January 20, 2017 | 9 a.m.
By Jenny Hudalla ’15, content specialist
When Joshua Babel CAPS’16 walked across the commencement stage in Benson Great Hall last May, it was a special moment. Not just because he was graduating—because it was the first time he stepped foot in the university from which he’d earned his degree.
As an Arizona resident who completed a B.A. in Organizational Leadership entirely online, Babel was touched when a member of his cohort recognized him from his directory photo and asked him to join the group. “They came up and found me and said, ‘You’re a part of us,’” Babel says. “It made [the travel] worth my time—being included by people who didn’t know me, but acted like I belonged.”
Babel, who works as a worship leader, book publisher, and journal clerk for the Arizona House of Representatives, stumbled across Bethel’s College of Adult & Professional Studies (CAPS) when an advertisement in RELEVANT Magazine caught his eye. The B.A. in Organizational Leadership sparked his interest, but with three jobs and a family, he “put the idea on the back burner.” It wasn’t until Babel’s employer encouraged him to continue his education that he decided to jump.
“Bethel’s program is people-oriented,” Babel says. “If I’m going to help others become better at leadership, I also need to better myself. So, it went hand in hand with what I was doing. It was a perfect fit.”
According to Nikki Daniels, associate professor and program director of organizational leadership, one of the program’s strengths is providing students with immediate, real-life application for their careers. “The beauty of the program is that it takes students on a journey of self-discovery—for self and in partnership with others,” Daniels says. “The content moves beyond the ‘what’ of doing to the ‘who’ do I partner with and ‘how’ do I engage them?”
For Babel, those questions are particularly complex. A typical week means juggling his government job with ministry consulting during regular work hours, blocking off three weeknights for meetings and local ministry, and fitting in book publishing, church, and family time on the weekends. “My days are crazy,” he admits, “but it all revolves around the opportunity to meet needs.”
While completing the program entirely online made things like group work and camaraderie more difficult, Babel says the connections he made with professors added a personal touch to his experience. “Professors went above and beyond to spend quality time on the phone with me, and that was more beneficial than anything else,” he says. “It brought things to a more personal level that you just can’t get reading text over email.”
Daniels says the online delivery option has made the organizational leadership program available to a wider audience, attracting flight attendants, businesspeople, military personnel, and lead and lay pastors from around the country. One of the most important lessons she wants students to take with them is the realization that leadership is “more than a title.”
For Babel, that much is certainly true. He says his Bethel education gave him a concrete understanding of his identity and purpose as a leader. “I’m not just going off the cuff anymore,” he says. “I learned how I communicate in leadership and relate to people, and now I can use those skills to bring out the best in others.”
Babel and his wife live in Casa Grande, Arizona. They have two young daughters and another child on the way.