Our series of alumni interviews continues with Scott Kirchoff (’03), one of our many graduates to have paired majors in History and Social Studies Education. (And one of many Bethel History majors who have played leading roles in Bethel’s athletics programs — more below.) After teaching junior high history for three years, Scott returned to Bethel as an admissions counselor; in particular, he works with potential transfer students. He’s also an assistant coach on Bethel’s nationally-ranked football team, coaching athletes at his former position.
Did you plan to major in History and Social Studies Education when you came to Bethel? If not, how did you pick those majors?
No, I actually planned to major in Computer Science when I first came to Bethel. That lasted until I met Calculus and then found out I couldn’t add, and those two things don’t seem to go together too well! I chose Computer Science because I really enjoyed playing around with computers in high school – but not in the programming sense so I thought it would be a good fit. Also, everyone was telling me how easy and well-paying the jobs would be if I were to graduate with a CS degree.
Interestingly, I met the Lord in a deeper way while I was at Bethel and heard for the first time to pursue what you are passionate about…maybe even more of a “calling” (I would have never called it that at the time, but knew I loved reading, history, and kids/coaching). Follow your passion and there will be peace no matter your salary, where you live, and what title you have at work – seems like I am still learning that as I journey through life!
You played football throughout your time at Bethel (here’s an ESPN.com profile from September 2003, when Scott was on the verge of concluding his record-setting career as Bethel’s quarterback)… What was it like to balance your roles as student and athlete? (Did those experiences intersect or overlap with each other? For example, it seems like there’s always been a healthy number of History/Social Studies majors who play varsity sports — do you see any connection?)
Balancing football with studies prepared me well for everything that I faced with teaching and life itself after college. It teaches you to prioritize your time, invest in what you know is important, and it gives students an opportunity to feel what it is like after leaving college – we all make decisions for what we want to invest our heart and time in… Choices to me always provide an opportunity for growth because they often reveal where your heart is at.
I think there is a connection with football coaches and teaching history/social studies. Often, it seems the lessons we take from history help us to navigate how best to live our lives now and into the future. As coaches, we are always looking to improve ourselves and prevent the mistakes that we may have made the last play, last quarter, last game, or last year. There are many lessons to be learned from history – seeing people in history that have demonstrated courage, strength, endurance, focus, commitment – all these can give an athlete the energy and enthusiasm to attack today, to attack the next workout, to attack the next opponent – and get better each day in the process!
Also, I think it is cyclical. The reason I wanted to teach History was because I had a teacher in middle school who taught it, was a football coach – and someone I wanted to be like. That process continues to repeat itself, it seems.
Talk about how you went from teaching into college admissions. Do you feel like your studies in History and/or Social Studies Ed were good preparation for admissions work?
The reason for switching to Admissions was based on the reality that I could come back to Bethel, a place that has had a huge impact in my life in terms of making me who I am today, and feel good about telling others that it is a worthy experience. In addition, I had been coaching FB at Bethel for a few years already and I wanted to be in a full-time role where I could meet and interact with the players on a more regular basis
I think the work in the classroom allowed me to see in a small glimpse what high school students are concerned about: what matters to them, what they want to accomplish in college, and how they prioritize decision making.
What’s your favorite part of being an admissions counselor at Bethel? What’s most challenging?
My favorite part of being a counselor is letting potential transfer students know that Bethel is a community that, if you are open to it, can provide a life-changing experience, and give chances to meet friends that will be with you long after you leave school.
The most challenging part of being a counselor is the intensity of the job itself at points throughout the year. There are a lot of events that are scattered throughout the year, along with the fact that bringing in transfer students both spring and fall semesters can be challenging.
What do you say to prospective students and their parents who worry that an undergraduate education at a Christian liberal arts college like Bethel isn’t worth the cost? What is the “value-added” of a Bethel degree in a field like History?
I approach this question in a couple of different ways. First, I aim at disqualifying many of the myths that are out there in higher education, such as students commonly walk away with $100,000 in debt and there are absolutely no jobs out there. This situation is not the norm, and at Bethel we do a fantastic job of providing as much aid to families as possible to make it affordable. Interestingly, the difference in median loan amounts when comparing Bethel to the U of M is below $2000 – so that shows you that we do a good job of helping out students.
[Ed. – Compare for yourself at the Department of Education’s “College Scorecard” site: here’s Bethel, then the University of Minnesota. On a monthly basis, the difference in loan repayment is about twenty dollars a month, and only 1.5% of Bethel graduates default on their loans within three years, compared to 2.5% at the U of M and a national average of over 13%. Here’s a comparison of Bethel’s net cost, graduation rates, median debt, and default rates to the rest of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities.]
Secondly, I share with them my own story of coming to Bethel from a family (and individual) that did not place faith as a priority or knew much about it. However, as I journeyed through Bethel and built relationships with other students, I was exposed to a transformational faith in Jesus that changed my perspective on the world around me. By changing my perspective my life took a different turn and lo and behold my parents became huge supporters of Bethel and through the relationships they built with other Bethel parents they too were exposed to a faith they knew little about. So, the transformational experience that students may have at Bethel and the truth they are exposed to can change the course of a life as it did mine – I think everyone agrees that is worth the cost!
As for the value-added when it comes to a Bethel degree in History –
Being a Christ-follower, I believe that God came to us in History and has forever changed the course of human lives and destinies in Jesus. Throughout History the people of God, both in Israel and within Christianity, have shaped much of Western culture and civilization and therefore I believe it is a worthy endeavor to understand and learn the positives and negatives of this reality. History is an education in itself – so when nations, civilizations, individuals, etc. perform acts of service toward humanity and do good for the world, or the exact opposite, I believe there is value in looking at it from a Christian perspective and aim at sharpening your own faith journey to walk arm in arm with the saints before us and to avoid the rocky places of those who did life apart from God.