One of the defining attributes of a Bethel education is that we seek to transform the whole person. So while that means that students should expect to experience spiritual formation in a classroom as much as in Chapel, it also means that co-curricular activities play an important role in the education of many of our students. Historically, History and Social Studies Ed majors have been well-represented in these activities, from athletics to student government, choir to forensics, performing in plays to leading worship.
To help prospective students get a better sense on what academic programs like History and Social Studies Ed have to do with co-curricular activities, we asked current students and alumni to talk about their own experiences. First up, two of our resident student-athletes discuss the relationship between sports and academics at Bethel:
First, Kelly Van Wyk (’15) is a History/Social Studies Education double-major who came to Bethel from Sheldon, Iowa. In addition to being a stellar student and one of our departmental teaching assistants and active in Model UN, Kelly is a middle blocker on Bethel’s volleyball team (and a member of its student leadership team). Busy as that schedule leaves her, Kelly told us that she values that mix of experiences highly:
Though being a student-athlete has kept my plate full, I can’t imagine ever having chosen to so anything else during my past three years at Bethel. I have learned a lot from each activity and gained an even more unique understanding by making connections between both. My studies in history have developed my ability to empathize with all kinds of people. Because the Bethel History Department has taught me how to understand how the people of the past have thought and made meaning of the world, I seen a lot of personal growth in my capability to appreciate the differences in thought that I encounter in my daily life. As a leader on the volleyball team and a person of faith, this skill is invaluable to me as I try to witness to those who surround me, whether that be on the court or in the classroom. This insight goes beyond volleyball and beyond athletics in general.
I encourage all students to pursue extracurricular despite the extra busyness that it adds to your schedules. These outside of class experiences add further definition and perspective to the snapshot of your time as a student in a way that prepares you for living the rich and abundant life that Jesus claims for us in John 10:10. Let Bethel be a place where you fully embrace and build upon the good gifts you have been given.
Then we heard from another of our outstanding History/Social Studies double-majors: Tom Keefe (’14), of Wausau, Wisconsin. Like Kelly a department TA, Tom is a senior quarterback on Bethel’s undefeated and nationally ranked football team (which clinched its conference championship last Saturday). He pointed out three benefits of taking on the challenge of balancing academic and athletic commitments:
As I reflect on my time at Bethel, and my time pursuing History and Social Studies Education degrees while participating in extracurricular activities, I can truly say that my educational experience has been enhanced by the synthesis of these activities. This is primarily for three reasons.
To begin, I can honestly state that participation in both has changed my relationship with God as I attempt to pursue and worship Him through a few different avenues. My involvement in activities, which God has graciously provided me with certain gifts in, permits me to experience Him in ways that I could not if I had chosen to devote all of my time in college to a singular, exclusive activity. For example, the way I worship God on the football field is much different than the way I experience his presence in studying certain aspects of history.
This leads to the second reason I believe my time at Bethel has been enhanced by the relationship between extracurriculars and academics. I know that my participation in football has increased my ability to succeed academically, and vice versa. Learning in any extracurricular activity absolutely translates, and often relates to, learning that is happening the in the classroom.
Finally, I believe involvement in extracurriculars has been vital in my personal college experience, because activities like football have allowed for an opportunity to release from the rigors of education. At times it is necessary to experience rest from the pursuit of an education, and extracurriculars provide a perfect opportunity for this to occur. I think it is incredibly important for a student at a Christian liberal arts college to engage with academics and extracurriculars. After all, one of the primary goals of a liberal arts education is to promote wholeness in a student, and I believe that participation in academics and extracurriculars allows for a student to discover themselves in ways they probably could not otherwise.