October 27th, 2021
Bethel brought Cristy Dougherty back into teaching – beginning this semester with director of forensics and communication arts faculty roles – and she’s glad it did.
The assistant professor of communication arts was finishing her doctorate at the University of Denver and starting to look for jobs – in the middle of a pandemic – when she came across the opening at Bethel.
“I was wrapped up in the Ph.D.,” she says, “writing my dissertation on a fellowship, so I didn’t even have to teach. The job market was not fun during COVID, and I was trying to be more open to opportunities that I wouldn’t have thought I’d return to.”
The question – after working on a graduate degree in communication arts, did she want to “get back into speech again?”
She decided the answer was yes. “After a time of not teaching and doing a lot of writing, I was craving teamwork, and working with students.”
Dougherty was born and raised in Minnesota, where she was a high school and college forensics competitor. Speech, she says, “is the reason I went to [college] in the first place. I don’t think I would have done it without that.”
Her undergraduate degree is from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., where she first heard of Bethel College, because of Bethel’s strong reputation in the national intercollegiate forensics competition world.
Later, when Dougherty was coaching at Minnesota State University-Mankato, she met Mallory Marsh, then the director of forensics at Bethel.
Bethel “made so much sense,” she says. “It felt destined. It was perfect timing – I had just graduated [from DU], my lease was up.
“And I went to a similar college at Concordia, a small liberal arts school. I know the environment. I’ve lived it.
“I care more about teaching than anything, even my research, which I also love. Teaching is a passion, so I liked that Bethel is teaching-focused.”
And finally, she says, there is “the institutional support. Bethel cares so deeply about forensics and the arts. It was something I wanted to be a part of. I trusted my intuition and ended up here.”
Is Bethel’s legacy (one of only a literal handful of schools to have qualified for the American Forensic Association-National Individual Events Tournament every single year of its existence) intimidating?
Not to Dougherty. “It’s great,” she says. “We have resources. The tradition has been created – it’s solid and firm. The support is there. That’s the most important part.
“After I took the job, I got several messages [from colleagues] along the line of ‘We want to see Bethel forensics survive.’ They have missed Bethel’s presence.
“This legacy helps new coaches like me who need connections, who have never directed my own team. I think it’s a really important feature of the team’s success.”
Her goal for this first year is “to create a solid, stable foundation for the team. I’m focused on creating a sense of structure that seems to be working.
“I’m putting a lot of emphasis on my seniors who are about to graduate. They deserve a good season and to be able to do some things they never got to do.
“For my freshmen, I’m asking them to step into leadership. I implemented warm-ups at team meetings, and I’m getting freshmen to lead the warm-ups and learn how to teach new students.
“It’s all about creating a team culture,” she says. “I’m a competitive person but right now I need to really work on the foundation.”
She says the work is “challenging – a new experience” but the reward is that “the students are great. They’re passionate and funny. They always make my day so much better.”
Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel ranks at #15 in the Washington Monthly list of “Best Bachelor’s Colleges” and #31 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest, both for 2021-22. Bethel was the only Kansas college or university selected for the American Association of College & Universities’ 2021 Institute on Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation, and has been named a TRHT Campus Center. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu