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Bethel Gets R.E.A.L. About Setting Students Apart in the Job Market

Bethel Gets R.E.A.L. About Setting Students Apart in the Job Market

From managing a $1 million investment fund to designing a website for a real company, Bethel students encounter a bevy of hands-on opportunities designed to give them an edge in the job market.

In a rapidly changing employment landscape, Bethel administrators, faculty, and staff set out to create what many college students have long wished for: a program intentionally focused on giving them an edge in the job market. Formally launched in fall 2017, the Relevant. Experiential. Applied. Learning. (R.E.A.L.) Experience exposes students to a variety of hands-on learning activities that equip them with the skills employers are looking for, according to a broad collection of market-based research.

The work begins in year one, when students identify professional skills that will set them apart in cover letters and job interviews upon graduation. Then, they map out a personal action plan to develop those skills through their coursework, research, extracurricular activities, and internships, reflecting on and recording the significance of their experiences along the way. By the time they graduate, students will have a well-rounded portfolio that both demonstrates and helps them articulate their abilities to future employers.

“This concept of reflective learning is what prepares students for the world after Bethel,” says Deb Sullivan-Trainor, vice president and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “It’s about more than walking out the door with a job—it’s about learning to think well, engage complex questions, and understand historical and social context. This is true, whole education. This is what the liberal arts are all about.”

While the R.E.A.L. Experience is unique in its research-driven, results-focused approach, several elements of the program—like experiential learning—have been in place for years. According to the 2017 National Survey of Student Engagement, 98% of Bethel seniors have participated in at least one “high-impact practice”—like studying abroad, completing an internship, conducting research with a faculty member, or volunteering through service learning—and 88% have participated in at least two.

“Those numbers are through the roof,” says Joel Frederickson, associate dean of institutional assessment and accreditation. “Our seniors have scored consistently higher than the national average for years.”

Bethel’s commitment to exposing students to real-world environments before graduation may also explain why alumni enjoy favorable employment rates. A 2017 survey of 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year alumni indicates the average unemployment rate is just 1.5%, compared with 4.1% nationally.

The creation of the R.E.A.L. Experience builds on Bethel’s history of hands-on learning and underscores the institution’s dedication to helping students land a job in their chosen field. From managing a $1 million investment fund to designing a website for a local company, Bethel students encounter a bevy of opportunities to develop sought-after skills and build impressive portfolios that will give them an edge in a continuously changing market.

“Students who choose to attend other liberal arts universities will get a liberal arts foundation and might have some hands-on opportunities, but they won't find a comprehensive, faith-based program like the one we’ve created at Bethel,” says Carmen Shields, chief marketing officer. “It focuses on outcomes and prepares students for immediate entry into the workforce—with a strong liberal arts foundation, the technical skills required in their area of expertise, and a variety of intentional real-world experience that benefit the organizations who hire them.”

Find out more about the R.E.A.L. Experience, or explore other career-focused resources for students.