Deposited students are invited to join Bethany College for Becoming a Bison Day on June 7 or June 16! Click here to register.

The Bethany Plan

A great future. Bethany will take you there.

That’s what we do.


Let’s take the first step – the one from high school to college. We call it the “First-Year Experience,” which includes our First-Year Seminar. You’ll participate in a small group and learn how to learn – at the highest level. This will be the cornerstone of your next four years.

You won’t be alone. You’ll have mentors every step of the way, teachers who truly care. They’ll help shape your academic interests and set your goals. If you don’t have any, you will. Again, that’s what we do. You’ll be reading at a whole new level. You’ll learn to write effectively. You’ll learn to be a critical thinker – the very tools you need to make an impression in the real world. That’s what employers look for.

During your sophomore and junior years, and not a moment too soon, you’ll have the opportunity to become engaged in global learning, and spend time out of the country in a global setting. Out-of-class learning, internships included, is more than encouraged – we insist on it.

As a senior, you’ll complete the Capstone Experience, a senior project created specifically to get you on your way to a master’s and/or the entry-level job market – to transform you into a knowledgeable, productive human being. In your senior year, the final step: comprehensive exams, both written and oral. Here’s an opportunity to find out what you know about your major, how much you’ve absorbed and how well you express it. These exams may not be a piece of cake, but you can do it. The rigor of the Bethany Plan experience will see you through.

And when you come out on the other side, you will have earned it. You’ll be smart, articulate and well-rounded. You’ll have been transformed into someone with the confidence to take the next step in your life head on. You will be better. And that’s a promise. The Bethany Plan works. Really works. That’s what makes us such a great investment. That’s what makes our graduates distinctive.


The First-Year Experience is designed to meet the following goals:

  • Provide a small seminar of students with a faculty mentor/advisor who will help them to improve writing and thinking skills and familiarize them with the academic life of the College, while they study a specialized subject area
  • Provide a bridge between the high school experience and the Bethany experience designed to enable students to engage actively and successfully as they grow and learn inside the classroom and out
  • Provide students with an intense, single-class, topic-driven learning experience designed to enhance college-level reading, writing and research skills

First-Year Seminars introduce students to the study of a specialized subject area, help students improve writing and thinking skills, and familiarize students with the academic life of the College. The faculty member who leads a student’s seminar will serve as that student’s academic advisor and mentor.

2019-20 First-Year Seminars

AA. And the Winner Is… (Enrollment Limited to Presidential Scholars)

Description: This is a course about awards—the people who give them and the people who win them. Students will explore a variety of honors bestowed by halls of fame and other organizations, such as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscars) and the Swedish Academy (Nobel Prize). Through readings, discussion, and written assignments, students will examine the traits and experiences that tend to distinguish “winners” from “losers” and the “great” from the “good.” As part of the course, students will identify and examine awards that recognize outstanding accomplishments in their own areas of interest, including scholarships.

Keywords: goal-setting, popular culture, sports

Example classroom activities: In class meetings, I envision exploring songs, movies, and short literary texts that have won industry awards; discussing what makes them (and not others) worthy of distinction; and leading students to speculate how awards reflect the eras in which they are given. Since the Nobel Prizes are announced in the fall, we might explore the blogs and betting pools that pop up on the internet and encourage visitors to make predictions for the eventual winners. For assignments, I expect to have students research the official criteria for halls of fame that interest them, determine whether and how that criteria is reflected in recent inductees, and prepare a proposal for a new inductee that the organization would find persuasive. As the course description indicates, I also want students to research and draft applications for scholarships. These might be scholarships that students are able to apply for immediately, or they might be “aspirational” scholarships that they will be in a position to apply for in a couple of years, such as the Rhodes or Marshall.

Instructor: Dustin Hixenbaugh, PhD, Assistant Professor of English

Dr. Hixenbaugh teaches writing and literature classes and advises English Education majors. Before coming to Bethany, he taught high school English on the Mexican border and a variety of classes at the University of Texas at Austin, where he also earned his doctorate in Comparative Literature. He is the faculty advisor to the Bison Alliance, Bethany’s LGBTQIA+ student organization.

BB. The Kalon Experience: Scholarship, Leadership, and Service (Enrollment limited to Kalon Scholars)

Course Description: This seminar is designed exclusively for Kalon Scholar Service Leaders. It will focus on the development of leadership and civic engagement skills as a mechanism to build community. Students will explore research on leadership, interview campus leaders, and explore the importance of using their education to engage with and serve their communities. This will be accomplished within the context of transitioning from high school to college, adapting their academic skills, learning how to live with roommates and working with others from diverse backgrounds.

Keywords: leadership, civic engagement, service

Example classroom activities: A variety of activities will be used including: speakers, self-assessment surveys, interviews with campus leaders, service projects, small and large group discussions, oral presentations, Ted talks, and team-building activities

Instructor: Katherine Shelek-Furbee, Professor and Chair of Social Work, Kalon Scholar Service Leader Faculty Advisor

Professor Shelek-Furbee has taught at Bethany since 1984. She is the Program Director and Department Chair of Social Work. Her credentials include a Master’s Degree in Social Work from West Virginia University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Alderson-Broaddus College. In addition to social work, Professor Shelek-Furbee has advanced training in the prevention and treatment of drug and alcohol abuse and women’s issues. She has served as the Faculty Advisor for the Kalon Scholar Service Leaders since 2002.

CC. The Politics of Pop Culture

Course description: The world of politics can feel like a crazy place, and it is tempting to try to escape to a cocoon of Netflix and Instagram. But in this class, we explore how inseparable pop culture and politics really are. Students will watch and analyze television shows, roleplay fictional scenarios, and consider what their pop culture favorites reveal about their political beliefs. Over the course of the semester, we will use the lens of political science to examine the fictional characters and universes designed to help us to better understand the triumphs and failings of our own political world.

Keywords: politics, critical thinking, life skills

Example classroom activities:Students will watch and analyze classic and current TV shows’ portrayal of institutional structures and social and political hierarchies, and reflect upon their relevance for understanding the politics of their time.

Students will engage in informational interviews with upperclassmen of different majors across campus.

Students will practice building, writing, and refining persuasive arguments on pop culture topics of their choosing, such as: Which Disney film has the most radical political agenda? How well does the show Survivor depict an anarchic system? Is the better portrayal of how political systems are built and destroyed found in Star Wars or Star Trek?

Instructor: Dr. Katti McNally, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of First Year Studies

Dr. McNally teaches courses focused on government institutions and political behavior in the United States, with an emphasis on how changes in political context and institutional design shape political outcomes. Her research interests include representation, the U.S. Congress, and identity politics.

DD. Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose: The Portrayal of (Student) Athletes in Popular Culture

Course description: How many times have we seen the “dumb/pompous jock” stereotype play out in a movie or television show? How many times have student-athletes been accused to only being in school to play a sport? The students in this class will examine ways in which athletes, especially student-athletes, are portrayed in movies, television, books, magazines, and the news. This class will utilize discussion, research, and guest speakers to further explore portrayals of and stereotypes faced by athletes at all levels of competition.

Keywords: student-athletes, stereotypes, popular culture

Example classroom activities:

Guest Speakers—
Guest speakers may include, but are not limited to: Brian Rose, former student-athlete and current Bethany College Athletic Director; Pat Ford, current Director of the Business Development Corporation of Brooke and Hancock Counties and former Division I football player; Abbie Hoard, former student-athlete and current Head Athletic Trainer at Bethany College; Jesse Wukasch, assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at Fairmont State University (Division II); Brad Jones, Bethany College Tennis Coach; Brian Sansom, Bethany College Women’s Basketball Coach, Courtney Kline, Bethany College Volleyball Coach; Jan Forsty, Bethany College Softball Coach. (Speakers will be contacted after confirmation of class to verify interest and to confirm dates.)

Students will develop interview questions for the group. After each interview, students will complete a short reflection that includes: one thing they learned, one thing they were surprised to hear, and one thing they would like to know more about.

Timed Writing—
Students are given a topic and a set about of time to write. They MUST keep writing for the entire time. At the beginning of the semester, students will have 1:30 and the time will increase in 15 second intervals over the course of the semester.

Every Class—
Word of the Day, Poem of the Day, and Run Down of things that are happening on campus (academics, athletics, and student activities).

Reading Circles—
Smaller groups that work together to read, break down, and present on assigned readings. These readings will range from popular publications to peer-reviewed journal articles.

Instructor: Heather A. Taylor, Director McCann Learning Center and Assistant Professor of English

Taylor graduated from Bethany in 2005 with a degree in English and taught first-year English at the high school level before returning to Bethany in 2007 as Coordinator of the McCann Writing Center. She earned her MA in Creative Writing: Fiction (2013) and her MFA in Creative Writing: Publishing (2014) from Wilkes University. An unlikely sports fan, Taylor enjoys rooting for the Saints, Pens, Pirates, Indians, and, of course, the Bethany Bison (#RollGreen). When not cheering on a team, Taylor serves as Academic Advisor to the Brothers of Beta Theta Pi, co-advises the Relay for Life, plays team trivia, reads, writes, and enjoys good coffee.

EE. Game, Set, Match – Economic Thinking in Board Game Design

Course description:The seminar emphasizes that it takes a broad background, as embraced in a liberal arts education, to succeed in board game design. Board game designers use skills from writing, art, math, communication, business and economics to create and market their designs.

Students will study economic thinking in board game design as they work on designing, play testing, and marketing their own board game. By the conclusion of the course students will create a pitch video to submit to publishers and present their game at a public play testing event.

Keywords: board games, board game design, economics, communication, mathematics, creativity, english

Example classroom activities:

Group discussions and projects, daily memos responding to reading assignments, playing board games, designing and testing original games.

Instructor: Dr. Aaron Honsowetz, Assistant Professor of Economics

Dr. Honsowetz earned his M.A. and Ph.D. at George Mason University after completing both a B.A. and B.S. at Michigan State University. He has co-designed two published board games. His fields of research include Economic History and New Institutional Economics, and he has co-organized a recent conference at the University of Chicago titled “Mapping Communication Access with Crowdsourcing.” at which he gave two presentations. Dr. Honsowetz has also recently published research on the telegraph industry.

FF. ESPN Rules

Course description: Course description: This course takes a two-pronged approach as an introduction to sports communication. First, from a career perspective, ESPN and similar companies are studied to identify, select, and introduce limited best practices in sports announcing, writing, interviewing and production. Secondly, topical issues and historical personalities in sports culture (through a media filter) are discussed such as sport as intervention for troubled youths, sports heroes, sporting events and social responsibility, and corporate philanthropic activity related to sport.

Keywords: sports communication, ESPN, sports culture and personalities

Example classroom activities: This class is taught in seminar style which means a variety of teaching/learning styles will be used, and more than half of the class time and activities are designed to be interactive. Because students learn in different ways, the course will feature visual and audio based learning artifacts (e.g., Internet clips, DVDs, etc.,) and small and large group discussions, brief in-class exercises (including brief case study analyses). Students will be given limited reading assignments, are expected to cooperate/contribute to small group work. Specifically, students will present a detailed case study based on an assigned chapter from the text, there will be many hands-on exercises inside and outside or class, plus a few recorded content presentations on the course Canvas site, in-class discussions and role-playing, and a few “mini-lectures.” Class sessions largely are devoted to building higher level thinking skills such as analysis, evaluation, interpretation, and at times…synthesis.

Instructor: Dr. Patrick Sutherland, Professor of Communications and Media Arts

Dr. Sutherland joined Bethany College in 1989. He has 10+ years of professional experience working at a dozen radio and television stations across the U.S. and in Europe. He has worked as an on-air radio and TV announcer, news, sports and public affairs anchor and reporter, radio talk show host, radio salesman, and commercial and educational radio station general manager.

His undergraduate degree is in Speech Communication from Marquette University in Milwaukee. He has a master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) and a doctorate degree (Ph.D.) in Mass Communication from Ohio University.

Sutherland’s research interests include the effects of new technology on the teaching of journalism and mass communication, innovations in digital media, and sports communication. Sutherland had a book chapter published in 2013 titled “ESPN: Television Transforms Sports Culture,” in the three set book series titled American History Through American Sports: ABC-CLIO. He served as department chair in Communication for seven years and as the Sports Coordinator in the Department of Physical Education for one-year. He is also the WVBC Digital Radio Adviser.

In August 2008, Sutherland was named the Bortz Award winner for using innovative technology in the classroom at Bethany College. He has taught in the First Year Studies Program about a dozen times on four different topics including humor writing and appreciation, news, and post modernism. Sutherland is divorced but is still friends with his ex-wife. He’s a moderate sports fan and plays Noon Hoops pick-up basketball at Bethany College weekdays at Noon.

GG. “Shark Tank, Scandal and Mad Men…Oh My!”

Course description: It’s a mashup! Stemming from three TV classics (one of which is still being televised), students will observe, discuss, critique and analyze the colliding forces of entrepreneurship, business, investing, public relations, advertising, integrated marketing communications, government and politics over the course of this first-year, seminar class.

Keywords: Mad Men, advertising, Shark Tank, entrepreneurs, Scandal, public relations, and politics

Example classroom activities: 

Students will…

  • Review and discuss various episodes of Shark Tank, Scandal and Mad Men in an elongated classroom session (2 hours)
  • Analyze “shark” (i.e., investor) decisions relative to the different entrepreneurial pitches for funding
  • Assess business and revenue models of the presenting entrepreneurs
  • Discuss both realities and exaggerations of modern day PR in the government and political arena
  • By extension, consider public relations strategies and tactics deployed by today’s government leaders and political candidates
  • Learn about the good, the bad and the ugly of advertising lore during the Mad Men era
  • Compare the Mad Men era to today’s digital world of IMC and fragmented promotional support, not only from traditional advertising and other specialized agencies but also from the perspective of social media platforms, publishers, consulting firms and clients themselves who are moving more promotion work in-house
  • Interact with expert guest speakers who visit the class in person or via Skype Take field trips to visit a modern day ad agency, PR firm and/or media-related entrepreneurial start-up

Instructor: Rick Clancy, Visiting Professor, Communications and Media Arts

Rick is a visiting professor in the Communications and Media Arts department. He came to Bethany after serving as a professor of the practice at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he taught public relations and advertising courses. For vast majority of Rick’s career, he was a PR professional serving in various roles, ranging from senior vice president of corporate communications at Sony Electronics to head of public relations for a San Diego-based software and digital marketing firm. Previously, he held corporate communications positions at Wall Street investment firms after getting his start in the PR field with two New York-based advertising and public relations agencies. Rick, his wife, Mary, and daughter, Jenna, are all alumni of Bethany College. He also served on the college’s board of trustees for ten years prior joining Bethany as a visiting professor.

HH. The Laughing Academy

Course description: This course will explore humor and comedy, looking at what makes people laugh, how to craft a good joke, and how to engage with an audience. We’ll learn how to succeed in college and get the most out of your time at Bethany while practicing liberal arts skills like critical thinking and close reading by crafting jokes.

Keywords: Comedy, humor, writing

Example classroom activities: The writers’ room- bouncing joke ideas off each other and improving them; Stand-up comedy routines performed in front of the class and later for a larger audience; Constructive criticism and analysis of reading assignments and videos of professional comedians

Instructor: Travis Straub, Assistant Professor of English

Professor Straub completed his undergraduate education at West Virginia University and earned his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been at Bethany for five years, teaching writing courses including composition, creative writing, professional writing, and environmental writing. He writes short stories that have been published in a number of literary publications, and is currently working on a couple novels. He has performed live comedy in the Deep South and hosted an open mic comedy night in Savannah, Georgia.

II. From Big Bangs to Bad Breaks: Science on the Small Screen

Course description: “In the 21st century, television has become competitive with and, in some cases, has even exceeded big-budget Hollywood films. A consequence of this is the number of engaging and interesting representations of science, technology, and medicine on the small screen. This seminar will examine characteristics of scientists in modern pop culture, using the framework of television episodes to stimulate class discussion and creative writing assignments. Character types will include tortured “mad scientist” geniuses (House, M.D., Breaking Bad, Fringe), deductive reasoners (Sherlock, Elementary, The Big Bang Theory), modern forensic scientists (Bones, CSI) and medical practitioners (Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs). These shows will be investigated in terms of diversity, communication skills, professional etiquette, and the scientific method. Students will journal their experiences, reflecting on how modern scientific stereotypes are portrayed on television. They will also consider which character traits they possess, as well as how they can use these attributes in their future careers in science, education, the humanities, or other fields. The course will conclude with the students writing and presenting a short, peer-reviewed episode of fictional television show.”

Example classroom activities: Trip to Campbell mansion, trip to the library, campus scavenger hunt, readings of selected works from famous Bethanians, written report and student presentations over a selected Bethanian historical figure.

Instructor: Dr. Scott Brothers, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Co-Director of First Year Studies

Dr. Brothers received his doctorate in Inorganic Chemistry from Texas A&M University in December 2011 and began a tenure-track position at Bethany College in the fall of 2012. His pedagogical interests are in active-learning inquiry-based modules in the classroom, integration of computational modules, student use of case studies, and implementation of green and sustainable techniques. His research interests are computational and quantum chemistry of inorganic systems, electrochemistry of conductive materials such as polymers, synthesis of nanomaterials, and thermodynamics of natural fuel sources.

Burj_Al_Arab.jpgStudy Abroad

While travel abroad is often a once-in-a-college-career dream for many at colleges and universities, some students at Bethany are constantly traveling overseas – and getting credit, too. Thanks to well-established affiliations with universities around the globe, students can spend a semester studying in France, Spain, Germany, Japan, England, Canada, Argentina or Greece. Some students have visited as many as ten countries during their four years at Bethany.


Internships are also an important component of a Bethany education as students gain professional and developmental experiences through working in their related fields of study or through the many leadership opportunities available.

Internship.jpgIf it’s a Bethany internship, it’ll pay handsomely later. Bethany has contacts with companies all over the U.S. and the world. That’s what Bethany internships are all about. Opportunities for a students to put their skills into action. Students take advantage of them to coincide with their field of study and to get a real taste of the real world. That’s the big payoff.

Students may spend the summer, January Term or even a whole semester combining practical professional experience with formal off-campus study.

Each student must successfully complete a Senior Project consistent with the guidelines and requirements of the department of the student’s major. Guidelines are available from the chair of each department. A student may propose a senior project earning two, three or four credits as determined through consultation with the faculty of the major department. Projects are proposed, scheduled and evaluated in accordance with guidelines established by each major department. The project is supervised and evaluated by the stBDEBethany-249.jpgudent’s senior project advisor and by at least one additional faculty member. The project grade is submitted by the department chair. The completed project is filed in the library archives. A Senior Project Book is published yearly.

Senior Project Book Archives

2011        2012
2013       2014




comps2.jpgCulminating the Bethany education is the Senior Comprehensive Examination. Comprehensive exams help students demonstrate their mastery of a subject and lead the student to a sense of self-confidence and achievement.

Bethany is one of only a few undergraduate institutions in the country that conduct comprehensive exams.

A truly unique experience, the exams are broken up into two days of written exams and a one hour oral exam with a panel of faculty. The exams are offered in January and in May.

Students who do unusually well in the Senior Comprehensive Examination earn a pass with distinction.