In January, I was invited to lead a discussion on “Building Value: From Classroom to Career” at the annual Presidents Institute of the Council for Independent Colleges (CIC). Joined by two colleagues, Dr. Jackie Jenkins-Scott, president of Wheelock College in Boston, and Dr. David R. Anderson, president of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, I posed two questions: What do we offer as private, liberal arts colleges that give our students realistic career preparation, and how do we market those institutional strengths to today’s shop-around brand of higher education consumer?
I’ve commented here and elsewhere before about the challenges to all of higher education in communicating value for the tuition dollar. That’s the expectation of students and parents today as they often cut to the bottom line in their education planning. They expect that their investment in education will lead to successful career placement, preferably with healthy starting salaries and abundant opportunities for advancement. Although we educators also need to communicate the value of learning for its own sake, and of learning for life—not just career—fulfillment, the conversation we’re having with prospective students and their families these days is not only about academics, but also economics. Colleges are challenged as never before to be responsive to their student clients, innovative in programming, and career-centered.
Bethany has risen to that challenge in numerous ways, ensuring that our graduates are given tools for lifelong learning and intellectual fulfillment, as well as career advantage. All that we do is consistent with our mission of liberal arts education. Bethany students graduate with broad backgrounds in thinking, writing, analyzing, synthesizing, and problem solving—skills valued by employers. But we do much more by offering students many opportunities for experiential learning.
The Bethany Plan is a comprehensive approach that offers students academic, co-curricular, and extracurricular opportunities. Students can take advantage of global study-abroad trips, career-focused internships, and research. Throughout their four years with us, students benefit from intensive mentoring and career counseling by alumni and other expert professionals. Senior capstone projects and comprehensive examinations round out the educational experience at Bethany.
Department-specific opportunities abound for Bethany students. These include making actual financial investments through the McCann Student Investment Fund, digital webstreaming and broadcasting of campus events, and reaching out to our community through the volunteer service center—all student-operated. The selective Kalon Scholars program and Cooey Davis Experiential Fellowship develop leadership skills in “real-world” settings. Also available to students are opportunities to interact directly with well-established career professionals. The John Keresty Lectures in Journalism, exploring the latest trends in communications and media, are a prominent example.
In classrooms and labs, students are given many other opportunities to demonstrate leadership and develop marketable skills. It’s all part of Bethany College’s strategy to give our students advantages they will need before they graduate, and as they launch the next phases of their lives—whether they directly enter the workforce or enroll in graduate school.
Valued by our students, the personal mentoring and life preparation we provide are critical to careers as never before. With the economy still in recovery and jobs scarce in some fields, our faculty and many alumni truly go the extra mile to prepare students for global citizenship. I know that our students are grateful for this personal investment in their success. As one recently remarked, that kind of interactive benefit can’t be taught by a computer.
Our students do recognize the Bethany difference—found only at A Small College of National Distinction.