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

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