Hitting the Right Notes
Music has always been a source of self-discovery and connection for Bethany Barber ’22, who spent many nights of her childhood belting out songs with her family in the living room. That early musical inspiration stayed with her, even after she enrolled at Bentley with a plan to pursue a finance degree. Here, she talks about pivoting to an Information Design and Corporate Communication major, discovering a talent for songwriting and completing a summer internship at Apple.
What were some early influences of your love for music?
Music has always been my way of connecting with myself and others. My family especially ingrained my love for music. I remember karaoke nights where my family would sit around taking turns choosing songs, and my dad and I used to do jam sessions where he would play the piano and I would sing along.
My parents always encouraged me to embrace my love for music and singing. I’ll never forget my first time singing in front of a crowd; I was probably about 11 years old. We went on vacation and there was a kids’ karaoke night; I remember singing “Love Story” by Taylor Swift. It was the first time I was given validation and encouragement outside of my own family that I could sing.
How have you explored your musical interests at Bentley?
College is when I started to really embrace my connection with music. I didn’t like writing in high school, but taking two expository classes at Bentley and writing about topics I was interested in — like pop culture and music — made me realize that writing could be fun!
Only a couple of years ago did I discover a newfound love that wedded together my passions for music and writing — songwriting. I started writing songs to cope with the uncertainty and isolation that came with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. I've struggled with anxiety since high school, so at the time, I relied on finding relatable songs to feel less alone in what I was feeling. Now, if I can’t find a song that makes me feel seen, I write my own songs as my way of coping with overwhelming emotions. Songwriting is my safe space to let myself feel what I feel and to give myself peace.
How have student organizations like the Campus Activities Board (CAB), Off the Clock A Capella and Philippine United Students Organization (PUSO) impacted your development?
I wanted a holistic Bentley experience; student organizations are an extension of my identity, whether that’s culturally, musically or creatively.
I joined CAB because event planning sounded fun, but over time, CAB helped me discover my passion for creating memorable, inclusive student experiences. Organizing events where students meet new people, make new memories and create meaningful connections was one of my primary ways of giving back to Bentley for all the good it’s brought me.
PUSO created a stronger connection with my Filipino culture. Connecting with other Filipino students gave me a sense of familiarity and home; some of my favorite memories from Bentley came from nights I bonded with the PUSO e-board over a trip to Boston, home-cooked meal nights and random drives together. And I really enjoyed being able to share Filipino culture with the rest of the Bentley community through our events. With music, I eventually started songwriting and jumped on every opportunity to perform my songs at artist showcases like Project Creative Industries Artist Showcase and Project Pag-Asa, an event collab by PUSO and Project CI.
During my time with Off the Clock, the organization was a safe space for music and singing lovers like me and I couldn’t be more grateful for it. In this space, I didn’t have to worry about being too loud or annoying with my random humming and singing. I could just show up as myself and have fun with others who appreciate music.
You enrolled at Bentley to pursue finance. Why did you switch to an IDCC major?
During sophomore year, I took what would’ve been my first Finance major course, and I quickly realized finance wasn’t a fit for me. A career compatibility test in CDI 201 [Career Design Introduction] confirmed the misalignment of my interests with my prospective Finance major. It was an uncomfortable realization because, at this point, I had planned out my entire college and career trajectory around being a Finance major.
Thankfully, I talked with my CDI 201 mentor Alyssa Hammond [director of undergraduate career development], who introduced me to the IDCC major. That was a huge first step in planting the seed that I could lean into my creativity as a career path. IDCC is a great intersection of my analytical side — solving problems — and my creative side for visual design and communication.
What influenced your focus on user experience (UX)?
[Associate Professor of IDCC] Roland Hübscher introduced me to UX; and during the course User Interface [UI] Design, I became captivated by the design process. Hours of Googling, watching YouTube videos and reading individual stories of people venturing into UX convinced me that pursuing IDCC would lead me to an exciting career path.
I chose to also pursue a Computer Information Systems minor because I thought having some backend knowledge of UX/UI design would make me a more valuable team member so that I could bridge the communication between frontend and backend designers on a UX project.
What were some takeaways from your internship at Apple in Cupertino, California, in summer 2022?
I was a communications intern at Apple, and though it wasn’t a UX/UI internship, I grew a deeper appreciation for creating meaningful and effective communication. My growing curiosity and intrigue with both communication and visual design, alongside meaningful coffee chats from my internship, gave me the confidence to pursue a career in UI design.
The internship exposed me to the importance of communication and its power to inspire, motivate and most importantly, connect individuals with each other. I’m fascinated by the art and value of designing information.