MISHAWAKA—Bethel launched the GROW Campaign in January 2018, detailing several projects scheduled to take place over a five-year period. Now, two years later, many of those projects are either completed or well under way, and a second phase of the campaign is due to begin.
Matt Lentsch, MPA, came to Bethel and joined the campaign in July 2019. His role is primarily overseeing the fundraising and marketing side.
“When I came, one of the first tasks that I had to focus on was raising, finishing gifts for the training center,” Lentsch said. “We’ve been working hard to raise the additional $200,000 to $300,000 to make that happen.”
Lentsch is pleased Bethel has accomplished many of its goals far ahead of schedule.
“What we hoped to accomplish in three to five years we’ve accomplished in two,” Lentsch said.
The “G” of GROW stands for “Game On,” representing campus athletics. Since 2018, Bethel has added men’s rugby, women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s and women’s bowling and esports.
Bethel partnered with Elkhart Health & Aquatics to give its swim teams access to a larger-than-Olympic-sized pool. Bethel also partnered with the Century Center to give its Esports team access to the Bendix Arena and raised funding to build the Lehman Family Training Center, an on-campus facility, giving the track team a much-needed training space and expanding workout spaces for the general student population.
“‘Game On’ was an important piece, both for enrollment and for our facilities,” Lentsch said. “[The Lehman Family Training Center] is phenomenal; it’s just a great asset for Bethel.”
The “R” stands for “Robust Recruiting” and led to developments such as the construction of the Van and Jean Gates Welcome Center, a new website, a digital marketing resources suite and the creation of a virtual campus tour for prospective students.
“Even in the pandemic, we’ve done fairly well,” Lentsch said.
The “O” stands for “Online Burst”; since 2018, Bethel has added nine online programs and currently reaches students in 15 states.
“Students enrolled in online programs has increased by 10 percent,” Lentsch said.
Finally, “W” stands for “Where Your Heart Is.” Developments under this category have included the Field Scholar Program, the addition of two computer science labs and the development of the BU-X program.
“[BU-X] has been amazing,” Lentsch said. “That’s really doing extremely well. We have 19 students currently, and . . . we have 15 verbal commitments for this fall.”
Now, Bethel is preparing to move to phase two of the GROW campaign. One of the primary academic projects for this phase will include renovations and updates for the kinesiology lab.
“We have two faculty and we have about a hundred kids that are involved, as a major or minor, taking classes in kinesiology,” Lentsch said. “We’re getting all kinds of economy there, economy of scale, but the facilities are lacking. We need to update those facilities.”
Another part of phase two will involve redoing parts of Goodman Gymnasium and purchasing new equipment for it.
“Goodman has served Bethel in almost every area of campus,” Lentsch said. “At one point, it was used for chapel. It’s been used for multi-purpose concerts, theatre productions; we’ve maximized its use, but to the point where it’s getting tired . . . we want to make it more useable for students.”
Phase two will also seek to enhance student life by remodeling the restrooms and common areas in Shupe and Oakwood.
“We want to have great living spaces,” Lentsch said. “People spend a lot of time in their dorms. And Shupe and Oakwood have been around for 50 years, and it’s time we put some time and energy . . . into a major remodeling.”
Another focus will be renovations of Human Resources and the business offices on the first floor of the Huffman Administration Building.
“Just about everybody who is either a prospective student or a current student has to go down to the business offices at some point,” Lentsch said. “We want that to be more private; we want it to be more accommodating, more accessible and we want it to be more friendly.”
There will also be further attention given to raising funding for student scholarships.
“We want a renewed focus and a renewed energy into telling the story about the need for dollars coming in annually for the Bethel fund so that we can meet the increasing needs of student financial aid,” Lentsch said. “The need is greater than ever.”
Lentsch is grateful Bethel is continuing to push forward despite uncertainties presented by COVID-19.
“In a time like this, there are many campuses and colleges that are sort of hunkering down,” Lentsch said. “We are not. We are purposefully not just hunkering down. We’re in the process of finishing [GROW phase one], and we’re immediately going into GROW phase two . . . I can’t be prouder of an institution named Bethel right now.”
Phase two of the GROW campaign is expected to last between 18 months and two years.