BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College is one of just 98 colleges and universities nationwide to be named to the 2014 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for its leadership in developing programs in interfaith and community service.
This is the third time in last four years that Bethany has earned the distinction, according to Dr. Scott D. Miller, President of the College. The Honor Roll was created in 2006 to recognize exemplary work that places students on a lifelong path of civic engagement.
“There’s no greater satisfaction than service to others,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “I am delighted to see that so many young people, despite their religious beliefs and backgrounds, have pledged to work together to help solve some of their communities’ challenges.”
Shortly after becoming president in the fall of 2007, Dr. Miller sought funding to establish a Service Learning Center at Bethany and appointed Kathy Shelek-Furbee, Chair and Professor of Social Work, to direct the program. The Center has provided opportunities for service outreach and has tracked engagement in community service by the broader campus community. Initial funding was provided by the PNC Foundation.
“While teaching and learning form the mission of Bethany College,” Dr. Miller said, “central to this broad purpose is providing a liberal arts education for students, including the preparation of professionals, in an atmosphere of study, work, service.”
The Service Learning Center reported more than 26,000 service hours completed during the 2013-14 academic year, said Professor Shelek-Furbee. 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.
Dr. Miller said 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. Students can take advantage of global study-abroad trips, career-focused internships and research opportunities.
“We all have 168 hours in a week,” said Dr. Scott D. Miller, President of the College. “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 athletics or recreation, a campus job, a fraternity or sorority, or service learning.”
One of the signature leadership and service programs is Bethany’s Kalon Scholars Program. Open to incoming freshmen, the Kalon Leadership Scholarship is a competitive four-year award based on leadership, character, service and academic performance. Candidates are chosen by College faculty and staff through an application process that includes an interview and an essay discussing the student’s leadership achievements. Up to 40 students a year are Kalon Scholars.
The College’s eight fraternities and sororities also 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.
Located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus, Bethany is the oldest degree granting institution in West Virginia. Founded in 1840, the College traces its origins to the founding of Buffalo Seminary in 1818 at what was then Bethany, Virginia and is also the oldest college or university of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).