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Academics

We believe that literature should reach beyond the academic walls to engage the greater community: with travel courses, cross-listings with Peace, Justice, and Conflict Resolution Studies, and a range of events. Our individualized creative writing major allows students to take workshop courses in multiple genres and work with faculty one on one.

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Departmental Highlights

Yawp! is Bethel College’s literary magazine, providing a place for students, faculty, and alumni to publish creative writing, art, and photography. The journal hosts literary events throughout the year, including a night of surrealist literary parlor games and a journal release party and reading event every spring. Students can gain editorial experience by working on the magazine and gaining practicum credit.

Follow Yawp! online 

Bethel College English department has begun a prison writing project in relationship with the Prison Arts program at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. Students are invited to come to jail once per week and contribute to the meaningful and liberating role of writing in the lives of an incarcerated population.

Opportunities for travel include studying drama in Chicago and a future trip to Haiti is in the works. This fall, BC students from the 300-level Poetry Writing Workshop visited with poet Tony Trigilio at the University of Kansas.

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YAWP!

YAWP! is Bethel College’s online student-run creative journal with features in photography, poetry, short stories, drawings, photos and prints. YAWP! accepts entries from Bethel College students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Internships/Research

In 2006, two students won summer undergraduate research stipends, one for a project in hip-hop criticism, the other for an examination of political fiction from India. Other recent research/seminar topics have included:

  • Analysis of sacred spaces, including college campus spots analyzed through the literary lens of spiritual geographies
  • Political theory in international contemporary literature
  • Gender conceptions and concepts of self in adolescent literature
  • The extreme dimensions of college/campus life analyzed through the literary lens of carnivalesque literary theory
  • Comparative art-English study of gender images in the works of William Blake
  • Native American literature
  • Chicano/a literature

Study Abroad

Bethel offers an interterm travel course, Studies in Drama in Chicago. Students examine major dramas emerging from cross-cultural histories for the first on-campus segment of the course, and then travel to Chicago for five days to consider a living relationship between these texts and cross-cultural urban spaces, histories, and perspectives. The class meets with human rights organizations by day and watches drama productions by night, meeting with directors, writers and actors after their shows. The course is open to any student.

The rigor of my undergraduate work at Bethel has provided an indispensable foundation. From a postmodernism course my freshman year to my senior English thesis, I learned to be a better thinker. Making close friends with whom to contemplate life, academics and the world beyond college was also invaluable.
—Katy June-Friesen ’02
English Ph.D. student, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland
M.A., literary and cultural studies, Carnegie Mellon University
M.A., journalism, University of Missouri-Columbia
Independent journalist/writer/editor

The department has an excellent record of placing graduates in secondary teaching positions.

Another common choice for graduates is to pursue an advanced degree, most often in literature or cultural studies programs, but with law school also a frequent choice. Still other graduates choose communications-related careers in journalism or public relations (for non-governmental organizations, museums, arts organizations, public institutions, and so on).

Notable Alumni

Adam Gaeddert – ’07
Adam graduated from Bethel through the English department. His liberal arts education allowed him to make a career change — he earned a master’s degree in accounting and became an auditor for a company in Atlanta.
Nathan Bartel – ’02

By the middle of his sophomore year at Bethel, Nathan says, his identity as a writer was established. His only choice: fiction or poetry?

He chose poetry. After he graduated from Bethel – magna cum laude, and with a prestigious Thresher Award for his senior seminar paper – he worked for a year as a teacher in the day school at Prairie View Mental Health Services in Newton while applying to graduate schools. He was accepted to his first choice, the University of Montana at Missoula, which he said he had picked in part because it seemed to emphasize community among the writers in the Master of Fine Arts program – an impression which he says proved to be true.

Halfway through his MFA studies, Nathan was one of the winners of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship, an award of $15,000 apiece given annually to two young poets enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate institution in the United States who have yet to publish a collection of poetry. Upon finishing his M.F.A. in 2005, Nathan was one of 10 writers for that year accepted as a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. During his seven months at the center, Nathan completed the bulk of the work on a poetry manuscript, tentatively titled The Pangaea.

A scant four years after graduating from Bethel, Nathan began teaching there. He was assistant professor of English from 2006-14.

He has now taken his education in poetry into the creative world of graphic and exhibit design, as a full-time designer and copy writer on a team that builds museum exhibits such as the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb addition to the Penrose Heritage Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado (the addition opened in September 2014).

Katy June-Friesen – ’02
Katy earned two master’s degrees — one in literary and cultural studies from Carnegie Mellon University and one in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is currently pursuing a doctorate from the University of Maryland as she works as an independent journalist, writer and editor.
Major requirements for English:
34 hours.
Major requirements for English Teaching (for those seeking secondary education licensure):
35 hours; licensure requires additional 3-credit-hour Methods of Teaching English in the Secondary School, plus completion of General Education requirements for teacher licensure and professional education requirements.
Minor requirements for English:
15 hours.

A creative writing major can be earned through the Individualized Major option.

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.