Students find summer break a time of both earning and learning
by Erin Bradley
NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Just because a school year ends and students leave for the summer doesn’t mean the learning stops, as Bethel College students can attest.
During the three months between the end of May and the end of August, Bethel students, among other things: went to a new place to try something different; interned; traveled; confirmed their job hopes; practiced sports; and counseled at camps.
Aaron Rudeen, senior chemistry major from Osage City, applied months ago for a National Science Foundation-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Kansas. Competition for REUs is fierce, with fewer than 25 percent of applicants accepted, but Rudeen was among them.
He spent 10 weeks over the summer in KU chemistry labs, working on breast cancer research. His task was to look for an enzyme in bacteria comparable to a human enzyme.
“It varied every day, which is one of the reasons I really liked it,” Rudeen says. “Sometimes it was just on the computer – crunching data, reading through other reports people had written. Other days, it was straight up on the lab bench, running reactions all day. It was a different experience every day.”
Through the program, Rudeen says, he learned a lot about himself and his future direction. The experience helped him feel positive both about his decision to go to graduate school and his desired field.
“Original research is kind of set up to fail,” Rudeen notes. “You [make] this whole plan: ‘I am going to do this, run this reaction.’ You will work for an entire week on something and get to Friday and say, ‘I’m going to test my results now’ and you’ll get nothing.
“Then you think, ‘Well, my entire week was useless.’ But it’s not necessarily [so] – now you know that procedure wasn’t what you need to be doing. You’re still moving forward, [just not gaining] results. Dealing with that frustration was one of those ‘not hot’ times.”
Although he spent the bulk of his summer doing chemistry, Rudeen also returned briefly to a place that’s been his summer home often in the past – he was a counselor for Senior High Week at Camp Mennoscah near Murdock.
Rudeen’s summer also yielded opportunities for the coming year. The internship gave him data for a research poster he’ll present at a regional convention in Omaha, with a chance for national presentation, and a possibility of co-authorship if KU decides to publish the research he was involved in.
A little over a thousand miles east, Megan Leary, junior from North Newton, worked as a nanny for a Bethel alumni family in Baltimore, Md. After seeing an ad in Bethel College e-mail, she applied for the position.
“I would have worked at the [campus] bookstore if I hadn’t gotten this job,” Leary said. “But when I saw it, I thought maybe it would be nice to do something not in Newton, since I do go to school half a mile from my house.”
Leary spent her summer living with the family as they transitioned into a new place, with the mother and young son in Baltimore while the father tied up loose ends at their previous home.
Leary’s days included caring for the 14-month-old while his mother was at work. She says she taught him animal noises and how to go down the stairs safely, among other things.
With her evenings and weekends free, Leary found time to enjoy her surroundings. She spent a weekend in New York and another in Washington, D.C., and also went with the family one weekend to New Haven, Conn.
While Justin Baldia racked up possibly the most miles of anyone this summer, his experience also helped him in making the transition onto the fast-approaching career-after-college path.
The senior communication arts major from Lewisville, Texas, was a three-year member of Bethel’s men’s basketball team but chose not to play this year. However, he both played and coached the game during the summer.
At the beginning of the summer, Baldia spent 10 days travelling across Europe with an American club team that played five games. Back home, he coached a noncompetitive 7th-9th-grade YMCA basketball team, and decided coaching was something he wanted to keep doing.
“As far as the Europe trip, it was the best possible way to end my [basketball] career,” Baldia says. “The trip gave some closure for my year.
“And then [with] coaching,” he continues, “I know that I’ve moved on to the next stage. I never thought, growing up, ‘Oh, I want to coach,’ but [after] this experience, there’s no way I wouldn’t want to. It’s sort of fairy tale-ish.”
And speaking of careers, connections are key to building them. Through his connections, Jerrell Williams, junior Bible and religion major from Garland, Texas, was able to work as a student missionary on a local reservation over the summer.
He had worked short-term with the missionaries in the past. This year, they asked him spend the entire summer with them.
Williams painted and did other facilities upkeep and improvement, gardened and volunteered with groups. One of the main places he worked was at the reservation’s Boys and Girls Club.
“I always wanted to do youth ministry, but now I am looking at mission work as well,” Williams says. “[This experience] really cleared a lot of things up. It’s wherever I am called to be, but mission work is looking pretty good right now.”
Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the 2012-13 Forbes.com analysis of premier colleges and universities in the United States and ranks in the top five “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2012-13. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA.