
This course is required for all history majors and minors who entered Hope College in the Fall of 2018 and later.
Pre-requisite: HIST 140 (can be taken in the same semester)

HIST 200-01A: The Crusades (Gibbs) – MWF 9:30-10:20a

Image by Fabio Valeggia from Pixabay 

In the late eleventh century, groups of European Christians marched on the Middle East, carrying or wearing the banner of the Cross, and crying, “God Wills It!”  The Crusades brought Europeans and Middle Eastern people together, most often in violence, but sometimes in peaceful cultural exchange. Spend seven weeks investigating the causes, the stories, and the results of the Crusades.  We will examine them from both the European and the Middle Eastern point of view. Do these long-ago wars matter in the twenty-first century, and if so, why?
Fulfills Pre-1500 OR Global Requirement

Hist 200-01B: Peace Movements in the 20th Century U.S. (Petit) – MWF 2-2:50p

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Art and Artifacts Division, The New York Public Library. (1963). Equal rights in ’63 Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/c7d26ee0-6be8-0135-43c5-4b491f56ccf2

Most history classes emphasize the impact of wars. This class will shift the focus of United States history and examine those who tried to prevent war and ensure peace. We will do a survey of peace movements that emerged during different contexts in the 20th-century United States with particular focus on the following: the Women’s Peace Party of the World War I Era, the labor movement of the 1930s, the Civil Rights Movement that emerged in the 1950s, the Vietnam-era peace  protests, and the late 20th-century anti-nuclear movement. Note: instead of a traditional research paper, students in this class will be building a research-based website. Fulfills U.S. Requirement. (Grand Challenges Initiative Pathways course) (GLD)

HIST 242: Topics in 20th Century European History (Tseng) – MWF 2-2:50p

Image by Andre Drechsel from Pixabay

This course surveys the history of twentieth-century Europe from three chronologically overlapping vantage points. These are “the age of catastrophe,” “the age of secular ideological extremes,” and “the limits of secularism.” Implied in the organization of the course is the argument that each of these vantage points in some ways epitomizes the century. The events and developments examined in this course are chosen to reflect these concerns. In addition to mastering the main events and developments that have defined the twentieth century, an important component of the course is to reflect on current events in light of the history of the past century. In other words, we as a class will learn to “think like a historian.” Fulfills European/Regional Requirement.

HIST 314: Modern Japan and Korea (Tan) – MWF 1-1:50p

Image by Sofia Terzoni from Pixabay

In the global economy, Japan and Korea are among the world’s leading nations driving economic and technological developments. Japanese and Korean brand names and icons are everywhere: Toyota, Samsung, Hello Kitty, Pokemon, and Psy’s Gangnam-style dance. In this course, we will ask these questions (and more): How did Japan become an empire? How was Korea implicated in World War II? What are the origins of the Korean War and the rise of North Korea? Why are Japan and Korea important for today’s U.S. foreign policies? This course focuses on key issues in Japanese and Korean history in the East Asian and global contexts since 1600 and explores how Japan and Korea have become the modern nations that they are today. Fulfills the Regional Requirement.

HIST 355: U.S. Foreign Policy (Johnson) – MW 3-4:50p

Image by Oliver Zühlke from Pixabay

This course traces the development of U.S. foreign policy from the 1898 Spanish-American War to the present. In this period the U.S. emerged as a great world power, assumed center stage during World War II, offset the threat of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and currently claims title to being the world’s lone superpower. Through readings, discussion, and special projects, students will examine the historical progression of America’s rise to global dominance and analyze the international challenges facing the nation as it strives to formulate an effective foreign policy in the 21st Century. 
Fulfills U.S. Requirement.

Questions about requirements? Check out the History Department website here.

International Insights: The Cultural Wealth of Japan

Hope History Major Brennan Church (Class of 2020) reflects on his trip to Japan during a 2019 May Term.

The 2019 Japan May Term Cohort

This past summer, I participated in the 2019 Japan May Term Program along with eleven other Hope students and two faculty leaders. I was very enthusiastic about exploring Japan, as this was my first time to Asia. I was anxious to see all the beautiful temples, taste the abundance of delicious food, and, of course, test out my two semesters of Japanese.

For three weeks my companions and I stayed in Tokyo where we attended classes at Meiji Gakuin University. The classes focused on various Japanese topics ranging from traditional Japanese theatre (called “Kabuki”), to the business environment in Japan, to the ninja, to Japanese pop music, and to the baking of Japanese sweets called “Wagashi.” To my delight, these classes were frequently followed by field trips to observe firsthand. My favorite excursions were to the Tokyo Sumo Championship and a professional baseball game.

Hope students with their Meiji Gakuin friends.

Meiji Gakuin was a gracious host. We were paired with several Japanese student volunteers who were more than excited to share their city with us. Most days I only had one class, which provided me with plenty of time to explore Tokyo with my new friends!

Tokyo is so technologically advanced that some parts of it feel like you’re in the next century. Motorized carts in certain restaurants bring out your sushi seconds you order. Trains are always on time, fast, and silent. No space goes unused. Shops and restaurants have taken up residence even under the street, forming an underground world of sorts. Everything is immaculately clean, and don’t even get me started on the restrooms.

In beautiful contrast to the high-tech urban scene are gorgeous traditional Shinto shrines and the frequent festivals where it’s common to see people wearing kimonos. I was shocked to learn that awe-inspiring buildings like the Tokyo Imperial Palace and Tokyo’s famous Sensoji Temple had been destroyed in WWII because the reconstructions look as if they’ve stood there for centuries.

The busy streets of Shinjuku: Tokyo’s busiest district.

While Tokyo is the most populous city in the world, getting around is surprisingly easy! There are almost always signs in English, and it’s rare not to find a subway entrance nearby. People are so orderly in Japan, too! They always keep to one side on walkways and escalators, which assisted me in the subway on days when I was in a time crunch to make it to class.

Although I knew that Japan and the U.S. had been on friendly terms since the end of the post-WWII American occupation in 1952, I had expected there to still be some bitterness toward Americans. However, the complete opposite seemed to be true based on my interactions with the Japanese. They seem to adore American culture, including its music, food and clothing brands, and sports. Many young Japanese desire to learn English, and I tried my hand at teaching a little to my newfound friends and host family.

People in Japan show great respect to all foreigners, and they are so polite! For example, when my class took the shinkansen (bullet train) to western Japan, the train staff bowed to the passengers in each car regardless of the nationality of those in the car. I was surprised by this gesture because the staff had no reason to show me such respect, yet they did!

An important aspect of Japanese culture is service to others. Both at Meiji Gakuin and at my homestay, everyone was very accommodating and planned their day around what I wanted to do, which was often visiting temples, castles, and singing karaoke. Karaoke is so popular in Japan that there are buildings dedicated to just karaoke! At these locations, people rent a room for just their group so singing is unintimidating, and the song selection to choose from is extensive and multilingual. One day my friends and I even went to Tokyo Disneyland! Conversing in Japanese with locals and going on adventures with Japanese students was truly the highlight of my time in Japan.

I found that Japanese people are more than helpful if you ask. One time I found myself lost in the Shinagawa district of Tokyo while I was going to meet my friends for a yakiniku (Japanese barbeque) dinner, so I stopped inside a nearby office building and asked the receptionist if she could point me in the direction of the restaurant. Instead of simply telling me, the employee got up from her desk and walked with me all the way to the restaurant. How kind!

My homestay took place east of Tokyo in Chiba Prefecture. I was hosted by the Kanazawa family of Matsudo, who were wonderful to me. Much of my time with them was spent away from their house; instead, we were at their ancestral home in Tateyama. I assisted them in cleaning up their ancestral gravesite. This was followed by a picnic in a bamboo forest nearby and my first visit to an onsen (a public bath). I found the onsen to be awkward initially, but once I got over my nerves, it was relaxing.

The Kanazawas and I returned to Matsudo. My host sisters showed me around their town and their school. I began to realize what it felt like to be a minority. Matsudo and Tateyama were small cities, and as far as I could see, I was the only non-Japanese person in either of them. This made me appreciate more what life must be like for people of color in the U.S. Much to my displeasure, the homestay was only for a weekend, which was not nearly long enough. My host family treated me to a sukiyaki dinner (beef and vegetables dipped in raw egg), a dish I highly recommend.

Back in Tokyo, our program concluded after each of the Hope students presented their research on Japan. I presented on the unification of Japan and the legacy of the Tokugawa Shoguns. Then my fellow travelers and I embarked on our weeklong expedition around western Japan, passing through Kanazawa, Kyoto, Kobe, and Hiroshima.

Kanazawa, a city that bears the same name as my host family, is a very small city and a former samurai fortress town. Kyoto is a paradise for any person interested in Japanese history. There seem to be too many ancient structures there to count, as Kyoto was the only major city spared from the American air raids. Most of these structures are accessible to the public. My favorite was Fushimi Inari, a shrine that includes a wonderful mountain hike, but foot traffic is heavy.

Nara’s Todaiji Temple

Taking a day to see Nara, Japan’s first capital, is also enjoyable. Todaiji Temple won’t disappoint; it’s magnificent. Just watch out for the deer in Nara; they tried to eat the clothes off my back when I ran out of food! Next, we briefly stopped in Kobe, a city famous for its savory steaks. They are expensive but well worth it. We met some local students at Kobe Gakuin before making our way south to Hiroshima. The shinkansen truly are the best way to travel in Japan; they’re incredibly comfortable and never have to stop for cars, as they operate on a completely different track system. Japanese engineering is marvelous.

I found Hiroshima to be deeply thought-provoking. The streets were far less active than cities I’d visited previously. We saw the Genbaku Dome, the last standing structure to survive the bombing. Then we moved onto the memorial and museum which included many firsthand accounts of the atomic bombing. This experience made me acutely aware of the tragic results of war and the effect of atomic weapons. How well the city is rebuilt today really speaks to the work ethic of the Japanese people. If one had no knowledge of the bombing, one would never know it had happened.

Hiroshima’s Genbaku Dome, a remnant of WWII.

After Hiroshima, we returned to Tokyo for the final portion of the May term. We reconnected with our Meiji Gakuin friends who kindly took us to the fireworks festival in nearby Yokohama! Soon after, my Hope friends, my new Japanese friends, and I went our separate ways, but I know I’ve made some friendships for life. I returned to Tokyo’s Narita Airport, not to leave, but instead to meet my father, who had taken time off to come visit me!

Showing Japan to my Dad was the ultimate bonding experience! I got to impart all the knowledge I’d gained in my month-long tour, really impressing my Dad with how much I’d grown while away. He’d never heard me speak Japanese before then, so with me acting as our translator, his pride was over the moon.

The two of us traveled around for an additional week after the May term. I wanted to give my Dad the complete Japanese experience, so we hit four cities in seven days. Each day, I exposed him to a different Japanese food. One delicacy any traveler to Japan should be sure to try is okonomiyaki (Japanese omelet); it’s exquisite!

I showed him Tokyo, which I’d become skilled in traversing by that point. Next, we headed to Tokyo station to catch the shinkansen to Nagano. However, we got disoriented in the terminal after our tempura lunch (breaded and fried food), which almost led to us missing our train. We bolted across the platform and made it onto the train right before the doors closed… Imagine the scene in Indiana Jones where the hero slips through the closing temple door right before it shuts.

My father and I at Osaka Castle.

Nagano is a mountain settlement famous for hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics, something the people there are still very proud of. We stayed at a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn), which looked like a home from the Tokugawa-era (1600-1867). Our ryokan hosts were so friendly; they provided us with two gourmet Japanese-style meals a day and any supplies we needed. They even drove us all the way back into Nagano city from the mountains so we didn’t have to catch the bus! The man who owned our ryokan was a Shinto priest. He invited us to sit in on his service in a nearby mountain-top shrine. It was the most incredible, authentic experience of my trip!

However, I was motivated to visit Nagano, not for the ryokan, but for the snow monkeys. We hired a guide to show us the national park close to the city where visitors can come face to face with the red-faced, white-furred monkeys. I loved every second of it! Before leaving Nagano, we took another hike because this place was gorgeous! We trekked through the forests and villages, finding various shrines as we went, and stopped for soba noodles on the road. There were bears around the area of our hike, but we were undeterred. Nagano is a fabulous get away from the city.

We closed out our adventure with a return trip (for me) to Kyoto. The two of us briefly attended a samurai school in Kyoto, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Then we caught a shinkansen bound for Osaka. Osaka is a prominent port city and renowned for its food culture. It seemed to me like everywhere I went I’d see a takoyaki (octopus dumplings) restaurant. We rented bikes and rode through the city’s crowded streets, sometimes going faster than the cars, and other times at a snail’s pace. We made a stop at Osaka’s most impressive structure, the imposing Osaka Castle. Today the castle is a museum, so one can walk through most of it. The view is amazing! The following day, we made the journey back to Tokyo for the homeward leg of the trip.

This May term opened my eyes to the cultural wealth Japan has to offer. It inspired me to continue my Japanese language studies with even more vigor! I’m eager to return to Japan and motivated to experience other parts of Asia.

Brennan Church (Class of 2020)

A History Minor’s Insights

This week, we’re talking to former History Minor Marly Borovich Torres (Class of 2012) as she shares how her minor helped her in her post-grad field of child therapy.

Marly Borovich Torres was a 2012 Hope Alum and History Minor.

What was your area of study at Hope?

While at Hope, I doubled majored in psychology and sociology and had a minor in history.

What are some of the things you learned as a history minor?

I enjoy helping people and learning about their stories. I’m endlessly curious, and have a deep compassion for humanity at large. I have loved history since early elementary school. I would check out book after book about topics like Anastasia and her royal family, Ancient Egypt, and the Holocaust. What I learned through my history studies at Hope was how to have a more thorough appreciation and understanding for human existence and how people have both remained constant and changed throughout the ages. Studying history has helped me learn and grow as a person, and has benefited my practice as a therapist.

Marly (left) was also a member of the Sigma Sorority.

How do you see your history minor benefiting your career track and where you are now in your career?

A minor in history was a perfect pairing to my two degrees in the Social Sciences. The combination ultimately led to my Masters in Social Work. If you have an understanding and appreciation of history, it is much easier to help others. Understanding a person’s history, and then linking that to world events, customs and culture, definitely helps aid in the therapeutic connection and in therapy sessions. My history minor at Hope will continue to benefit me throughout my career because as long as people have ties to and ascribe meaning to their pasts, and as long as we can continue to learn from our past as humans, history will be relevant.

Marly by Big Red in Holland.

If someone was on the fence about possibly becoming a history major or minor, what would you say to them?

I would highly advise someone who was on the fence to give a history class or two a try at Hope! If you are unsure of whether to major in the subject or not, consider that learning about humans and our history as people is always relevant regardless of what you pursue after graduation. Hope has an excellent history department, fabulous faculty, and more than likely your classes will be held in the more beautiful and historical buildings on campus, so what do you have to lose??!

Anything else to add?


Transformed by Hope: An English & History Alum Returns

Meet our new Office Manager & Hope Alum ’12, Alison Lechner, as she shares how her experience at Hope shaped her career.

How did your Hope education shape you?

Alison Lechner, Class of 2012

I feel very blessed to have earned a liberal arts education and that has absolutely benefited me in my career post-graduation. I was History and Environmental Studies composite major, which allowed me to tailor a lot of my research in a way that I know I would have never been able to do had I gone to a traditional university. I eventually went on to work in arts administration and earn my Masters in Art History, and I know that my writing skills set me apart as a candidate in the art world. In grad school, I was much more prepared than most of my classmates when it came to research writing and critical thinking. The liberal arts do such a tremendous job at teaching you how to think, not necessarily what to think. I’ve spent a lot of my art historical research on the notion of institutional critique, and I think my interest in that topic was inspired by this innate sense of questioning that I learned here.

Alison with her research on artist Carrie Mae Weems displayed at an exhibition at the Jepson Museum of Contemporary Art in Savannah, 2018.

I also took writing courses that allowed me to be creative. I know my work in copywriting and art criticism has truly benefited from the creative writing courses I took at Hope. Heather Sellers was my creative writing professor and was my first example of how much discipline needs to be a constant companion of a creative life. She often preached to us about routine, prompts, and a need to see your writing as a kind of muscle that should be stretched and challenged in order to grow. I’m a highly organized person (hence why I love being an office manager), and I think her way of approaching the writing process really made sense to me as a creative person who also needs order to produce results. I’ve never been some bohemian artist; I thrive on strategy and timelines, and Heather was the first person to show me that there was more than one way to nurture your life as a creative. That has probably been one of the most important things I ever learned at Hope.

Favorite book read recently or in college?

Alison as a Freshman at Hope (center), 2008.

I have a 3-way tie for this! Two recent choices are Michael Pollen’s How to Change Your Mind and Sarah Thornton’s Seven Days in the Art World, plus one from my college days: Marion Winik’s Glen Rock Book of the Dead.

Pollan is an exceptional researcher, someone who has a real talent for fleshing out the origins of the topic he is writing about – in this case, the use of Psilocybin in therapy. I learn so much from his writing, both from a historian’s perspective and from a deep appreciation of his ability to make complex topics engaging.

Thornton’s Seven Days in the Art World really inspired me to pursue work in the arts and is a refreshingly honest take on how the modern art world operates. Working with and for artists on a large scale can be both challenging and rewarding, and Thornton doesn’t shy away from the sometimes contradictory aspects of working in the arts. I re-read it usually once a year and I always take something new away from it every time.

I was really lucky to read Winik’s Glen Rock Book of the Dead in Heather Seller’s ENGL 454 class, and it quickly became my favorite book of all time (See my lovely classmate Stephanie Mouw’s similar adoration for this text in her blog post). Winik’s skill as a poet is so visible in her short stories; she creates these incredibly tender, artful vignettes of people she knew who have died. I’ve had a recent loss of someone who was really larger-than-life, and Winik’s writing always seems like the most complete understanding of grief which otherwise has felt like such an enigma.

What do you now wish you had learned or done in college?

Alison with Senator Tim Kaine during the Washington, D.C. semester, 2011.

I wish that I had been more focused on my life after college, which is something that took me longer than I’d like to figure out. My advice is to talk to professionals whose career you admire while you’re in school, and don’t stop learning even once you are out of the classroom. Stay curious about the things you love and they will never become work.

What are your goals for the History & English Departments?

Alison (left) with her Hope roommate Anne in 2011.

I would love to gain more exposure for both departments among the student body. Both English and History are programs that are applicable to wide variety of career paths.  I believe a core foundation of writing and research are so vital to success in the working world; being able to communicate your ideas effectively and creatively is truly invaluable. All of the professors that work in these departments are so passionate about their area of expertise and we are really lucky to be able to learn from them.

What do you like to do in your free time?

You can catch Alison taking photos all around campus for both departments’ social media, like this one from Lubbers.

I’m an avid boxer and I love being active – yoga, lifting, running, hiking. Since I’ve moved back to Michigan, I spend as much time outside in nature as I can. I’m also a photographer and try to participate in the arts scene between here, Saugatuck, and Grand Rapids – my goal is to start writing art reviews, which I was lucky enough to do in Atlanta [where Alison spent the past 7 years]. I try to spend a lot of time with my family and close girlfriends here as well, it’s one of the main reasons I wanted to move back.

Hope Graduation, 2012.

What I Learned from the Children of Agent Orange

Governance in today’s world often resembles organized chaos, existing solely for the prevention of complete anarchy. Specific people, or groups, with destructive intentions take charge while others either applaud or shake their heads, wondering about the decisions of such leaders. Passively accepting defective, corrupt governance as if there were no other choice also causes much suffering and injustice. Citizens in a democracy must stay informed about the actions of their government or risk the costly consequences risked by such ignorance. 

During the 2019 Vietnam May Term, I witnessed the long-term effects of what happens when national leaders take actions that are harmful to citizens, and others. Such was the case for American soldiers and Vietnamese civilians who were exposed to the deadly chemical Agent Orange during the Vietnam war. 

Molly Douma with Vietnamese schoolchildren.

From 1962 – 1971, the U.S. military sprayed vast amounts of Agent Orange across parts of Vietnam. The goal of the program, known as “Operation Ranch Hand,” was to kill off vegetation to make targeting the enemy easier. The real, long-term consequence of this operation, however, was that the chemical seeped into the water table and caused multiple generations of Vietnamese children to be born with various mental and physical disabilities. While the U. S. government has, in recent years, taken actions to assist with cleaning up the devastation caused by Agent Orange, it still insists that there’s no direct connection between the chemical and subsequent generations of children with birth defects. 

Vietnamese children who had been exposed to Agent Orange.

During our trip to Vietnam, our class visited a facility for children struggling with the mental and physical effects caused by Agent Orange. As I played hide-and-seek and catch with these loving and joyful children, it pained me to know that their learning challenges, and the ostracism they’ve suffered, was caused by a chemical introduced by my own government. One could only wonder: “What would have happened if the political leaders during the Vietnam War had been able to look into the smiling faces or hear the laughter of the children whose lives were going to harmed by Agent Orange? Would it have made a difference? Would there have been a different outcome?” 

Many politicians have had the luxury of being safely removed from conflict and the consequences of their decisions. That separation also allows them to ignore possibilities regarding the moral bankruptcy of their actions. The violent chaos that has engulfed the opening decades of the 21st century has proven that such separation, reinforced by indifference and ignorance, is neither workable nor safe. 

Nations of the 21st century need leaders who comprehend that their policies ultimately become personal. For a global superpower like the United States, having leadership with that kind of awareness is especially important, because as the children affected by Agent Orange taught me during the 2019 Vietnam May Term, we need to pursue what is good and what is just and demand the same from those who have been given the privilege to govern. 

Molly Douma, Class of 2022, in Vietnam last May.

Spring 2020 Courses are Here!

Not sure which History classes to take in the Spring? Our upper-level courses are available below for your perusing! If you have questions about them, please contact Dr. Jeanne Petit (petit@hope.edu).

History 141-01 A The Historian’s Vocation (2 Credits)
MWF 12:00 -12:50 PM | Janis Gibbs

Do you love history, but struggle to answer when people ask you, “What are you going to do with that history major (or minor)?” In this course, we will examine the ways the study of history can become the foundation of your larger vocations in life, whether in a career or as a civically-engaged member of your community. We will consider how the skills you will develop as a historian (reading critically, researching widely, writing effectively) provide a foundation for a variety of careers, as well as for a life of meaning and purpose. As part of this course, students will work with the Boerigter Center for Calling and Career, learn practical skills, such as how to write a resume, and develop a plan for pursuing experiential learning opportunities that will aid in vocational exploration and discernment.

This course is required for all history majors and minors who entered Hope College in the Fall of 2018 and later.
Pre-requisite: HIST 140 (can be taken in the same semester)

History 200 01A: Ovid’s Metamorphoses (2 Credits)

R 6:30 – 9:20 PM |Albert Bell

Ovid’s Metamorphoses are the source for many of the myths familiar to us from antiquity, such as Pyramis and Thisbe (the inspiration for Romeo and Juliet) and Pygmalion and Galatea (the inspiration for My Fair Lady). But Ovid ran into trouble. The emperor Augustus disliked the tone of his poetry so much he sent him into exile. This course will read selections from the poem and examine Ovid’s troubled life.

History 200 01B: Cosimo, The Renaissance Man (2 Credits)
R 6:30 – 9:20 PM | Albert Bell

Cosimo de Medici dominated the city of Florence for the first half of the 15th century without ever being elected or appointed to an office. Using wealth acquired from his bank, he hand-picked people who were chosen for office. He also hired artists to decorate the city and his home. But he lived in the terror of going to hell when he died because he was so rich and, according to Jesus, rich men could not get into heaven. Cosimo’s efforts to buy his way out of hell created the Italian Renaissance.

History 255 01: World War I America (GLD)
MWF 9:30 – 10:20 AM |Jeanne Petit

This course will examine how World War I changed the United States politically, socially, culturally, and economically.  We will focus on the war’s impact in many areas, including industrialization, unionization, urbanization, the environmental movement, progressive politics, the freedom struggle of African Americans, women’s suffrage, immigration, the Red Scare, and the cultural transformations of “the Roaring Twenties.” 

Flagged for domestic global learning.

History 268 01: Glory & Decadence: Russian History from Peter the Great to the USSR (GLI)
MW 1:00-1:50 PM |Wayne Tan

Russia is, arguably, one of the most influential nations today on the global stage. With humble beginnings as fragmented principalities, it grew into a vast empire spanning Asia and Europe by the 19th century and, as the core of the Soviet Union, dominated world politics for much of the 20th century. A land of untold riches, it was also a land of enigmas and contradictions. What is Russia’s identity today? What are the origins of Russian imperial traditions and institutions? How did its literature convey the political anxieties of the centuries? How did the 1917 Revolution affect the rest of the world? Why did the Soviet Union emerge and then slowly unravel? What lessons does the story of Russia hold for the future of global diplomacy and conflict resolution? This course explores these questions by surveying Russian history from the time of Peter the Great to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and recent developments in the 21st century.

This course is flagged for global learning international & fufills the regional requirement of the History major.

History 341 01: World War II: Collaboration and Resistance (GLI)

MWF 11:00-11:50 PM | Gloria Tseng

This course aims to explore one specific dimension of twentieth-century history, namely, how societies and individuals faced the moral ambiguities caused by the Second World War. Our goal is to learn about the significant events of the Second World War as it unfolded in different parts of the world.  But more importantly, we will examine several noteworthy individuals and the specific circumstance in which they made significant moral choices and acted for good or for ill. It is the instructor’s hope that each person in the course will be challenged to consider what it means to act ethically in situations that require discernment and courage.

History 351 01: Slavery and Race in American (GLI)

MWF 3:00 – 4:20 PM | Fred Johnson

From its origins as a British colonial society to its dominance as a global superpower, the United States has struggled to resolve conflicts arising from issues of race, ethnicity, and immigration. This course examines how such factors have influenced the overall development of the United States while exploring strategies for reconciling those and related challenges confronting Americans in the 21st century.

History 370 01: Modern Middle East (GLI)

MWF 2:00-2:50 PM | Janis Gibbs

To understand what is going on in the Middle East today, it is crucial that we understand its history. In this course, we will survey the social, political, religious, geographic, and economic history of the Middle East, broadly defined to include the regions of North Africa and Iran, as well as the core lands of the Middle East, from Turkey through the eastern Mediterranean to the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt. Most of our attention will be devoted to the modern period—that is, the period between the 19th century and the present. To understand the context of the history of the modern Middle East, we’ll spend the first few weeks considering the rise of Islam and some of the facets of the history of the earlier Middle East that influence the region today.

Flagged for Global Learning.

Don’t forget! Dr. Lauren Janes is leading the 2020 Paris May Term: Art, History, & Global Citizenship.

This is a Grand Challenges Initiative Pathways course. This qualifies as HIST 131 (CHII), HIST295 (Europe Since 1500), Art 111 (FA1), or Senior Seminar. Contact Dr. Janes at janes@hope.edu to apply.

Graduate Insight: A History Degree at Work

Jennifer Cimmarusti (’18) at the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center in Douglas, MI.

Hello to all the current History students, faculty and staff, and alumni. It has been well over a year since I stepped foot into Lubbers to attend a class and a lot has changed since then. I took a well-needed year off from school to figure out what I exactly was going to do with my newly acquired degree. After some soul searching, I started volunteering at my local museum. At the time, I was considering museum work but was having trouble getting my foot in the door. Then, Dr. Janes passed along a flyer for a museum internship in Douglas, MI. And, after a few short weeks, I started working at the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center.

My official job title is the “Communication and Events Intern” but that hardly fits what I do. I have worked in nearly all aspects of the museum, from archives to customer service. My first big project was working on the annual newspaper, The Historical Chronicle. It was my responsibility to call advertisers, pick articles, lay out the page design and edit copy. It was truly a challenge for a newcomer like me. Thankfully, we were able to complete the newspaper and have it printed for the summer tourists. My other work included creating advertisements for events and exhibit openings, working as a greeter and cashier, and writing articles for the monthly newsletter. Along with that, I was able to work in the archives and cataloged all of the center’s LGBTQ items. My favorite project was working in the art gallery. In August, the History Center opened an exhibit on local artist and art teacher, Cora Bliss Taylor. I researched the artist and helped collect paintings for the exhibit. I also played a role in writing the artifact labels. It was hard work, but I loved every minute of it. From my experience at the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center, I now know I want to become a museum curator and will be applying to graduate school for Museum Studies.

Artist Cora Bliss Taylor’s exhibition didactic from the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center, featuring Jen Cimmarusti (’18) as Assistant Curator.

My advice for future historians: if you think you might be interested in working in a museum – try volunteering. I know from first-hand experience that small museums have many projects and not enough people to help. On behalf of The Saugatuck-Douglas History Center, we would like to extend a special invitation for Hope students to intern for class credit. If interning does not fit your schedule, you can still volunteer your time for the experience. The History Center currently needs help in arranging their holiday events, writing the monthly newsletter and annual newspaper, and working on Fall 2019 and Summer 2020 exhibits. If you are interested, please let them know! Saugatuck and Douglas are a short distance from campus (about 20 minutes). If you do not have transportation, no problem. There is a bus service, the Interurban, which travels from Holland to Saugatuck and Douglas.

For questions, contact Eric Gollannek.
Phone: (269) 857-5751, Email: info@sdhistoricalsociety.org

**If you want history credit for it, please contact the Hope College History Department.

Student Feature: Reed Hanson

Reed with a Franciscan friar in Assisi.

Going to Rome felt like a death sentence the first week. I knew nobody else from Hope and didn’t have any other friends from high school in Europe with me, so I was plagued by intense feelings of isolation and loneliness for about a week after I arrived. It reminded me of freshman year all over again, except multiplied by a new language and culture that is completely foreign to anything I had ever experienced before. I came in thinking ‘I am going to find travel buddies right away and plan all sorts of amazing and wonderful adventures!’ But when that didn’t happen I was left confused and aimless. I knew I shouldn’t waste this experience overseas but I felt homesick and longed for familiarity- something that would make me feel better.

It wasn’t until going to Malta the second week of February that I leaned into myself and really felt convicted. I went with one of my housemates and his friends, so I stayed in an apartment with four guys I didn’t know at all. I decided to travel the island by myself and it was easily the best decision I have made while being in Rome! I knew right then and there that I don’t need to depend on others for going on trips! Going solo through Malta allowed me to do things I wanted to do, and I got so much more out of it than if I had stayed with other people.

The Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta

As a result of that realization, I have traveled to Cassino and Florence solo, and have planned trips to Venice and Normandy by myself. People might say that I’ll be lonely there, and having friends can make experiences better (Like Assisi, I traveled with two amazing friends and it was my favorite town I’ve been to in Italy!), but I also learned that it’s okay to travel alone and see the things I want to see and enjoy this beautiful country on my own terms. In addition, I am staying an extra few weeks after my program ends to explore Europe and see my uncle in Egypt, and I found a good friend from the Bible study here who is also staying! He and I are spending time in London and Dublin the second week of May.

I chose Rome for the History and Classics program, my two majors. Seeing things that I learned about in class for years has been a dream come true; I have studied Latin since middle school, so seeing the Roman Forum and thousands of ancient inscriptions across the city has opened my eyes and allowed me to learn the material unlike any other semester. In any given week, we learn about certain subjects in class and then go out into the city and see them in person later! There have been so many times this semester where I have been completely speechless as I stare and admire Roman ruins that have survived for two thousand years.

The Roman Forum, from the Capitoline Museum

Every week I am blown away at things I see that we learn about in lecture, and I can’t help but praise the Lord for putting me in this amazing program. For being able to travel outside the city and explore Italy and Europe. To see the Normandy battlefields in France, Zurich and the Swiss Alps, London/Dublin and the British Isles, and the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. All of it is for His glory, with each part representing His majesty. This city, this experience, this world is night and day compared to Holland, Michigan, and yet I am oddly charmed by the inviting sense of wonder Europe offers. I will miss all that Italy has to offer when I fly home in May. Except for the cigarette smoke. I can’t stand the smoking.

Overall, Rome has been an absolute blessing. The food has been kind to me, the views and scenic sights have blown me away with their magnificence and elegance, the small towns in the Italian countryside have given me memories I will carry with me for years to come, and the abundance of Roman ruins have been a daily reminder of why I came here. I discover something new about this Eternal City on a daily basis, and a lifetime of living here wouldn’t be enough to uncover every secret Rome has to offer.