The Debut of Our Department’s New Webisode Series!

After several months of work, I’m proud to announce the debut of our department’s new webisode series: Past & Presence!

My friend Sam Mulberry and I have been filming material for Past & Presence since last summer — and will continue to do so even this afternoon. (Episodes will keep coming all the way through the end of our semester.) In fact, we brought a camera and mic along on our recent travel course on World War I; two future episodes will be hosted, in a sense, from Europe!

If you didn’t read my posts last year about Past & Presence, a brief summary:

We did this primarily for the students in our new Introduction to History course — required of all majors and minors, and meant to serve not only as a primer in the philosophy and methodology of history, but to help them think critically about the uses of history in popular and political culture, to refine research, writing, and speaking skills, and to start discerning their calling. Each week in Intro to History begins with a two-hour evening seminar, which ends by posing a new question for conversation during the week on our course blog. That question then becomes the centerpiece for the faculty conversation at the heart of each webisode.

(This also means that all the professors in our department — and also some of our TAs, for at least one episode — get to help teach the course, not just me. So on this first episode, my colleagues Amy Poppinga and AnneMarie Kooistra join me in considering what history is — or, what historians do with the past and how it might differ from how others approach it.)

Episodes also include interviews with faculty (to help new students get to know us) and alumni (to help our students get a handle on what they can do with their undergraduate studies in history). Plus ads for upcoming courses, study abroad programs, and grad/professional school options…

To link everything together, we filmed interstitial clips at spots on campus, at historic sites in the Twin Cities and Duluth, and at various points in our WWI course in Europe. We hope that underscores that the study of history goes far beyond the classroom, library, and archive.

Screen shot of our visit to the North West Company Fur Post in Pine City, MN
Here I am at the North West Company Fur Post, a Minnesota Historical Society living history site outside Pine City, Minnesota — that’ll be part of our finale in mid-May

While they were created for students in one course, we’ve decided to make the webisodes available on our department blog, YouTube channel, Twitter account, and Facebook page. In that way, Past & Presence can help us connect with students, alumni, and peers at other institutions.

And I’d encourage my readers to check out Past & Presence. (As new episodes debut each Wednesday, I’ll post a summary and link here.)

If you’re a fellow college professor, this might provide a model for how you can rethink hybrid teaching, or your department’s intro course, or how you connect with constituents. If you’re just interested in history — and particularly how Christians engage the past, Past & Presence should provide a thoughtful but accessible introduction to some of the foundational questions of the discipline.


2 thoughts on “The Debut of Our Department’s New Webisode Series!

    1. Sorry for the delay in replying, Dave… The short answer is: no, there was no real institutional support, at least not of the kind I think you have in mind. This was pretty much a departmental effort done during spare time, with Sam and me doing the bulk of the work last summer. It helps that our colleagues, alumni, and students never declined a request to film interviews or conversations. And also that we’ve previously done a much bigger project together: an online summer course that involved ten hour-long documentary films edited from twenty hours of faculty interviews, plus a weekly half-hour webisode series. My best advice is that you clone Sam. (Just don’t hire him away from Bethel.)

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