Profile: A Farewell to Betsy Schlabach

First Earlham College Conversation held, discussion of challenges and opportunities
May 8, 2021
Earlham’s Production of Tipping the Velvet
November 16, 2021

Profile: A Farewell to Betsy Schlabach

By Bailey Owens, ’23

Betsy Schlabach joined the History and AAAS departments in 2013, after getting her undergraduate education at Valparaiso University and her master’s degrees in American Studies from St. Louis University and Lehigh University. For her dissertation, she wrote about the race relations and literature in Chicago and published her first book about the topic in 2013. 

Growing up in a small, predominantly-white town in Northern Michigan, Schlabach stated that her world was opened up at Valparaiso University, where she was able to interact with a far more diverse campus community and even study abroad. She stated that every day was a new experience for her, and it began a transformative process on her outlook of the world. 

In grad school, she “fell in love” with African and African American history – and felt that she had to share her knowledge with others. She stated that her place as an educator became clear, as she has had the privilege to be able to study these topics, and therefore has the responsibility to share what she’s learned. She said, “If you read Richard Wright and don’t feel called to act on your own racist presence, then you didn’t understand the book … I can’t tell you what it’s like to be Black or make definitive statements about the meaning of Blackness, but I can be your guide to sharing to how they’ve experienced it in the past – sharing the history.”

Betsy said that among her favorite experiences at Earlham were being able to take a group of students to New Orleans with Amy Bryant to do research, the opportunities to meet nationally recognized public figures such as Bob Moses, and the collegiality that she has experienced with both the AAAS and History departments. She stated that the AAAS and History departments include some of “the coolest people I’ve ever met … if I have questions or need mentorship, I always have help”. 

She also described one of her first experiences with activism on Earlham’s campus; the Metz demonstration for better working conditions. She said this surprised her, and that it gave her the understanding that Earlham “was a good place to be.” Outside of these experiences, she described her gratitude for Earlham’s enabling her to do research. She state that prior to Earlham, she only did research in Chicago, but that Earlham embraced her “adventurous side” and allowed her the funding to do new research, including the aforementioned trip with students to New Orleans. 

Schlabach also stated that at Earlham she was able to “facilitate interactions on large and small scales in ways I never imagined possible,” such as her experience in teaching the Racism in Public Health class, and having students work with her to create the syllabus for that class. She also stated that she learned so much from the students themselves, especially in AAAS classes. With the help of students, she worked to find what each learning space was for and front-loaded the class with that material.

Before coming to Earlham, Betsy taught at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania. She will be teaching at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin in the History and Ethnic Studies Departments. She states that she is excited to start something new at a bigger school and to be the first faculty member to teach courses in African-American History courses at Lawrence University. She said she is also eager to be closer to family. 

To view Betsy’s various published works, click here: https://earlham.edu/faculty-staff/betsy-schlabach/

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