Harley Schreck Retires from the College of Arts & Sciences

After 30 years at Bethel University, Professor of Anthropology Harley Schreck has retired.

By Cherie Suonvieri '15, content specialist

August 21, 2018 | 5 p.m.

Harley Schreck, professor of anthropology

Harley Schreck, professor of anthropology

Schreck came to Bethel in 1988 and has since taught courses in Amsterdam and India, researched urban change and social capital in Northeast Minneapolis, and been involved in the Bethel/Frogtown and Summit-University partnership. We talked to Schreck about what kept him at Bethel, some highlights during his time, and what comes next.

What led you to Bethel and why have you stayed?

Before Bethel, I worked with World Vision as a senior researcher. In 1987, I was with a team in Mexico City where we were evaluating World Vision’s work in rebuilding housing after the 1985 earthquake. We had hired Paul Wiebe, who was a sociologist at Bethel, as a consultant. During the course of the project Paul asked if I had ever considered teaching. He said that teaching at Bethel was quite different than teaching at a large research university, and that at Bethel you really got to know students and enjoyed collaborative and supportive colleagues. This was quite different from the atmosphere at a research university.

I knew that my calling was to build community and mentor others. Paul argued that Bethel would be a good fit—so, when a call came asking me to consider applying for an anthropology faculty position, I decided to take this step toward Bethel. Just as Paul said, Bethel has been a place where I have been able to work closely with students, enjoy great colleagues, and play a small part in helping students grow and develop. The relationships have been what has kept me here.

What have been some of your best memories at Bethel?

There have been many wonderful experiences. The courses I have taught in Amsterdam and India stand out. I love being able to coach students as they encounter a new culture and learn about anthropology by actually doing anthropology. I love the close collegial relationships that develop with students as we are co-learners. By going back to the same places over and over (14 times to Amsterdam and four times to India), I have been able to develop deep relationships with people and institutions. This has allowed the students and I to actually contribute something to our hosts and make a difference.

What have been some of the challenges?

Of course, the biggest challenge has been the budget cuts that led to the elimination of anthropology at Bethel. The personal loss is immense. The loss to Bethel is deep and largely misunderstood at Bethel. Anthropology has offered a rich and powerful set of tools for students and the school as we attempt to become more effective in this complex and diverse world.

Has anything surprised you throughout your time at Bethel? 

A very pleasant surprise is the quality of faculty colleagues that I found at Bethel. Another surprise has been the nature and depth of relationship that can be developed between faculty and students. Coming from state universities, I had not experienced the level of concern and focus on the mentoring of students that I found at Bethel. The reason for being at Bethel is to teach and faculty take this charge very seriously.

What will you miss most?

I will miss the daily interaction with students the most. Bethel has been a stimulating intellectual environment. Although I expect to continue my involvement as a scholar and a researcher, I will miss the day-to-day interaction with my colleagues at Bethel. 

What comes next for you?

I will continue to do some research in the area of aging, urban life, and community. Some of this will show up in articles. Some of this will show up in volunteer work with my church and community organizations. There will also be more travel (much of it stateside) and time to be with my two granddaughters. 

Do you see yourself staying connected to Bethel down the road?

I will continue to enjoy the cultural and athletic events at Bethel. It will be good to see colleagues and friends. I will also be a frequent user of the library and its wonderful resources. Lastly, I will drop in for coffee and lunches with friends.