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."