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Students Interact with Chemistry Graduates at Alumni Night

The chemistry department’s Alumni Night allowed students to learn more about career options within the field, build relationships with alumni, and recognize departmental growth.

By Aiyanna Klaphake ’20

November 07, 2018 | 4 p.m.

Group of Chemistry Alumni

Over 100 students and 19 alumni gathered in the Underground on October 8 for the annual Chemistry Alumni Night. Students networked in a casual environment, moving from table to table to chat with alumni about post-graduation options for a chemistry major, what it is like being a Christian in a secular scientific workplace, and how their Bethel experience influenced their careers.

Professor of Chemistry Wade Neiwert says the opportunity for students to hear alumni stories is incredibly valuable, as it helps students to recognize the benefits of difficult classes or to realize that they do not have to be perfect to find success. Just as importantly, meeting with alumni can help students build their network with professionals in career areas that interest them. “It helps them make a connection outside the main campus bubble,” Neiwert says. “Students get to develop relationships with these alumni.”

Cargill’s Director of U.S. Regulatory Affairs Brent Kobielush ’04 regularly attends department events because of the value he sees in students interacting with alumni in a range of professions. “The Chemistry Alumni Event provides a great opportunity for students to build their network,” he says. “Oftentimes,opportunities in the workforce are a direct result of ‘who you know’ vs. ‘what you know’… The ‘who’ is dependent on students seeking out opportunities to meet professionals who represent a diverse set of career paths.”

Kari Gabrielse ’09 attended the department’s Alumni Nights first as a student and now as a physician’s assistant at Twin Cities Orthopedics. She also sees Alumni Night as an opportunity for students to learn about a number of different careers in a low-pressure environment. “It can be daunting being a student and feeling like so many options are out there, or feeling like you don’t know what you are doing with your degree,” Gabrielse says. “[Alumni Night] gives students a lot of perspective on what they can do with a chemistry or biology degree.”

Originally started 11 years ago as an alumni panel discussion held for chemistry senior seminar students, the event’s evolution into a much-anticipated gathering that invites all chemistry and biochemistry majors to attend demonstrates the department’s overall growth.

Kobielush reflected on attending past chemistry department events that once had just a handful of attendees. “I wouldn’t be surprised if that number has increased by at least an order of magnitude over a 15-year period,” he says. “That is tremendous growth and is a testament to God’s blessing on the department and the hard work from each and every one of the professors.”

Neiwert says he has particularly seen development in the quality of job and graduate school placements for alumni and also in the amount of departmental research taking place. “There have been a lot more publications and grants for faculty... and a lot of productivity and students working on things over the summer with faculty,” he says.

For many students, including Korbyn Dahlquist ’20, who hope to eventually attain their Ph.D. in chemistry, establishing a strong background in research is particularly important. Dahlquist will begin her own research project studying the mechanisms by which fats are degraded this coming spring. She especially appreciates the applicability of her research and classes to the real world. “[Chemistry] is known to be a hard major,” she says. “People will go into classes just trying to get through, but it’s important to recognize… this is preparing us for what we need to do.”

“The Chemistry Alumni Event provides a great opportunity for students to build their network. Oftentimes, opportunities in the workforce are a direct result of ‘who you know’ vs. ‘what you know’… The ‘who’ is dependent on students seeking out opportunities to meet professionals who represent a diverse set of career paths.”

— Brent Kobielush ’04, Cargill’s Director of U.S. Regulatory Affairs

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