Bethel has a long history of helping first-time freshmen make the jump from high school to college. For many years, all freshmen have been placed in small advising groups for a class their first semester. More recently, all freshmen live in Haury Hall, where the resident director is also director of first-year success.
The Bethel Bridge program, in its second year, is two days at the beginning of fall semester when new students can learn more about majors, interact with other new students and get to know faculty and staff outside the typical office or classroom settings.
Marcia Miller ’70, registrar, has a special focus in student success: transfer students. She just finished her third Transfer Transition class.
“I don’t know the exact statistic, but something like 50 percent of college students transfer. That’s a huge market, and a big challenge, for us.”
At the start of Transfer Transition, she tells students, “I want to help you understand the culture and how to get along here. I want you to find your college home here.
“My greatest joy would be to read your name at commencement”—which the registrar does for graduating seniors as they cross the platform to pick up their diplomas.
Among the class requirements are “attend 10 different activities—anything Student Life plans, any athletic event [outside their own sport] or any performance—and keep a journal.
“At first they don’t like this, but I hear, again and again: ‘I talked to all these people I never would have met otherwise.’”
Miller has the students read Fully Engaged by John Busacher. Then she pairs each student with a community volunteer who has “already lived a significant part of their life.”
The students are given a set of questions to spark conversation. Then they take one class period to sit at tables in the cafeteria and see what results.
There are some things her students consistently find interesting, Miller says.
“They say, ‘I can’t believe you found someone who fits me personally.’ They find out no one has had a free pass—everyone has heartaches and setbacks. It’s all in how you deal with it. And they find out they have much more in common than different.”
Sophomore Kim Carbonell, who signed to play basketball, visited with Deb Schmidt ’70, Newton, also a basketball player in her day.
“We had ‘tall’ in common,” Carbonell says. “Deb told me, ‘You learn every single day, no matter how old you are.’ And I realized I’ve made friends with people [at Bethel] I never thought I’d talk to. [Deb] also said, ‘God has been with me every step of my life.’ I agree with that.”
“It’s all about connecting,” Miller says. “We want them to buy in. We want to make their transition to Bethel smoother. We’re just trying to help these kids be successful.”