Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Breaking New Ground at Bethany College (Kansas)

It’s a great day to be a Swede!

For the last several years we have been working hard on three fronts to break new ground.  As Hannibal Smith said weekly in the popular 80’s TV series, The A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”  Today those plans come together as Bethany College boldly engages the future.

Today we break new ground as this fall we fully launch our bold, innovative, and disruptive campus-wide, curricular, and co-curricular initiative we are calling Bethany Pathway.  Additionally, we break ground today as this summer we officially begin construction on a new chapel and welcome center.

Apple's Macintosh computer, 3M's Post-It Note, Google's Gmail, Motorola's Razr mobile phone, and Bethany Pathway all have one thing in common.  Each was developed bottom-up by empowered employees tasked to be innovative.

In February 2010 a small group of faculty and staff met in Lindquist Hall for a two-day retreat.  This was the first meeting of the Imagineering the Bethany College of the 21st Century Work Group.  This work group's goal was to imagineer a bold, innovative, and disruptive educational experience that would be a game changer and break Bethany away from the crowd, or peloton, of the region's colleges and universities. 

The conceptual ideas of that group's work was continued by the Core Integration Group, then by the General Education Committee, then by the Curriculum Committee.  

Operating parallel to the Imagineering effort was the First-Year Experience Work Group.  In spring 2010 we applied for and were accepted to participate in a national higher education project known as the Foundations of Excellence in the First College Year©.  The project, facilitated by the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, utilizes a model of excellence for the first-year student experience.  Working closely with the Gardner Institute we assessed then planned a renewal of the overall experience and success of first-year students at Bethany.

As a college we knew we could co-create with our students an exceptional total Bethany experience that included all the parts of the college, academics, co-curriculum, and spirituality.

Over the past year the efforts of the Imagineering and First-Year Experience Work Groups merged to bring to reality Bethany Pathway and to take a significant first step in achieving the college’s vision, “As One Bethany we will soar bigger, better and stronger, guiding student success and with them co-creating the best total experience.”

Let me quickly and visually introduce you to Bethany Pathway
First, this is not your homogenized, two dimensional educational program.  Bethany Pathway is intentionally designed to be multi-dimensional.  The first dimension represents your path through Bethany College – freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years.

The second dimension is Bethany’s missional directions of excellence which frames everything.  They are discovery, reflection & vocation, servant leadership, global citizenship, and sustainable living.

The third dimension is Bethany Pathway and its component parts.  Your path through Bethany begins each semester of your first two years, a total of four Pathway courses that are interdisciplinary and team-taught.  Alongside the Pathway courses are Quest courses.  These courses are designed to create an environment where students, faculty, and staff come together to discuss important questions, to seek encouragement and guidance, and to explore the college’s four missional directions of excellence.  Both Pathway and Quest are designed to help students integrate their total Bethany experience. 

To help you during your first-year will be a dedicated Freshmen Advisor to assist you in planning your academic path and coursework at Bethany, at least for the first year.

Others who will be there to help are our new Pathfinders.  These are upper-class student mentors who have a strong interest in helping first-time freshmen with their successful transition to Bethany, helping them not only survive, but thrive and succeed academically.  Also Pathfinders will help establish a sense of belonging on campus, develop a supportive community, and connect you with faculty and staff outside of the classroom.  Pathfinders begin their journey with freshmen at Swede Days Orientation and continues through the entire freshmen year.

Next, we are converting Alma Swensson Hall into a living-learning community for freshmen.  Programming will focus on building an active, engaged, and responsible community of freshmen who live, learn, and grow together.

The final component is the Pathway e-Portfolio which over four years will map your academic work and progress, co-curricular activities and achievements, and international and professional experiences.  Your final portfolio will enable you to reflect and find meaning on the intersection of your paths and passions to demonstrate to prospective employers or graduate schools your growth and mastery of the 21st century success skills.

Joining me today to break new ground for Bethany Pathway are

Provost and Dean of the College Dr. Ken Macur
Dean for Student Development Dr. Daniel Dentino
Faculty Senate Secretary Dr. Mark McDonald
Curriculum Committee Chair Dr. Kristin Van Tassel
Core Integration member Dr. Loranelle Lockyear
Students -  Amilia Fabrizius, Jeana Brenae-Russell, and Caitlin O’Connor

During Svensk Hyllningsfest in October 2011, I stood before the alumni and friends of Bethany College and shared Bethany's vision for 2031 when we celebrate our sesquicentennial.  I reflected on the vision of my hero, the Rev. Dr. Carl Aaron Swensson, and his ability to make the impossible happen.  I reflected that for the last 130 years Bethany College had done the difficult, if not the impossible.

Four years earlier, in November 2007, only three months on the job I stood before the Bethany and Lindsborg communities to share that former board member Bud Pearson had challenged Bethany to raise $1 million which he would then match with a second million dollars.  Bud in the last few months of his life put his money behind his dream of a chapel and welcome center in the heart of Bethany's campus.

With the board's unanimous endorsement and support we accepted the challenge knowing full well it would be difficult, if not impossible.  Of course we didn't know in November 2007 what would hit our nation's economy in fall 2008.  Certainly this might make the difficult impossible.  I suspect there were those who doubted it would ever happen.

With a dream and no plan we started raising the money to meet Bud's challenge.  Ironically, on this spot in May 2010 I announced the successful completion of Bud's challenge and that we had secured slightly more than $2 million toward the overall goal of $3.5 million.  We had more work to do, but we were doing the difficult, if not the impossible.

Then in January 2012 with about $2.25 million secured the Mabee Foundation challenged us that if we could raise $750,000 over the next year, they would contribute the last $500,000 and the money would be in hand.  So off we went and this past January I announced we had successfully met that challenge too.  

So while this dream has taken over five years to achieve during the worst economic environment since the Great Depression I can proudly boast that we have continued the long Bethany tradition of doing the difficult, if not the impossible.

Before we turn dirt, let me share one final item about the new building that is worth nothing.  Over the last six years, to reclaim and renew our identity and mission, we have done a lot of listening and understanding of our history and of our story.  The first products of that listening were to discern God's mission for Bethany through who we are and where we're from.  That is, we wanted to reclaim and renew our identity.

Through that missional listening and understanding, we discerned five distinct hallmarks that shaped what Bethany is today and by extension will be tomorrow.  To honor those distinct hallmarks we will place in the foundation of the Pearson Chapel and Mabee Welcome Center an item representing each one.  The ELCA and Augustana logos will represent we are Lutheran.  A Dala horse will represent we are Swedish.  A shock of wheat and a city medallion will represent our Place, Lindsborg, Kansas.  A textbook will represent Discovery and a student planner will represent Engagement.

Joining me today to break new ground for the Bud Pearson Swedish Chapel and J.E. & L.E. Mabee Welcome Center are

Board of Directors’ Chair James Martin
Swede Government Association President Jeremy Koehler
Bishop of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod of the ELCA Michael Girlinghouse
Bishop of the Central States Synod of the ELCA Gerald Mansholt
Campus Pastor Noni Strand
Vice President of Recruitment & Marketing Patricia Hartshorn
Co-chairs of the Pearson Challenge Campaign Catherine & Scott Simmelink
Lindsborg Mayor Bill Taylor

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bethany College Sunday at Bethany Lutheran Church

(Yesterday was Bethany College Sunday at Bethany Lutheran Church, where the college was founded 131 years ago in the sacristy.  Here's my sermon.)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you for the opportunity to again stand in the pulpit where 12 presidents stood before me and just a few feet from the sacristy where Bethany College was born 131 years ago. I don't need to dwell but do need to acknowledge the special relationship that exists between the college and this congregation. Because of our special partnership I would like to reflect on the last five years and then tease you with the exciting future that is starting to unfold.

Our local newspaper, the Lindsborg News-Record, and county newspaper, the McPherson Sentinel, have done a wonderful job recently of printing articles reflecting on Bethany's fiscal and operational progress these last five years. This morning I'd like to reflect on the more import strategic progress we've made these last five years.

To define and frame Bethany's strategic directions, early on we did a lot of listening and understanding of our history and of our genetic code. The first products of that listening were to discern God's mission for Bethany through who we are and where we're from. That is, we wanted to find our saga.

The Old Norse word “saga” is, “the recounting of historical and legendary events.” Sociologist Burton Clark defined an organization’s saga as, “what the organization has been and what it is today – and hence by extension what it will be tomorrow.” Through our listening and understanding, we found five inescapable attributes that shaped what Bethany is today and by extension will be tomorrow.

Lutheran. Bethany College was born in the sacristy of Bethany Lutheran Church on October 15, 1881 and we still identify with the distinctive Lutheran tenets of reflection and vocation. We must continually ask ourselves and our students "So, what does this mean?" and "Now, what path will you take?"

As a personal reflection our new provost, Dr. Ken Macur, who will stand here next week, has reinvigorated campus conversation about our Lutheran-ness. Additionally, I'm currently chairing the ELCA Council of College & University Presidents and facilitating a conversation to define the relationship between the ELCA and its 26 colleges in this new normal. As well as a member of the College-Central States Synod’s Missional Engagement Team working to discern God’s call to that shared ministry.

Swedish. Lindsborg and Bethany College were founded by Swedish-Lutheran immigrants. Today we identify with and strive to live the contemporary Swedish values of equality, accessibility, and sustainability.

As a personal reflection I've made three trips to Sweden in my five years at Bethany. I've learned much, made good connections, and met some important people. I have met Their Majesties King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Sylvia, the Swedish Ambassador to the US, the US Ambassador to Sweden, the Governor of Värmland Province, the Bishop of Karlstad, the former Marshal of the Realm, and the new President of the University of Karlstad. These connections will serve Bethany well.

Place. Bethany is located in the heart of the Great Plains, a major agricultural region, yet Lindsborg offers incredible cultural opportunities. Bethany lives in a Place where culture meets agriculture and where a more rounded college graduate can emerge.

Discovery. From our founding, the core of our teaching is active learning and real world experiences where our students identify their strengths, gifts, and talents, as well as confront value conundrums that come from different perspectives of their experiences. Leaving Bethany to do well and to do good.

Engagement. Bethany has a long history of attracting students who get involved, whether through art, music, theatre, athletics, student government, a fraternity or sorority, or another campus organization.  We strive for engagement that is seamless and compliments the classroom experience with the out-of-classroom experience. We also strive for engagement that is broad and deep and not narrow and focused.

These five inescapable attributes - Lutheran, Swedish, Place, Discovery, and Engagement - are our saga. That saga undergirds our guiding principles and what we will be tomorrow. We defined our guiding principles framed by mission, core values, promise, and vision.

Over the last five years, we recommitted ourselves to our mission - to educate, develop, and challenge individuals to reach for truth and excellence as they lead lives of faith, learning, and service - and to our core values of integrity, hospitality, community, servant leadership, and sustainability.

We also committed ourselves to our promise to students where they can expect

  • personal attention within a caring community;
  • active learning and meaningful practical experience – in and beyond the classroom;
  • an educational experience that prepares them for a life and career of consequence;
  • to be an active participant in their own education and in the life of the college; and
  • to be a part in something bigger than themselves. 

Finally, over the last five years, we committed ourselves and have focused our work around our vision to soar bigger, better, and stronger - guiding student success and with them co-creating the best total experience.

More specifically, by our sesquicentennial in 2031, we envision 1,500 students from 50 states and 50 countries where 25% are international students and 100% of our graduates have an international experience; 84% of freshmen continue to the sophomore year; and 30% of alumni financially support the college. 

We further aspire for an endowment of $100 million that gives Bethany a competitive advantage in scholarship support for students and discovery support for faculty, staff, and students.  We also see a campus that is totally accessible economically and physically; facilities and technology that are state of practice to prepare our graduates for a career of consequence; and a Bethany that embraces and lives with equality throughout the college, most especially in gender and race.

Lastly, we envision a Bethany that is a strategic partner with the city of Lindsborg and together we are a national model of town-gown best practices.

With our saga and guiding principles as guiderails, we then identified four missional directions of excellence as pathways to our bold and ambitious future. Those are:

Discovery, reflection & vocation drives our students’ learning where success is marked at graduation by critical thinking, effective communication, information literacy, intellectual curiosity, and employment or graduate school entry within six months. This shared discovery of learning is rooted in strong liberal arts principles.  It shapes Bethany’s first-year experience and core curriculum as well as deep learning in the disciplinary knowledge and skills of our academic majors. It prepares our graduates for a successful life and a career of consequence because they have discovered their passion and are able to reflect, "So, what does this mean?" and to discern, "Now, what path will I take?"

Servant leadership follows the example of Jesus of Nazareth who led and served spanning boundaries in service of a larger vision. Our graduates will go out spanning boundaries to create new visions as educational, business, entrepreneurial, or missional leaders. 

Global citizenship prepares our graduates to function successfully in a “flattening world,” enabling each graduate to appreciate a world view and to develop the ability and desire to become engaged in global issues. 

Sustainable living defines success as actively integrating social responsibility, economic prosperity, environmental stewardship, and spiritual renewal – people, profit, planet, and prayer – meaning our graduates successfully understand how to live a sustainable life and how to lead a sustainable organization.

Let me conclude with a few quick teasers. They are all still in the early formative stage. I share them with you because of our special relationship and you deserve a peek behind the curtain to Bethany's immediate future.

Please remember they are intended to help us avoid insanity, which Einstein defined as, "Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." I've come to realize Bethany College has a bad habit we are trying to break of doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. We hope these breaks that cycle.

This fall we launched a pilot program called Bethany Pathway that begins to bring to reality those missional directions. The pilot contains three components. The first is two interdisciplinary courses. They are Sound and Silence: The Art of Music and Film, taught by Melody Steed from music and Greg LeGault from theatre, and Mind Reading in Theory and Practice: It’s Not What You Think, taught by Kristin Van Tassel from English, Loranelle Lockyear from chemistry, and Andrea Ring from psychology.

The second component is an accompanying course called Bethany Quest, in which each freshman in the pilot is challenged to reflect on his or her personal and vocational goals, and then begins to develop out of that a Pathway e-Portfolio, the third component. 

The early results are positive and we are beginning the conversation to scale this initiative from pilot to full program.

We have, this semester, our first fully online students through our certificate program in network marketing. We see this network marketing online education venture as a growth opportunity for us. Also, we are working hard to offer online dual credit courses to high schools in central Kansas, while we will continue to offer dual credit classes with Smoky Valley High School.

Perhaps one of the most exciting and innovative new ventures is a strategic partnership with Mindfire Academy in Wichita. Mindfire Academy is a relatively young educational venture in creative media technologies now run by Bethany College graduate and Lindsborg native son Jason Opat. Simply, we think this will be a wonderful extension of our art tradition into the 21st century through courses in media art with concentrations in animation/gaming, film making, and sound. Next Sunday there will be an article in the Wichita Eagle introducing this venture more fully.

Lastly, we have become an affiliate of the Kauffman Foundation's entrepreneurial FastTrac(c) program and our first business professor is now certified to offer this opportunity to our students, faculty, and staff, as well as Lindsborg’s and central Kansas' business owners and emerging entrepreneurs. We see tremendous inreach and outreach possibilities with this new strategic partnership.

There it is. How we see who we are, where we're from, and where we're headed 131 years into living God's mission.

Yet, we can sum it all up with "Go Swedes. Serve the Lord. Thanks be to God."


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

2012-2013 Academic Year Opening Message

(At today's campus meeting to begin the 2012-2013 academic year, I shared the following message with our faculty & staff.)

“And looking at them Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” (Matthew 19:26, New American Standard Bible)

This passage from the Gospel of Matthew has taken on special meaning in my wife’s family in 2012, specifically that “with God all things are possible.”

Sheila’s niece Vicki entered East Jefferson Hospital this past January 3rd.  She was 22 weeks pregnant and in premature labor.  Vicki’s last pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and the chances were good it would happen again.

But this time Vicki was in a race to stretch the clock because the neonatologists would not provide intensive care for the premature baby at 22 weeks, but would at 24 weeks because viability is considered to be around 24 weeks.

Through the power of today’s medicine and praying “but with God all things are possible,” Vicki made it past week 22 and week 23. 

On January 17, during the 24th week, Baby Charlotte was born at 1½ pounds and 12¾ inches long.  While she made it to week 24 and was in the neonatal intensive care unit her chance of survival was just 50% … “but with God all things are possible.”

Shortly after Baby Charlotte was born heart complications set in because her ductus arteriosus failed to close after birth.  Wanting to avoid surgery her doctors first tried medication.  It worked!  Surgery was avoided and Baby Charlotte was gaining strength.

For the Judge family, Baby Charlotte’s journey was definitely a roller-coaster … “but with God all things are possible.”

Then in mid-March the bottom fell out and Baby Charlotte had neonatal sepsis and wasn’t expected to live the weekend.  But she did!

The roller-coaster continued but the ups were higher and the downs not as low until on June 20, 155 days after she was born, Baby Charlotte got to go home and meet her big sister.

My telling of this story does not do justice to the 5 month journey Baby Charlotte and the Judge family took from January 17 to June 20.  But the point of the story is simple: with God all things are possible.

Our journey together began five years ago.  For me my faith that with God all things are possible has been reaffirmed and strengthened in that time.

I would like to expand on that during my time this morning.  I’d like to explore the path we’ve taken these last five years through the lens of discovery, reflection & vocation – what we’ve experienced, what does it mean, and what is our path forward.

What we’ve experienced can be summed up with four key indicators: financial bottom-line, financial ratio, enrollment, and retention.  The two financial indicators are tracked by and critical to the Higher Learning Commission and the US Department of Education, while the two enrollment indicators are tracked by and critical to the Higher Learning Commission.

When we began this journey, we started with a financial bottom-line of a $3.8 million deficit or decrease in unrestricted net assets.  When you consider that first year we had $9.1 million in revenues we had a 42% net loss.  That first year our financial ratio was 0.6.  That ratio ranges from -1 to a +3, but to be in “good standing” you need a 1.5.

That first fall our enrollment was 537, which represented the lowest enrollment at Bethany since the 1960’s, and our freshmen-to-sophomore retention was 53%, the second lowest over the previous 20 years.

Now jumping ahead five years – and as we all know too well these last five years we have experienced challenges, opportunities, stress, tears, and joy. 

While still preliminary our June 30 financial statements indicate our change in unrestricted net assets, or financial bottom-line, is an increase of $565,000.  When you consider our unrestricted revenues totaled approximately $11.3 million that means our net income margin is about 5%.  This significantly drives our preliminary financial ratio to a projected 1.4 

Even more significant, this would be the second largest increase in unrestricted net assets Bethany has generated in 20 years.  Our challenge now is to take the next step and make this happen internally by getting our operations to totally sit on its own bottom.

This fall we are projecting an enrollment of about 610 and our preliminary freshmen-to-sophomore retention is 63%.  Yes, enrollment is down from last year, but our five-year trend is still up and we are making small steps forward on retention.  I’ll mention more about enrollment and retention in a few minutes.

In addition to the positive steps forward we have made in these four key indicators, we can also feel proud that during the last five years we were reaffirmed in our accreditations with the Higher Learning Commission, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, and the National Schools of Music; and we were successful in securing first time accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education.

We invested over $7.5 million in new or enhanced academic, athletic, and residential facilities which includes new laboratories for the sciences, new physical fitness center, artificial turf for football/soccer, new track, and a new apartment-style residence hall.

We launched international partnerships with Harlaxton College in England and Karlstad and Linnaeus Universities in Sweden. 

We are piloting this year Bethany Pathway, our re-imagined core curriculum based on our four missional directions of discovery, reflection & vocation, servant leadership, global citizenship, and sustainable living. 

We are finalizing an athletic plan based on a vision of excellence that is both on-and-off the field. 

We continue to make significant progress in our Engage the Future comprehensive campaign which we publicly announced last fall.  We have secured in gifts and pledges $14.3 million – and that puts us ahead of pace to reach the base goal of $20 million and slightly behind pace on the stretch goal of $25 million.  The campaign is scheduled to conclude on December 30, 2014. 

This list is not exhaustive of all the good things that you have done over the last five years.  And I cannot thank you enough for the hard work and sacrifices you have put forth to take these steps forward! 

So, what does this mean?

Like the Judge family, I have learned that with God all things are possible, but these last five years have also shown me the power of the Bethany community to do good.  When we collectively put ourselves to a task, we succeed.  When we are One Bethany, all things are possible.

As we begin the 2012-2013 academic year, let that be our theme, or north star: As One Bethany all things are possible.

Now, what is our path forward?

As I reflect over the last five years and listen to the call of the future, I know we have done much, but we have much yet to do.  This summer President’s Council spent considerable time talking about our challenges.  We also discussed our renaissance plan, Call to Action, and concluded that Call to Action needs to be refocused on the vital and feasible pivotal goals that when leveraged will make a difference in responding to those challenges. 

We identified six critical challenges and six pivotal goals for the year ahead.

#1.  Two years ago recognizing the importance of retention in growing enrollment and our historically poor record of retention we applied to and participated in the Foundations of Excellence in the First College Year©.  We are now ready to launch the plan generated from that effort with a renewed first-year experience – as One Bethany success is possible in retaining 70% of this fall’s freshmen.

#2.  Looking more closely at our enrollment, our profile is about 66% athletes, 17% musicians, and 17% others (meaning non-athletes and non-musicians).  By contrast, in the early 1980’s, our profile was about 40% athletes, 24% musicians, and 36% others.  Ironically, the raw number of athletes has increased only by about 80, attributable to the expansion of women’s athletics and new sports, while our total enrollment has dropped 200.  That means our best opportunity for enrollment growth is with non-athletes. 

Interestingly, over the last four years we have admitted on average 382 non-athlete freshmen.  However, two years ago we enrolled 25% and last year 12%.  Contrast that with our yield on freshmen athletes of 55-60%. 

Our challenge in recruiting non-athletes is simply the challenge of closing the sale – as One Bethany success is possible in recruiting 125 freshmen non-athletes for fall 2013.

#3.  A further analysis of our historical enrollment reveals we recruit one market segment, 18-24 year olds.  Our future lies in new markets and new programs.  To begin, we must expand our high school dual credit program and successfully launch Bethany online – as One Bethany success is possible in expanding into new markets and/or launching new programs generating 100 students for fall 2013.

#4.  As enrollment declined over 25 years, our curriculum became “all things for all people” resulting in the homogenization of our academic programs.  Today we look like everyone else.  Further, we set our pricing to be competitive with the public universities’ pricing.  Yet no private college can successfully compete with a public university on pricing alone.  Even more significantly that pricing decision commoditized Bethany with the publics. 

Pricing, commoditization, and homogenization have cumulatively and significantly devalued our brand.  We must be heard in a noisy marketplace and we must get our story out there – as One Bethany success is possible in strengthening our brand with a value proposition that proves our students succeed at an affordable price.

#5.  For 18 months a cross-campus work group imagineered a new curricular and co-curricular model for Bethany.  Eventually they came to base the model on the market discipline of the “best total experience.”  We have since named this model Bethany Pathway and we have placed great hope that this will be our game-changer – as One Bethany success is possible in living Bethany Pathway while qualitatively renewing each component of the Bethany experience.

#6.  The final challenge is the culture or environment at Bethany.  Last January in a Fast Company magazine article titled “Culture eats strategy for lunch,” author Shawn Parr wrote, “Culture is the environment in which your strategy and your brand thrives or dies a slow death.”  The other five challenges begin to define and shape our strategy and our brand – as One Bethany success is possible in creating a culture that allows our strategy and our brand to thrive.

Earlier I mentioned that these last five years have shown me the power of the Bethany community to do good.  To paraphrase former US president Bill Clinton, who really said it best, "There is nothing wrong with Bethany that cannot be cured by what is right with Bethany."  As One Bethany all things are possible.

Let’s have a great year.  Let’s work hard and have fun. 

Go Swedes. Serve the Lord.