Class Feature: AUHIS 121


“All of the courses have gone so well this year. I think the students are just so enthused about being back in person.”

Geoffrey Dipple, Professor, Social Sciences. Photo from web.

For this installment of the Dagligtale’s class feature, we’ll be taking a look at History 121 and its professor, Geoffrey Dipple. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Dipple to shed some light on his background and teaching.

Dr. Dipple hails from Ontario, though he holds dual citizenship between Canada and the United States; his undergraduate studies in history were done in both Michigan and Indiana at Lutheran-affiliated institutions. While originally intent on studying medieval history, he became enamored with religious history surrounding the Protestant Reformation during his time at Queen’s University in Ontario and traveled as far abroad as Western Germany around this time for research. “About three months after I came back to Canada the Berlin Wall fell,” he remarked. He taught at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for nearly two decades, but decided eventually to return to Canada and accepted a job posting for the University of Alberta shortly afterwards. “When I got the interview,” he joked, “I told them not to worry about business cards, because I could just cross the phone number off and write a new one.” It is only recently, in fact, that Dr. Dipple has worked solely in a non-administrative capacity. Up to and through 2021 he served as chair of the Department of Social Sciences here at Augustana, dealing with program development and personnel management. This year is the first in which he has taught more than only two courses in the entire year. Most of his research projects, many in collaboration with researchers from other universities, focus on the origins of Protestant theology and analyses of prominent Anabaptist figures.

When it comes to courses, it’s immediately clear where Dr. Dipple’s wheelhouse lies. The list of courses he is instructing this year include History 300 (a detailed study of the Protestant Reformation, theology, and its historical context), History 294 (one of the yearly trips abroad, offering in-person classics instruction in Italy and Greece), and History 121, the feature class for this article. This being said, his favourite course within the last few years–one of them, at least–has been his First Year Seminar, focused around the history and brewing of beer. “All of the courses have gone so well this year,” he admits, “I think the students are just so enthused about being back in person.” Indeed, History 121 has been nothing short of immensely interesting during my time within it, and ‘enthused’ is a word that I can confidently use to describe not just the students but the course’s professor. Dr. Dipple has an approachable and humorous manner within and outside of the classroom, varying his lectures with a wide array of pop culture knowledge and frequent queries to his students. A lecture on Rome and Christian persecution, for example, might prompt a whole host of references to Monty Python’s Life of Brian. He approaches questions about textual meaning and deeper concerns with ease and is perennially available with just an email for nearly any question. The actual content of the course is similarly engaging, broken up between well put-together group presentations and lectures; where other history courses might be name-and-date, the construction of History 121 urges students to get into the weeds (as it were) and analyze the reasoning behind the topics explored within. This year, these have been varying cultural and societal movements surrounding religious fundamentalism and violent religious conflict. Historical events discussed have been as wide-ranging as the Crusades, the Sri Lankan Civil War, Roman Judea, and American evangelicalism. As I understand, for those interested, in the winter term History 121 will include such topics as modern genocide and the history of utopian thinking.

I was able to talk to two other students in the course this term, both of whom requested to remain anonymous. Their answers to a few questions about the course are below.

Q: What do you like most about the class?

S1: “Probably the history… the lectures. There’s a lot I didn’t know before.”

S2: “[Dr. Dipple] is pretty good, he’s a good professor.”

Q: Would you recommend this class to others?

S1: “I would. It’s very interesting.”

S2: “Yes.” 

Q: Is there anything you’d like to tell people interested in taking it in the future?

S1: “Pay attention to the presentations other people do, they’ll be important.”

S2: “[Dr. Dipple] is going to ask a lot of questions about the readings in class, so just, like, be prepared.” 

I asked this same last question to Dr. Dipple at the end of our interview, seeing if he had any advice for newcomers. “Take everything I say with a grain of salt,” he said, “and I’ll try to push buttons, just to get interaction, so don’t be afraid.”

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