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What to do with a biology degree: Three grads take three different directions

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College’s Career Night, held annually in mid-November, gives students a chance to network with alumni and discover “life-after-college” possibilities.

Sometimes, as was true this year, Career Night demonstrates that a single major may yield diverse vocational directions.

This past November 14, more than 40 professionals from at least as many job fields met with students in Memorial Hall on the Bethel campus. All of them had at least two things in common: they studied at Bethel College and they enjoy sharing their experience and knowledge with current students.

Judy Loganbill, Wichita, Shari Scheffler, Valley Center, and Nicholas Moncado, Newton, all graduated from Bethel with majors in biology. Loganbill is now a state legislator and elementary school teacher, Scheffler is a physical therapist and Moncado is senior representative for Primerica Financial Services.

After graduating from Bethel in 1975, Judy Loganbill spent two years teaching on the Hopi and Navajo Reservations in Arizona with Mennonite Voluntary Service, an experience that steered her interests away from biology, she says. After she “fell into teaching” through MVS, Loganbill earned a degree in education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. In 1983, she began teaching in the Wichita school district, where she works today. Both education and service opportunities “add layers to who you are as a teacher,” Loganbill says.

However, Loganbill has an additional career – as a Kansas state legislator. After being asked to run for a House seat, Loganbill, a Democrat (the minority party in Kansas) decided to try, and was elected in November of 2000 to the seat she still holds in the 86th Congressional district.

When campaigning, Loganbill avoids slandering her opponents, she says. Instead, she focuses “on three things I have done and three things that I will do” to benefit Kansas. The experience of being a state lawmaker has been “a total blast,” she says.

Although biology ended up not contributing to her career choice, Loganbill says that because “Bethel is a small liberal arts college, you don’t have the pressure of needing to choose” but rather are allowed to grow and be educated outside a major field of study. She participates in Career Night, she says, “to [help] students with choices – not that you have to choose.”

On the other hand, Shari Scheffler directly applies her biology degree in her work as a physical therapist at the Susan B. Allen Hospital in El Dorado. After graduating from Bethel in 1997, Scheffler went on to receive a master’s degree in physical therapy from Wichita State University.

Scheffler always enjoyed biology, especially anatomy and physiology, she says, so it was natural to pursue a health-care profession. The choice to become a physical therapist came from a combination of factors: regular hours, weekends and holidays off and good pay, all factors that would allow Scheffler both to have a family and work in health care.

Physical therapy is a “very rewarding career,” Scheffler says. “There is the expectation that [the patients] are able and going to get better. My goal is to improve people’s function in life.”

Scheffler participates in Career Night to share with students her enthusiasm for her vocation and her place of employment. “It is important to choose a career that you are passionate about,” she says. “But it is equally important to find an environment that allows you to pursue that passion – [this] helps you stay passionate.”

Scheffler emphasized the “superiority” of her Bethel education. “The small class size [allows for] important relationships with professors and fellow peers in your major,” she says. “This environment [is comparable to] a work environment and work relationships. You are not just a number as you are in larger schools.”

The most recent of these three biology graduates, Nicholas Moncado (2006), appreciated his biology classes but says it was the Bethel environment that had the greatest influence on him. Bethel “refined me as a person,” he says. He credits Dale Schrag, director of church relations, for the single most important lesson he says he learned at Bethel: The statement, attributed to Thomas Aquinas, to “Never deny, seldom affirm, always distinguish.”

Moncado has found Aquinas’s wisdom applicable to the pursuit of his passions in life – it provided him with a “mind frame” to pursue his dreams in the world, he says. The debates carried on through “student announce” (e-mail messages students are able to send to all members of the student body and some faculty) and the interaction between students and speakers in convocation inspired Moncado as well. “Bethel is a great environment for growing great people if you are open to it,” Moncado says.

Although he ultimately hopes to become a professor of biology, Moncado currently works as a senior representative for Primerica Financial Services. He achieved the position after only six months with the company, and it will allow him freedom for building his future plans.

Bethel’s Career Night is organized and coordinated by the Office of Career Development and Teacher Placement, directed by Marla Krell, and by the Student Alumni Association, led by Director of Alumni Relations Dave Linscheid and, this year, Jill Swenson, senior from Hutchinson.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the highest ranked Kansas college in the national liberal arts category of U.S. News & World Report's listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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