When Pam Austin (’12) came to Bethel in 2009, she was determined to take just one speech class. She had worked in the banking industry all her life and, at the time, was working as a senior vice president and up for a promotion that would require her to speak in public. It was recommended that Austin take a class.

Initially, she resisted, hiring a speech coach instead. It was with the prodding of that coach that Austin landed herself in a Saturday morning class with Associate Professor of English Maralee Crandon, Ph.D.

That’s when everything changed.

“I had this fabulous professor who thought outside the box and really allowed us to bring creativity. She made the class so fun and so interesting. It just led to another class. And that led to another class,” Austin says.

Before she knew it, Austin was taking three courses per week and on her way to earning her bachelor’s degree in organizational management.

“I expected to take one class, go back to my employer and say, ‘OK, I’m ready for my promotion!’ But it just wasn’t that way. I fell in love with learning,” Austin says.

Austin also developed a new sense of self-confidence. Though she’d climbed the corporate ladder without a degree, many of her colleagues had their law degrees and most of them had their master’s. So Austin became quite adept at changing the subject when asked, “Where did you go to school?”

“I guess I always felt ‘less than’ because I didn’t have my degree,” she says.

In the midst of working full time and taking classes, Austin was approached by 1st Source Bank and offered a position as vice president – private banker. She found 1st Source, a community bank and proponent of lifelong learning, to be a good fit for her. They were very supportive of her desire to continue working toward her degree.

“With my newfound self-confidence, I knew that, promotion or not, it was time to move on. I have never been happier and I’ve never looked back,” Austin says.

This past spring, Austin felt a great sense of pride when she walked across the stage of the Wiekamp Athletic Center to receive her diploma. But she isn’t stopping with her bachelor’s degree. Austin has already enrolled in the master’s program at Bethel and hopes to one day work as an adjunct professor in the nontraditional program.

“I was going to take one class and I cannot believe that I have my degree — and I’m headed for my master’s,” she says.