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The Path Less Traveled

The Path Less Traveled

Ryan Wahlund ’06, a biology turned biblical and theological studies major who went on to become a lawyer, took the path less traveled when it came to landing a job in his current field: commercial insurance and corporate risk management.

When it comes to choosing a career, it’s never too late to change your mind. Just ask Ryan Wahlund ’06, a biology turned biblical and theological studies major who later went on to become a lawyer—and now works as a business risk consultant. “It’s quite the story,” he says with a laugh. “I definitely took the path less traveled.”

The son of a Presbyterian minister, Wahlund dabbled in the sciences before joining the Department of Biblical and Theological Studies with the intention of carrying on the family mantle. He spent most of his undergraduate years learning under nationally recognized scholars, deepening his understanding of Scripture, and preparing for servant leadership. By the time he finished his degree, he felt equipped for—but not called to—ministry.

“I’m extremely grateful I got a liberal arts education,” Wahlund says. “I didn’t just learn the answers in undergrad—I learned how to find the answers myself while working through problems and issues, and how to apply what I learned in different settings.”

Leaning on the conviction that ministry could be done in any professional field, Wahlund redirected his course to law school, where he discovered that interpreting legal documents, understanding their original context, and applying them to contemporary issues wasn’t all that different from studying the Bible. After graduation, he took a job as a business attorney for a small law firm and and worked there for almost five years.

Eventually, Wahlund again realized that something didn’t feel quite right. The things he liked most about his job—meeting with clients and grabbing coffee to chat strategy with coworkers—were becoming harder and harder to fit into his calendar. Increasingly holed up in his office with mountains of paperwork, Wahlund decided to make a change. He quit his job at the law firm and quickly landed a position in commercial insurance and risk management.

“The more I looked at myself and the way God equipped me, the more I felt like it made sense,” Wahlund says. “It accented my strengths and did away with the things I didn’t like about law. Now, I love what I do.”

While his license to practice law is now inactive, Wahlund continues to use his legal knowledge to advise clients and help them account for corporate risk. He regularly interacts with successful business executives, and he works hard to build relationships with them so that he might eventually be able to share his faith—a full circle nod to his interest in studying ministry as an undergraduate student.

“Someone once told me, ‘God paints straight with crooked lines,’” Wahlund says. “In college, I thought I knew how my life would go. But it’s so important to be open to God’s calling. You might use the skills you’ve developed to do something completely different from what you thought.”

That advice was impactful for Wahlund, and he continues to share it with Bethel students every chance he gets. As a member of the National Alumni Board and BethelBiz—an organization that connects alumni with current students—Wahlund helps young people navigate many of the vocational and career questions he faced more than a decade ago.

He didn’t become a pastor or theologian, but Wahlund firmly believes his Bethel education was worth it—if not for the critical thinking and practical application skills, then for the doors it has opened for him. “There’s no price tag you could put on it,” he says. “I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without my Bethel degree, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Learn more about BethelBiz and alumni involvement at Bethel.