Our faculty “love building moral world changers.”

Bethel recognizes faculty members from the university’s four schools for their dedication to building men and women into moral world changers.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

October 25, 2019 | Noon

CAS Faculty Excellence Award Recipients

Associate Professor of Communication Studies Scott Sochay, Professor of Biological Sciences Paula Soneral, and Professor of Philosophy Ray VanArragon were named as the 2019 Faculty Excellence Award recipients in Bethel’s College of Arts & Sciences.

Much can be said of Bethel’s professors. They are highly credentialed scholars, experienced professionals, inspiring teachers, and engaging lecturers and speakers, but most of all, they are compassionate women and men of faith. With degrees from top universities and impeccable credentials, Bethel’s professors bring vast experience to their service as scientists, historians, authors, coaches, philosophers, and scholars. And their Christian faith marks each aspect of their work.

Since 1987, Bethel faculty have recognized their peers whose excellence as teachers, scholars, and individuals represents the best qualities of a Bethel professor. Here are the 2019 recipients of Bethel Faculty Excellence Awards:

Faculty Excellence Awards in the College of Arts & Sciences:

Paula Soneral, professor of biological sciences—Faculty Excellence Award for Teaching, College of Arts & Sciences (CAS)

Paula Soneral’s colleagues praise her as a strong role model for female STEM students and a phenomenal biology instructor. Since joining Bethel in 2008, Soneral has used clear and measurable learning objectives to direct her classrooms as she challenges students to engage with tough questions, such as: How do we make sense of our good God in light of what we know about cancer? “Her energy is contagious and her model as a life-long learner spills from her in a very natural manner,” Professor of Biological Sciences Teresa DeGolier says.

Soneral’s intellectual curiosity helps engage students in cutting-edge projects on campus. She helped add Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) to the biology curriculum. These research-based laboratory projects are part of 100- and 300-level biology courses and tackle novel research ideas and engage undergraduate students in scientific discovery. Soneral developed a project related to biofuels where she and her students launched a bottle rocket using ethanol distilled from an invasive plant on campus. Then they wrestled with the ethics of whether to invest money in this process, balancing fiscal responsibility and care for creation. Soneral has also published extensive scientific research, while also connecting her students to research opportunities. “Students take great ownership of this work, and I love having them engage in the broader scientific enterprise through these learning experiences,” she says.

Soneral describes biology as a means to explore real life with students, and they share a yearning for a deeper connection with our Creator. “I see all of our work together as biologists and as learners—young and old alike—as a collective act of worship,” she says.

Ray VanArragon, professor of philosophy—Faculty Excellence Award for Scholarship, College of Arts & Sciences

As a college student, issues in philosophy of religion drew Ray VanArragon deeper into his chosen field. Today, he is building on an already accomplished record for scholarship in philosophy of religion. Along with his scholarship, VanArragon has maintained a full teaching schedule since joining Bethel’s Department of Philosophy in 2005. He wrote or co-wrote three key books in philosophy of religion: Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion, Evidence and Religious Belief, and Key Terms in Philosophy of Religion. And he continues to write articles for top peer-reviewed journals and book chapters in volumes edited by key leaders in philosophy of religion. In Senior Seminar, he mentors senior philosophy majors to become emerging scholars. While his scholarship is gratifying, VanArragon calls teaching the favorite part of his job. He has held several Bethel committee roles, including president of the Faculty Senate.

While he calls it fulfilling to blend faith and academics at Bethel, VanArragon says it’s not always easy to seek answers to some of life's biggest questions and subject our beliefs to critical scrutiny in philosophy. “I want my students to be challenged and humbled, but I also want them to see that there are many Christians whose faith has been enriched and deepened by the study of philosophy,” he says.

Scott Sochay, associate professor of communication studies—Faculty Excellence Award for Service, College of Arts & Sciences

Since 1999, Scott Sochay has brought energy and passion to Bethel’s Communications Studies Department. His colleagues praise the excellence and integrity he applies to his many roles and duties at Bethel, along with a great sense of humor. Along with his teaching duties, Sochay is Bethel’s leading voice of Native American culture on campus. “I really feel that part of the reason that God called me to Bethel was to share my Native heritage and help advance the cause of diversity on campus,” he says. “It has been very fulfilling to be a voice for indigenous peoples.” He strives to educate people who are not Native Americans about the culture and its continued relevance today by teaching courses, giving talks, bringing guest speakers to campus, and planning events. He serves as faculty advisor to the First Nations student group, consults with United Cultures of Bethel, and continues serving several other student and faculty groups. Outside Bethel, he serves commissions and boards for his tribe, and is deeply involved in the community, especially at Liberty Classical Academy, which serves students from pre-K through 12th grade.

Sochay says he was humbled to receive the award and join the list of deeply-respected faculty who’ve previously the recognition. To Sochay, the most fulfilling part of his job is interacting with students, while also incorporating his faith into his work. “It has been so freeing to be able to integrate faith into my communication classes and to see students wrestle with the implications for their faith living in a media-saturated world,” he says.


Faculty Excellence Awards in the College of Adult & Professional Studies, Seminary, and Graduate School:  

Faculty Excellence Awards

Christian Ministries Program Director Laura Gilbertson, Professor of New Testament Jeannine Brown, and Teaching Partner/Leadership Coach Jeanine Parolini received the 2019 Faculty Excellence Awards in Bethel’s Graduate School, Seminary, and College of Adult & Professional Studies.

Jeannine Brown, professor of New Testament—Faculty Excellence Award for Bethel Seminary 

Jeannine Brown brings many years of teaching and scholarship to Bethel Seminary. Along with writing numerous articles in scholarly journals, Brown has written or contributed to several books—including three commentaries on Matthew's Gospel—that makes her work accessible to the wider learning community. She also serves on the NIV’s Committee on Bible Translation and is working on a revision project of the NIV Study Bible for its 35th anniversary in 2020. “I am grateful to have an established scholar like Jeannine on our faculty at the Seminary,” says Doctor of Ministry Program Director Justin Irving. Brown’s peers praise her strong commitment to service and the team-oriented approach she has brought to several committees, while students appreciate her excellent teaching style.

Now in her 20th year as a full-time faculty member, Brown loves the mix of teaching, writing, and leading Bethel Seminary’s online programs, but she calls teaching and mentoring students the most fulfilling part of her job. “Students are why faculty exist,” she says. “As I teach most of the time in fully online courses, I am most gratified when I can make personal and meaningful connections with online students.”

Jeanine Parolini, teaching partner/leadership coach/dissertation advisor—Faculty Excellence Award for Adjunct Faculty, College of Adult & Professional Studies (CAPS)/Graduate School

Jeanine Parolini carries a passion for investing in principled people to serve as leaders. “The most fulfilling part of my role is helping students to move forward in their personal and professional lives by practically applying faith and key concepts to their life and leadership,” she says. Parolini brings a wide scope of expertise to the MBA and Strategic Leadership program teaching teams, having taught five different classes both face-to-face and online. She has also served as a leadership and careers coach for students in the programs, which her peers say shows her skills, flexibility, and capacity for juggling different roles in serving the university and her students. Along with teaching occasional courses at Bethel Seminary, Parolini previously served the Faculty Development Committee, and she served as a key leader in helping form course and media development and helping new instructors transition into their roles.

Parolini published a book, Transformational Servant Leadership, and numerous articles, and she is also a renowned consultant, coach, speaker, and writer on issues pertaining to effective leadership, organizations, and teams. But she loves to focus on students. “To me, it is exhilarating to be part of sending stronger and more solidly principled leaders out to be God's light in this world,” she says. “I love building moral world changers because our world desperately needs them.”

Laura Gilbertson, program director of Christian Ministries (B.A.) in College of Adult & Professional Studies (CAPS)—Faculty Excellence Award for Full-Time Faculty, CAPS/Graduate School

Laura Gilbertson brings a passion for equipping women and men to use their gifts in diverse ministry settings. Her peers praise her as a naturally gifted teacher who runs student-centered classrooms while always seeking ways to improve. She engages students by asking profound questions that lead them to reflect on class topics, and she challenges students to apply the questions and situations to their own lives. Working with adult undergraduate students, Gilbertson is proud to encourage adult students who face disadvantages. “Nothing is more fulfilling for me than seeing CAPS students, who often have overcome significant obstacles to return to school, come alive and thrive because they feel valued and supported as God's beloved,” she says.

Outside the classroom, Gilbertson is working on articles for publication and has presented at local and national conferences. Along with serving on multiple Bethel committees, Gilbertson is also a leader in her community, providing pastoral counseling, preaching, and teaching workshops through her church and area churches. Gilbertson formed a scholarship for students seeking a B.A. in Christian Ministries, and a portion of the honoraria from Gilbertson’s speaking and teaching engagements at churches are given directly to the scholarship fund.

As a former student of fellow Faculty Excellence Award recipient Jeannine Brown, Gilbertson says she was humbled to be recognized the same year as Brown. “I am grateful to teach at Bethel, where the principles of justice and hope inspire us to seriously engage the realities of inequalities and injustice,” Gilbertson says. “It is powerful to watch students awaken to the needs of the world while simultaneously become more deeply grounded in the truth of Christ's liberating and reconciling power.”

Professor of Political Science Christopher Moore (center) was one of six Bethel faculty members across all four schools to be recognized for their excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service.

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