Having an Evangelical Christian college on my resume has made for a lot of explaining at interviews.
Since I graduated 10 years ago I have worked in businesses, non-profits, schools, and churches. Seems like a lot right?
Well it is… but that’s how it goes when you graduate into a recession.
So as you can imagine, I have had A LOT of interviews in those 10 years.
And some version of this comment has wiggled its way into almost every interview: “I see here that you went to Bethel University…” Here, they usually pause not sure how to legally fish out the information they are looking for. “That’s an Evangelical Christian college right?” Then they pause again. Some go so far as to say, “You know diversity is a value here…”
What they are trying to ask is: “Are you going to be a problem?”
Are you the kind of employee that is likely to make our LGBT, non-Christian, and employees of color feel uncomfortable enough to create HR issues?
The kind of sheltered that is not going to understand where the line is between sharing about your church and making your co-workers feel awkward?
The kind of employee who is going to make their views on traditional marriage known to LBGTQ co-workers?
The kind of employee who is going to say or do something racist?
Because my particular Evangelical college is much like many Evangelical colleges. It’s a medium sized liberal arts school that has a reputation for pumping out naïve, conservative, and often times vocally intolerant Christians.
I live in the diverse city of Minneapolis and in my work I am often being interviewed for jobs where the company has worked hard to hire LGBT individuals and people of color. So when they see that I have an Evangelical college on my resume…they get nervous.
And this is not just wild speculation on the part of the employers. Every year there is a racist or homophobic news story coming from my alma mater.
This year it was the repainting of the campus rock.
After a black person was shot nearby, some Bethel students had painted the rock to say Black Lives Matter,
Then a group of students painted over it with the words Blue Lives Matter, Double Standard, and BLM = Racist.
Then Protests with hundreds of students ensued. The School President held a repainting rally to repaint it to say “Us for Us.” But as I stood at the rally I saw maybe 300 people there on a campus of 6,000. “Us” had clearly not shown up for the repainting ceremony.
Now, events like this are bound to happen when young people from different backgrounds gather together. Colleges across the nation have struggled with racialized incidents. The difference with Evangelical universities is: These are not isolated incidents.
And my employers realize this.
This is an actual headline from the same Evangelical alma mater that was PRINTED IN OUR CITY NEWSPAPER IN 2010
The subtitle was “Here’s a great bad idea for a campus AIDS program fundraiser: Have a student in blackface impersonate Lil Wayne, complete with dreadlocks, gold teeth and baggy pants.”
There was a person in black face at an official school event. It is THE DEAD MIDDLE OF THE RECESSION – and I’m applying for jobs against a thousand other employees and this is the major headline from my school.
Shortly after this story broke, I was interviewed by a black woman for a Special Education job at a high school with 50% black students. And she looks down at the words Bethel University. Sitting there I felt like my resume said “Black Face University.”
But again…don’t push this off as an isolated incident.
The Bethel student handbook states that LGBT students are not allowed to engage in same sex relationships while they are students there.
It is the Law of the Land and this policy persists.
And this refusal only highlights the potential HR dangers for hiring one of their alumni.
I’m not the only one who has had this issue.
Most of my friends have some crafted a short speech for when they are interviewed. A way to “explain” why they have this intolerant institution on their resume.
And my guess is, If you went to an Evangelical college, you have a version of this speech too.
It is beyond frustrating that the university I paid tens of thousands of dollars to get on my resume is now seen as a liability to potential employers.
I hear if you get out of the Midwest people don’t know about our college. Of course, they are probably having similar feelings about the Evangelical college in their state.
I’m trying to change it.
This is me, at the repainting ceremony, standing next to the Campus President and Campus Minister. I am trying to do my part. But the campus needs to do their part. I honestly am not sure what it would take to change the public perception. We would need to publicly change the stance on LGBT students – and an apology for the years of prejudice would help. I think every student could benefit from a two week boot camp on white privilege and how to be an ally to LGBT individuals. and people of color. Maybe a mandatory class each year for all students. And then go on a media blitz talking about everything.
It would have to be enough for my interviewers to look at my resume and think, “Hey that’s that Evangelical school that is doing all that amazing work around tolerance!”
But for now my friends and I are still working on our interview answers. I still live 5 miles from my alma mater, so I have gotten really good at answering the Evangelical college interview question.
I smile and say, “Yes I went to Bethel. I grew up in a conservative church, but I have grown a lot since then. And despite intolerant view espoused by my classmates, many faculty, and many of the school policies – I was able to graduate and become a more informed and accepting person. The skills of diplomacy, personal growth, and learning how to make the best of a difficult situation make me an excellent candidate for __insert job__.”