Bethany College’s acclaimed Service Learning Center reported over 26,000 service hours completed during the previous 2013-14 academic year, according to Dr. Scott D. Miller, President of the College.
“The oldest degree-granting institution in West Virginia, Bethany College has a long-established history of meaningful community engagement by our students and staff,” Dr. Miller said. “Teaching and learning form the mission of Bethany College. Central to this broad purpose is providing a liberal arts education for students, including the preparation of professionals, in an atmosphere of study, work and service.”
“As we begin the current academic year, we look forward to continuing and expanding Bethany’s important tradition of voluntary service,” he said.
Originally funded by a grant from the PNC Foundation, the Service Learning Center is directed by Kathy Shelek-Furbee, Chair and Professor of Social Work. Prof. Shelek-Furbee notes that the SLC has provided opportunities for service outreach while also tracking engagement in community service by the broader campus community.
Last year, students and groups exceeded their original goal of 20,000 recorded service hours, she said. Greek organizations reported a combined 3,108 hours of service, clubs and organizations 5,201 hours, individuals 1,298 hours and athletic teams 1,858 hours of service. Additionally, 14,908 hours of service were reported by academic departments.
One of the signature programs of the College funded through private giving is Bethany’s Kalon Scholars Program. Up to 40 students are recipients of the Kalon Leadership Scholarship based on leadership, character, commitment to service, and academic performance. “This group of talented young adults provides community service in a variety of ways,” said Prof. Shelek-Furbee, who also serves as their advisor. “Kalon Scholars also develop useful skills for their future. We want our graduates to be prepared for their careers, but understand the value of giving back to their communities.” Kalon Scholars provided over 1,700 service hours among the students this past year alone.
Dr. Miller noted that service learning and community service are key elements of The Bethany Plan, which aids students in identifying with and becoming a part of academic, co-curricular and extracurricular activities. As a part of The Bethany Plan, students can take advantage of global study-abroad trips, career-focused internships and research opportunities. Senior capstone projects and comprehensive examinations round out a student’s education at Bethany.
“We all have 168 hours in a week,” he said. “A typical student will devote 18 hours per week to classroom activities and sleep between 42 and 50 hours per week. At a residential liberal arts college, we partner with students for learning activities for the remaining 100 hours. This might be service learning, or it could be athletics and recreation, a campus job, or a fraternity or sorority.”
The College’s eight fraternities and sororities play an instrumental role in the community service program, he said. Bethany’s Greek organizations include Alpha Sigma Phi, Beta Theta Pi, Delta Tau Delta, Phi Kappa Tau, and Sigma Nu fraternities, and Alpha Xi Delta, Phi Mu, and Zeta Tau Alpha sororities. Over 35 percent of Bethany students are members of Greek organizations.
He said that employers value students who can adapt to a team environment, meet deadlines and goals, and advance organizational initiatives by thinking globally, not just in a specialized way—all skills that can be attained at liberal arts colleges. Dr. Miller said they want “well-rounded” individuals who will be active in their communities, too.
The College was recently featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education for its focus on a student-centered learning environment. Bethany is the only private National Liberal Arts College in West Virginia, and in recent years has received national recognition for quality and cost from U.S. News and World Report, Barron’s, Washington Monthly, Forbes, Princeton Review and Colleges of Distinction. Last year, the College was ranked seventh in the nation by U.S. News and World Report in the percentage of graduates to attend graduate school within one year of graduation.
“The qualitative growth at Bethany speaks well to the people, academic and student-life programs, and recent overall progress of the College,” Dr. Miller said. “Building on 175 years of rich tradition, classical, liberal arts programs, innovative partnerships, and a supportive residential environment, Bethany College continues to be extremely attractive to a national constituency. “
Bethany traces its origins to the founding of Buffalo Seminary at what was then Bethany, Virginia, in 1818, Miller said. The institution counts 1840 as its founding as a degree-granting college. The College is located on a beautiful, historic, 1,300-acre campus of 45 buildings in the wooded foothills of the Allegheny Mountains 39 miles from Pittsburgh.