1 Comment
May 22·edited May 22Liked by Chris Gehrz

Congrats to Dr. Poppinga! I remember my time in her classes fondly. I also owe her a great debt. I would not expect her to remember this moment, but it was pivotal in my development as a man of character and hard work. I was taking her course and had truly had a terrible week. A week in which I was overwhelmed and busy. That “busyness” led me to not do the reading or studying for a test I had in her class that week. This was not a typical thing for me to do as any reading or work for my history courses always took priority. However, this week it didn’t. Needless to say, I did not do well on the test. The following week, Dr. Poppinga asked me to come to her office, where she was joined by Dr. Kooistra. I felt a pit in my stomach. However, they both kindly, yet firmly, told me I was better than this. That they expected more. Yet, they also asked if I was okay and if they could help. The conversation challenged me to be better but also humbled me due to their kindness. I never let that happen again. I still apply the lessons learned from that meeting today. Dr. Poppinga was new to Bethel at the time. She was still working towards her PHD. Yet, she cared enough to take the time to help me.

I still call this the Poppinga protocol when I have to do something similar in my career.

1. Bring a mentor or someone you trust into the room for a hard conversation, especially if you don’t know the person well. Dr. Kooistra was my mentor and someone I knew and loved. Her presence helped both of us.

2. Be direct, but kind. Dr. Poppinga did not mince words. She was disappointed in me and rightfully so, yet she still took time to care for me as a person. Hard conversations will happen in the workplace, and sometimes we choose to not care for the individual. Dr. Poppinga showed me, even as a young college student, how to do that well.

3. Follow up. Over the next few weeks, she would pull me aside after class to see how I was doing. To make sure I was handling the workload and life. I think it would have been easy to have the one conversation and not do the follow up work. However, Dr. Poppinga did the exact opposite.

Will be forever grateful to her and to all my History Professors at Bethel.

Expand full comment