The professors at Bethel College are a dedicated and diverse bunch. Many of them have spent nearly their entire career here – a span of 25 years or more. A couple of them have been present at very pivotal moments in history, such as the history professor who was in Berlin in 1989. He witnessed and participated in peaceful gatherings and church prayer services in opposition to the Berlin Wall and was present when it came down. Our Bible professor spent several years as a Service Worker with Mennonite Central Committee (denominational relief organization) in Jerusalem and was privy to the political happenings concerning the conflicts between Palestinians and Israelis. At least one professor speaks over ten languages, and many others are at least bi- or trilingual. Interterm trips are a reflection of the diversity of the faculty experience – Israel, Costa Rica, Lesotho, Germany, France, Poland, and Mexico are just a few of the places that professors have spent significant amounts of time in and are excited to share their experiences and expertise with students. One of the Chemistry professors trains dogs in her spare time and takes them to agility contests; the other Chemistry professor runs marathons with the cross country runners.
In addition to leading interesting out-of-classroom lives, Bethel professors have a wonderful tradition of interacting with students. With the exception of the business department, we call our professors by their first name – “Francisca,” “Gary,” or “John” rather than “Dr. Mendez-Harclerode,” “Dr. Histand,” or “Dr. Piper.” This informality allows us less of a hierarchical experience and more of a feeling of collaboration in learning. Professors are also very encouraging of students – I have on several occasions received notes of encouragement or congratulations from professors. The teachers at Bethel as a general rule are very open to drop-in visits to their offices by students, or even conversations in the cafeteria or on the sidewalk. The Bethel College faculty are an important part of student’s lives – not in the conventional teacher-student/classroom setting, but as trusted advisors and collaborators in the learning process.