‘Exploring Pathways’ Help Students Choose Direction 

Apr 15, 2024

When students enroll at Bellevue College, one of first buzzwords they’ll hear is “pathways.” Whether it’s BC Pathways, Guided Pathways, or choosing a pathway, these terms are used to help students pick an academic program or career field so that they have the best chance of success when selecting their classes and investing in their future. 

Alumni and career professionals at the winter Exploring Pathways event.

When students enroll at Bellevue College, one of the first buzzwords they’ll hear is “pathways.” 

(And, no, we’re not talking about a physical sidewalk pathway.) 

Whether it’s BC Pathways, Guided Pathways, or choosing a pathway, these terms are used to help students pick an academic program or career field so that they have the best chance of success when selecting their classes and investing in their future. 

But picking which pathway, degree, certificate, or area of study can be confusing for some students. Maybe some don’t yet know what career or major they’re interested in, or they don’t know about all the options Bellevue College has to offer.  

For instance, did you know Bellevue College offers an applied bachelor’s degree in software development with a concentration in artificial intelligence? Or that students only need to earn 19 credits for an outdoor recreation leadership certificate?  

There are many pathways—there’s that word again—that students can take to get to where they want to go and accomplish their goals. Bellevue College offers eight:  

  1. Business 
  2. Health Sciences 
  3. Humanities and Communication 
  4. Social Science, Public Service, and Community Engagement 
  5. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) 
  6. Technology and Data 
  7. Transitional Studies 
  8. Visual and Performing Arts 

To help currently enrolled students learn more about academic programs at the college and the careers available after graduation, the pathways leadership team decided to launch a quarterly event series called, you guessed it, Exploring Pathways.  

“It started with the STEM exploratory group,” Jacqueline Gapinski, a molecular biosciences professor, said. “They piloted a few events, and that started in spring 2022 and they ran events all last year… We’ve used what they did as a model for what we started to do. Our first pilot event was in April of 2023.” 

The first pilot Exploring Pathways event featured the Humanities and Communication and Visual and Performing Arts pathways, but soon expanded to include all eight pathways in fall of 2023. In the winter of 2024, Exploring Pathways expanded again to include the eight pathways and career panels with professionals speaking about their own educational pathway. A huge portion of panelists were Bellevue College alumni as well.  

“I strongly believe in the power of giving back,” said Anna Tarasiuk, a Bellevue College alumna who was on one of the Exploring Pathways career panels and graduated in 2022 with a BAS in Information Systems/Application Development. “My journey has been rather unorthodox, marked by numerous humps and roadblocks. As a result, I am passionate about sharing my learnings to guide current students and help them avoid the same mistakes I encountered.” 

Now a senior program manager on the Canadian leadership team for Amazon, Tarasiuk said the STEM pathway stood out to her as the perfect fit for her STEM journey.  

“With its cutting-edge technology, industry-expert instructors, and unwavering support, the hands-on learning, group projects, and collaborative skills emphasized in the curriculum were instrumental,” she said. “The skills I acquired during my bachelor’s directly shaped my internships and paved the way for a successful career ahead.” 

Stephanie Thomas, a Bellevue College alumna who earned her associate in arts degree in 2011, also spoke at the winter 2024, three-day event series as a career panelist.  

“I’m a big believer of giving back,” Thomas echoed. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at without Bellevue College. So, I’m happy to help BC students in any way I can.” 

Thomas works at LinkedIn as its principal product marketing manager and was a first-generation college student who pursued her associate degree through the Humanities and Communication pathway at Bellevue College. 

“I enjoy tackling complex business issues with diverse stakeholders,” she said. “It requires psychology to understand what motivates people, business acumen to present convincing solutions, and written communication skills to move projects while keeping everyone on the same page.” 

Thomas adds that career pathways aren’t always linear or final and that students can change their minds dozens of times before landing on one that works for them.  

Katherine Medbery-Oleson said hearing from working professionals was valuable for current students because they “might not always think about how they can translate a history major into working for an aging service” or other similar career trajectories.  

“I really loved how folks talked about how they weaved here and there, and were like, ‘Hey, you might not think an English major could ever get a job, right?’ That’s what one of the panelists talked about, how that was feedback she got – ‘What are you gonna do with an English major?’ ” Medbery-Oleson said. “But she said, ‘I was really glad I didn’t listen’ because she’s done a lot with her English major first as a writer at National Geographic and later in other business settings.” 

Coming up on their fourth Exploring Pathways event, one year later, Gapinski and Medbery-Oleson are excited to take the event series in a different direction through a collaboration with Student Engagement, a Bellevue College department that supports student leadership learning and growth.  

Instead of career panels, Bellevue College students will be able to connect with Career and Transfer Pathways, approximately 30 student clubs and organizations, and campus support services through the Exploring Pathways and Involvement Fair. 

From 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on April 16 in the C-building lobby, students are encouraged to visit the Exploring Pathways and Involvement Fair. Free ice cream will be available. Thanks to the Bellevue College Foundation, college swag and free pizzas from Tutta Bella will also be available for those who participate in drawings.