New ARMS minor ‘catapulting’ to success

A new minor on campus has proven to be an exciting learning experience for students and professors alike. The Ancient, Renaissance and Medieval Studies minor, or ARMS, offers an interdisciplinary take on history with excitement both in and out of the classroom. Last November, as part of the Intro to ARMS course, students built a replica trebuchet, a medieval siege weapon, and used it to launch pumpkins. Another event to celebrate the launch of the minor included a European calligraphy workshop that same month.

The minor was proposed by three Ripon professors, Assistant Professor of English Ann Pleiss Morris, Professor of History Diane Mockridge and Assistant Professor of Art Travis Nygard. Morris, Mockridge and Nygard were inspired to propose the minor after collaborating with one another.

The collaboration started last year when the three took their classes on a field trip to the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison to see the Saint John’s Bible, a hand-written Bible decorated with art and calligraphy. It is the first hand-written Bible to be made after the invention of the printing press. Not long after, Morris learned about the upcoming Conference on Christianity and Literature, and the three agreed to propose and work on a panel, which they presented in February 2016. Working together and combining disciplines inspired the creation of ARMS.

“The three of us are very interested in interdisciplinary teaching, so we came up with the idea of creating a program that was temporal in focus and which is of interest to professors in several departments,” Nygard says. “We then met several times to develop a proposal for it, which was ultimately approved by the full faculty.”

Mockridge, the program coordinator for ARMS, says, “The time period lends itself to interdisciplinary study. There were more than enough courses to make up the minor.” Classes from multiple disciplines which will count toward the minor include art history, English, history, theatre, music, philosophy and religion.

During the fall 2016 semester, Mockridge taught History 210, Intro to ARMS, for the first time. The course featured many guest speakers, including Morris and Nygard. “Definitely my favorite part of the class was listening to the guest lectures and their passion about these subjects,” Mockridge says.

“It was a great opportunity to do what we’re passionate about with students who are just as passionate,” Morris says. “These are topics we don’t always get to talk about in our other classes.”

Not only is ARMS a good opportunity for students to learn, but Nygard, Morris and Mockridge all have been able to learn from each other as well. “Co-teaching has helped us learn from each other, be challenged by each other and take new perspectives on the material,” Morris says.

The three have many hopes for the future of ARMS, including potential field trips, presentation and extracurricular activities. The Intro to ARMS course is available again this fall.

Megan Sohr ’18
Oshkosh, Wisconsin


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Photo of students in medieval garb preparing pumpkins for launching