Esther Soria '08 Receives 4 Under 40 Achievement Award

Before she embarked on her successful legal career, Esther Soria ’08 began her journey at Bethel, where she discovered a passion for justice, collaboration, and a deeper understanding of the world. Esther is one of four recipients of Bethel’s 2023 4 Under 40 awards.

By Macey Heath, social media content specialist

August 29, 2023 | 1 p.m.

Esther Soria headshot

Esther Soria '08

Esther Soria’s journey stands as a testament to the motto, “You can accomplish anything you set your mind to.” As a distinguished Bethel alumna, her hard work, dedication, and advocacy in the world of law have paved the way for a remarkable career.

Today, Esther is an accomplished federal prosecutor and assistant U.S. attorney, making an impact in the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota. She started practicing as an attorney in 2014 and has been working as a federal prosecutor since 2018. Her journey to her current role was no small feat, but she’s found it to be rewarding. One of her favorite aspects of her job is collaborating with a diverse group of professionals in law enforcement, who each bring various talents to the table. “We are all smart, passionate people who are working toward a common goal, such as investigating a particular criminal offense or criminal organization,” she says. “We’re all coming with different perspectives and experiences, and together we can piece together a complex puzzle.”  

Esther graduated from Bethel after double majoring in history and political science, with a minor in philosophy. Her hard work and determination as a student were critical to her success, yet she also credits her achievements to a supportive academic environment. Her time in what is now the Department of History, Philosophy, and Political Science provided safe spaces where she and other students could explore her topics of study and who they wanted to become after Bethel. Esther’s studies provided a platform to explore profound questions while being guided by passionate and knowledgeable professors. And she developed a strong affinity for the humanities, which was nurtured by her academic mentors. “These were areas of study where we could ask and explore big questions with the teachers who really loved imparting their own knowledge and passion of those subjects onto their students,” she says.

Esther credits her professors for their encouragement, and for helping her grow her ability to think deeply, critically, and outside the box. “Professor of English Dan Ritchie was always an important professor and mentor whom I learned immeasurable amounts from, and was always an inspiration in his preparedness and the way he asked questions to make us think more deeply about something we had read,” Esther says. She also credits Professor of History AnneMarie Kooistra for her support. “She has always been a significant inspiration in my life and has continued to be a great mentor and friend even after college. She is passionate about bringing characters in history to life, almost on an intimate friendship level.”

esther humanities classmates

Esther Soria '08 with classmates and Professor Dan Ritchie

A supportive academic environment and encouraging professors laid the groundwork for many of her positive experiences at Bethel. Esther says one of her most impactful academic moments was being a teaching assistant (T.A.) for the humanities program, where she delved into primary texts with some of her favorite professors, Ritchie, Kooistra, and Professor of Philosophy Dan Yim. 

As a T.A., she worked through all the newly assigned reading for a class the summer before the roll-out of the third and fourth-semester programs. To Esther, the experience felt like an intellectual book club, igniting her passion for history and philosophy, which became the cornerstone of her studies. “Just being able to read the words of important thinkers like Hamilton, Dostoevsky, and DeTocqueville, and then hear the professors process and wrestle in real-time with them was an amazing experience,” Esther says. “It was one of the best, most nerdiest summers in my life and confirmed not only my passion for my studies but my desire to never stop growing through challenging reads and incredible conversation.”

To Esther, her love of learning and her familiarity with hard-to-understand primary sources remains critical to her success as a federal prosecutor. This skill set enables her to navigate complex legal analyses and apply principles to current cases. “Because of my love of the humanities program at Bethel and all the time I spent in the Department of History, Philosophy, and Political Science with difficult texts—I was exposed early on to the art of learning to admit when I didn’t understand something. The professors were a safe space to start exercising those muscles,” she shares. “Part of being a good attorney is acknowledging the limits of your own understanding and asking questions of people who may have done more thinking or work in an area that might be new to you.”

At Bethel, Esther was also part of the debate team, and she credits that time as a stepping stone for learning more about bigger issues that are happening on a global scale. “Becoming a member of the debate team was one of the most formative and important experiences I have had where some of those classmates became some of my best friends at Bethel,” she says. “We were able to not just compete together and go through intense team building memories, but also forge deep friendships built on wrestling with big questions posed by the current events of the world.” Esther is still close with many of her teammates, all of whom are making an impact in the world. 

In addition to cultivating friendships, Esther’s experience debating global issues helped her form a strong interest in studying abroad, especially in the Middle East. “I realized I was debating in competitions about issues affecting this region where I really formed a picture in my mind of what it’s like to be someone living there,” she says. Esther studied in the Middle East for a semester through a Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) program. She left with an important takeaway from her experience. “So many of my preconceived notions of the region were flat-out wrong. There is an infinite amount of lessons we can take from exposing ourselves to relationships with people who might look different from us and come from different places than us, and that lesson has really informed everything I’ve wanted to do since,” she says. Studying life in a different region of the world provided her with invaluable insights into the struggles and injustices faced by people in that region, which left a lasting impact today.

"There is an infinite amount of lessons we can take from exposing ourselves to relationships with people who might look different from us and come from different places than us, and that lesson has really informed everything I’ve wanted to do since.”

— Esther Soria '08
Esther abroad

Esther Soria '08 with friends on Middle East trip

Esther’s semester in the Middle East also helped her forge lifelong relationships with some of her peers, including a current business partner, whom she works with to plan and facilitate group trips abroad. Their company, Gusto Trips, specializes in providing access to experiences abroad for those who may not normally be able to afford it, and utilizing local and trusted vendors to create meaningful cross-cultural interactions that their travelers would not otherwise be able to book or encounter on their own.

While Esther’s time at Bethel was filled with growth and life-changing experiences, she also faced challenges in her spiritual life. Some of it was due to personal things going on at home, and another piece of it was not always feeling confident she fit the mold of a picture-perfect Christian. However, the supportive community of her debate friends and the mentorship of her close-knit professors helped her realize that faith is an ever-evolving aspect of her identity. “I had to understand my faith is something that’s always going to be changing,” she says. “I needed to learn to feel comfortable in that space of knowing that I’m always going to be growing, and I may never have it all figured out.” Esther says the most impactful faith-related takeaway from her years at Bethel is that the presence of God is seen through the actions, kindness, and diversity of other individuals.

“God has always shown himself to me through other people."

— Esther Soria '08

This understanding, coupled with her experience in the Middle East, helped her embrace and witness the diverse reflections of God around the world. “You get to see the beauty and the diversity of creation in other countries, but also in people, cultures, and experiences,” she says. “Being able to see our God as this creator who is reflected in a person, is important for me to understand that God is working and moving all over the world. It’s really a great honor to be able to step into it and be able to learn more about it.”

Esther’s journey from Bethel to the courtroom is a testament to the transformative power of education and determination.  She offers advice to current and future Bethel students. “Be open to exploring things, relationships, and ideas that may not immediately pique your interest,” she says. “In that openness, discover what truly ignites your passion, as it can become a foundation for a kinder, more loving, and joy-filled life that you share with others. And try to study abroad!”

While her job keeps her busy, Esther relishes quality time with her family. When not at the office working, she spends the rest of her time running around with her 3-year-old daughter and napping with her 14-year-old dog.

Nominate the next 4 Under 40 award recipient!

Bethel University’s National Alumni Board annually seeks and accepts nominations for the 4 Under 40 Alumni Achievement Award. The selection is made from Bethel University graduates 40 years of age or younger who have had outstanding achievements in their career, public service, or volunteer activities.

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