Earlier this year — even before we announced our newly merged department — we invited all alumni in History, Philosophy, Political Science, and related fields to complete a survey asking about their experience at Bethel and after graduation. We heard back from just over 200 people and have been using that data for a number of purposes since then, from planning class activities to shaping how we describe ourselves.

Today we thought we’d share a few highlights from that survey. While we were happy to hear back from alumni going back to the 1950s, we’ll primarily focus here on responses from the 70% of respondents who graduated in the 21st century (since their experience lines up most closely with our current faculty and curriculum):

Academic Experience at Bethel

We asked alumni if they agreed that their courses in Philosophy, History, and/or Political Science enhanced certain abilities that are both central to a liberal arts education and highly valuable for future work and study.

Three standouts were skills that are arguably most central to all of our disciplines: 99% agreed that they had improved in Writing, and 96% and 93% said the same about Critical Thinking and Research, respectively. In addition, 86% of respondents also agreed that their Hippo studies had enhanced their abilities to integrate faith and learning and to empathize with others, and 81% said the same about their understanding of other cultures.

Then here’s just some of what our alumni said were the most distinctive strengths of our programs:

It was a safe haven to learn how to think, to question, and to be myself. The professors and instructors not only were intelligent but deeply caring about us as people and about the world we live in.

Philosophy

The professors are fantastic. They do a great job delivering interesting and relevant material, provide feedback that fosters growth in academic skill, and perhaps the largest strength is their ability to build relationships with students.

History

The care and compassion of the professors. They really invested in me. I also really appreciated how they facilitated discussion between students. I don’t really remember long, boring lectures but lively conversations we had.

Political Science

Professors who supported my personal development, academic interests, writing skills… class content was extremely relevant to the formation of my identity, values, and thinking.

Philosophy

I think the most distinctive strength was the department’s commitment to teaching all sides of the story. Learning about different perspectives was crucial to my growing worldview at the time.

Political Science

Teaching students how to learn and gain new perspective in a non-biased/non-judgmental way. This fostered a deeper personal understanding of myself and the subjects of our study. This also facilitated an attitude of humility and openness to learning other perspectives with compassion and understanding.

History

Career Paths and Further Education

What can you do with a Hippo major? We asked respondents to tell us a bit about the jobs they hold. About 30% work in some form of business, 25% in education (15% preK-12, 10% higher ed), about 20% in politics/government (13%), or law (7%), almost 10% in some other kind of non-profit setting, and about 5% each in health care and church/Christian ministry.

Specific responses then became one source for our alumni career map (for which we’re still accepting additions and updates — just email Prof. Gehrz):

Among all our alumni in the survey, 56% had either completed a graduate or professional degree or were in the middle of such a program. Even among those who have graduated since 2000, that same number is already over 50%, with another 22% indicating that they intend to continue their education. Among those recent alumni who are in or have finished a master’s or doctoral degree, 93% agreed that their studies in political science, philosophy, and/or history had prepared them well for graduate or professional study.

In addition to further study in our core disciplines, some of the survey’s most popular fields for graduate work are law, education, ministry, business management, library science, and public policy or public administration. But the list also includes analytics, communication, counseling, dentistry, forestry, nursing, records management, and social work.

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