The president of a university is a powerful person. He or she may live a very busy lifestyle that can often lead to warranted seclusion. They become something like a legend; heard from, but not seen. However, for President Kimball running California Lutheran University is about something much more than just managing the day-to-day operations. It is about forming relationships and connections with the students and the best way to do that is by stepping into the classroom.
Every Tuesday and Thursday morning of the 2016 spring semester, President Kimball guides his honors class into the exploration of history through baseball. Although the class is baseball themed, it is not meant as a means for studying the game’s statistical history, instead the course uses baseball to explore America’s deeper historical past.
“Walt Whitman once called baseball ‘America’s game.’ In the century since Whitman uttered those words, baseball has occupied a prominent place in American life in some ways equivalent to business, politics, religion and race. In this course, then, we will examine the relationship between the United States and its national pastime,” Kimball said in an email interview.
Some of the topics the class swings at are labor relations, the impact of television, the “color line” and the role of ethnicity and ethic rivalry.
This is not the first time President Kimball has stepped into a classroom. Back at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, he taught a very similarily instructed baseball history course.
Michaela Reaves, who is chair of the history department, originally had the idea to have President Kimball teach a history through baseball class at Cal Lutheran.
“I think having students be able to see the president as not just the man on the hill, but in the classroom, is a really positive look for the university,” Reaves said. “People know Dr. Kimball and they can say hello to him when they see him walking around.”
Amanda Hutchinson, a junior who is double majoring in theology and global studies, is one of the select few students in the class. The moment she heard President Kimball was teaching a class she knew she had to sign up for it.
“Having the opportunity to take a class with him was a chance I just couldn’t pass up,” Hutchinson said. “President Kimball is brilliant and you don’t realize just how true that is until you start to really pay attention to his humor and his incredibly detailed knowledge of the subject.”
For his students the class is more than just teeing off with the bases loaded. They have to put in the work and effort to get the runners on base.
“You have to really be at the top of your game during every class because he gives you so much information between his lectures and his PowerPoint slides and if you’re not 100 percent focused, there’s no way you can keep up,” Hutchinson said. “Even though the class is on a fun topic, it’s definitely still an honors class.”
President Kimball believes that there are many unique ways to approach history through sports and although other sports are worthy, baseball provides the perfect game.
“Baseball was the national pastime for a long time. That means there is more to the story,” Kimball said. “For those who know a bit about the game, it can be a more relatable way to deal with significant issues.”
President Kimball, who said his love for baseball began at a very early age watching and cheering on the Boston Red Sox, does not believe he will be able to teach this course every semester. However, he does think he will continue to slide into the classroom every now and then.
Published March 26th, 2016