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Transfer Student Experiences the Bethel Difference

Katie Murphy ’19 is an organizational communication major with an emphasis in strategic communication. She transferred to Bethel in spring 2017.

When Katie Murphy ’19 started looking at colleges, she was certain she wasn’t going to attend Bethel. Her mom, Kathy (Thacher) ’89, and stepfather, Paul Yaklich ’89, are alums, and many of her friends were planning to enroll. “I knew too many people,” she says. “So [coming to Bethel] just wasn’t an option.” In pursuit of her own academic journey, the Minnesota native decided on a private Christian college across the country.

Now a Bethel student—having transferred midway through her sophomore year—Murphy reflects on the surprising and significant ways that private Christian colleges can differ, and how Bethel’s academic rigor has afforded her the professional, spiritual, and social opportunities she hoped for in college.  

When Murphy arrived at her first school, she quickly discovered that the academic experience wasn’t meeting her expectations. From the start, Murphy wanted to study communication, with the goal of combining her strengths and passions to become a museum curator or facilitator. “The [communication] department at my old school was very small,” she says. “And it was very vague.”

She felt her studies were being put in a box. “I don’t want to be a news broadcaster, I don’t want to work in journalism—and that’s kind of what everyone assumes,” she says. Due to the size of the communication department, Murphy found that her coursework catered more toward these types of careers.

This has been one of the greatest—and most impactful—differences Murphy has benefited from since transferring to Bethel. The Department of Communication Studies boasts four different majors with multiple emphases. As an organizational communication major with an emphasis in strategic communication, Murphy has been able to customize her degree to fit her goals. Hand in hand with the customization, Murphy says she’s benefited from increased academic rigor. “You’re surrounded by students who do really want to be there.”

But it’s possible that Murphy—as is the case with many transfer students—wants to be there more than most. “Many transfers come to Bethel for a specific academic program, which increases their drive and motivation perhaps more than an initial incoming freshman,” says Sara Wanous, director of student activities and campus engagement. “Transfers have a strong sense of purpose and vision for their academic journey here at Bethel.”

Though Murphy affirms her decision in retrospect, when she initially thought of transferring schools she still felt resistant to Bethel. “But when I visited home I’d come to Bethel to see [my friends], and it forced me to just walk around and talk to people and see the school,” she says. “I never would have done that on my own.” During one of those visits, Murphy had the opportunity to hear President Jay Barnes speak on the compassion of Jesus and the universality of the Christian faith.

“My other school was so stuck on one thing, whereas here, it’s like, ‘let’s have conversations about this, let’s challenge it,’” Murphy says. Finally, when Murphy learned she would have the opportunity to apply for a vocal scholarship—even without being a music major—she was swayed. Bethel was shaping up to be a place where she could grow academically, socially, and spiritually, so she decided to buck her initial hesitations and enroll for the Spring 2017 semester. She wasn’t disappointed. As Murphy had already begun to discover before transferring, she found she could customize all facets of her Royal experience.

“I could choose how involved I got,” she says. As an introvert, she felt Bethel offered her the perfect blend of opportunity and freedom. “I didn’t feel overwhelmed by how small and connected the school was—I actually enjoyed it. I can stay small if I want to, or I can grow in my experience. It’s not difficult to get involved here.”

And Murphy has gotten involved—in the day-to-day, by choosing to attend Chapel and investing in her coursework, but also by finding opportunities on campus. Her first semester she worked with Facilities Management and last semester she served as a teacher assistant for the communication department. She’s also enjoyed participating in the Bethel Women’s Choir, and has used Bethel’s connections and resources to get involved outside of the classroom.

Last spring semester, her department shared an opportunity for a summer internship with the Minnesota Children’s Museum. It was exactly the kind of opportunity Murphy was hoping to land. “Bethel’s academic standards opened doors for me to get this hands-on experience,” she says.

Through her internship, Murphy affirmed her career aspirations and learned that her professional interests were more diverse than she had thought. “I ended up working with the public relations [team] even more than I expected to,” she says. This was largely made possible by the strong preparation she received at Bethel in the prior semester.

“My Group Communication course with Phil Frazier was very challenging,” she says. “I was overwhelmed by that at first, but I started applying myself to it, and [Frazier] told us that we got out as much as we put in…I was challenged and encouraged by my classmates to put out very professional material.” Ultimately, this served her in her internship where she was able to put to practice concepts she learned in class.

Such experiences have continually affirmed her choice of Bethel and developed her understanding of why she felt called to give the school a chance. “I took a big step of faith and trust in transferring to Bethel,” Murphy says. “And it’s very different than I expected it to be, but I don’t regret a day of it. I am so grateful that I transferred here, and I just keep learning more and more about why I’m here.”

Learn more about the transfer student experience at Bethel.

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