After Calvin graduation, I worked for a year as a social worker for the State of Michigan handling cases dealing with food assistance and medicaid. From there I have pursued God's calling on my life to go on to further studies at Calvin Theological Seminary. In doing so I have completed my first year of Seminary, and I am currently writing as I am interning at a church plant outside of Leipzig in former East Germany.
Why did you choose to major in history at Calvin?
A good question. There are a number of reasons, but I will only give a few. One of the most influential would be the professors. There was not a single history professor that I had in my time at Calvin that I did not enjoy and that I did not benefit from. The professors truly care about both the quality of their students, inside and outside of the classroom, as well as the quality of the subject. The professors helped to deepen my love for the subject, and the subject itself is a second reason why I chose it. History engages so many disciplines; one is not “just” a historian, rather one is able to think as a theologian, sociologist, artist, linguist, scientist, ethicist, philosopher, and the list can go on. History allows the student to begin to understand the world, and what is more at Calvin, one is able to not only understand our place in that world, but also understand our place as Christians in that world.
How did your time at Calvin prepare you for what you are doing now?
Calvin prepared me in ways that I could have never dreamed of—from the out-of-the-classroom learning of how to exercise responsible freedom to the in-class learning of discipline and diligence, which prepares one for life outside the college cocoon. In regards to my studies, by coupling a history major with a German major, I was able not just to learn and realize a lot about my life and where it is headed, but I have been given the opportunity to engage the world by using all that Calvin gave me. History prepared me well for my further course of study in seminary. It has also prepared me well for work in Germany. My grounded knowledge of European History allows me to navigate the landscape of former East Germany very well, as well as aiding me in understanding the work of a pastor here.
What are some of your memories of the Calvin History department?
Memories... I do not really think most reading this want specifics, and I would not want to bore my readers. But there are so many examples that I could point to where I was able to take what I learned and look at today and the situation our world finds itself in and say “Aha, now I get it!” The professors so often brought us as students so far and correctly prepared us to critically look at our studies and correctly contextualize things, whether that be in today’s surroundings or a specific time and place in history. Beyond that I have the memory of how my outlook went from despising my time spent in the library studying to a desire to get back to the library due to this unquenchable thirst for historical insight and knowledge.
Do you have any advice for current students or those thinking of majoring in history at Calvin?
If you are thinking about pursuing a history major, find some interesting courses and suck the marrow out of them, and then talk to the professor. He or she will be able to give great advice in regards to directing your course of study. If you have fears of paper writing and research, do not be too worried about them. I was not much of a writer or researcher when I began. But through the course of history study and my desire to become better, I was able to excel in both areas. Finally, for those who are thinking about history with a more hard core, on-to-grad-school mentality (and even those who are not), I would advise studying a language alongside history, whether it be English or a foreign language (I would advise German). The language and history will complement each other very well all the while stretching you as a student in a desirable fashion.