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Threshers awarded in history and music, English

June 2nd, 2022

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Bethel’s highest academic award, the Thresher, goes to one or more graduating seniors – this year to Emma Beachy, Kalona, Iowa, in history and music, and Bethany Powls, Garnett, Kan., in English.

Beachy earned praise from Joel Boettger, director of bands, for the way she developed skills in jazz piano, “solid fundamentals of jazz language” and a deep love for jazz history while at Bethel, coming in with no training or experience in any of them.

“Emma’s interests in the critical subject matter of race and gender, late-stage capitalism and their intersection in the trajectory of expression of art, and artists in the current moment have prepared her for cutting-edge research in the field of musicology,” Boettger said.

Kip Wedel, associate professor of history and conflict studies, noted Beachy’s senior research paper on Mary K. Oyer, a pioneer for women in Mennonite music and education and probably the most influential figure in Mennonite hymnody in the 20th century.

In addition to her exemplary research accomplishments, in her four years at Bethel, Beachy was involved in Concert Choir, FemCore, Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo, tutoring in the Center for Academic Development, teaching piano at Bethel College Academy of Performing Arts and publishing or presenting her research multiple times.

In fall 2022, Beachy begins Ph.D studies in musicology at the University of Michigan with full funding.

Powls received the Thresher for “sustained academic excellence in English studies, for completion of an outstanding English senior thesis, and for her editorial role in campus publications.”

English faculty remarked on Powls’ “commitment to research [that] is notable in her senior thesis, ‘From Nursery to Narnia: Ideal Girlhood in Nineteenth-Century Children’s Literature and C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.’”

Even beyond Powls’ excellence in the classroom, beginning in her first-year Introduction to Literature course and sustained through four years, and an exemplary senior thesis, the Thresher citation also recognized her for editorial leadership.

Powls served three years as editor-in-chief of The Bethel Collegian, the student-led newspaper, and worked on the editorial team for Bethel’s annual student and alumni literary magazine YAWP! during her senior year.

As a junior, she did an independent study as an editorial intern for Mennonite Life, creating a significant section of the issue in which alumni wrote on navigating the pandemic.

In addition, Powls was a member of the Bethel College Concert Choir and the women’s a cappella ensemble Woven.

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

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Bethel College prepares students for meaningful lives of work and service through faith formation, the liberal arts, and practical experience in career pathways.