A New Home for Bethel Seminary

A newly-renovated space at Anderson Center incorporates elements from the seminary’s historic buildings with multimedia features befitting modern seminary students.

By Monique Kleinhuizen '08, GS'16, new media strategist

February 13, 2019 | 9 a.m.

Seminary entrance at Anderson Center

“Geographic proximity is huge. Here, everyone’s in one space. There’s more life. It sets us up for community life so much more naturally,” says Jenny Vang ’20, a student in Bethel’s Master of Divinity program. As administrative assistant for the dean’s office at Bethel Seminary, Vang also has a unique perspective on the environment at the seminary and needs of its community. As Bethel Seminary has settled into a new space at the Anderson Center, she’s already seen the positive impact it’s had on relationships and learning.

The move was announced in fall 2018, with plans for a complete renovation of a seminary wing on level one of the Anderson Center. Seminary staff and faculty moved in late December, with the first face-to-face classes happening there at the beginning of February. On February 4, an open house and installation service was held for Peter T. Vogt, the new dean of Bethel Seminary.

The 200,000-square-foot Anderson Center is located about a mile from Bethel’s main campus and was first acquired in 2013 through a series of incredible events and the generosity of key Bethel donors. In the years since, much of the former corporate office building has been remodeled for Bethel’s use, including admissions offices for adult, graduate, and seminary programs, clinical spaces, classrooms for adult classes, a video studio, and administrative offices. The seminary move brings Bethel's adult classes together at the new location, along with student-facing support services, convenient parking, and other amenities.

On the first level, there’s a stone-lined entrance to Bethel Seminary. Just inside, the Larson-Bethel Baghdad Torah, a 2014 gift from former Bethel Trustee Ken Larson and his wife Barbara, has a place of prominence in a protective enclosure near a welcome desk. Just beyond, huge windows span nearly the entire south-facing wall—overlooking trailheads, woods, and a pond—and interior offices have clerestory windows allowing for natural light to enter. Where lights are used, they’re high-efficiency LEDs with automatic controls that power them down when a space is empty.

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The new home of Bethel Seminary at Anderson Center incorporates elements from the seminary’s historic buildings with multimedia features befitting modern seminary students.

“We really wanted this particular space to reflect the history and values of Bethel Seminary and feel non-corporate,” says Associate Provost Randy Bergen, pointing out the wooden “clouds” that hang just below portions of the ceiling, warming up the look of the space and making it feel more intimate and inviting. “We also wanted to make full use of the great view outside.”

“The main cubicles have the best views and natural light, but there’s also this great hang-out space,” adds Professor Justin Irving, program director for the Doctor of Ministry. In the open community spaces are clusters of soft seating, flexible work stations at different heights, and charging stands for powering laptops or cell phones. There are historical elements, like a huge mosaic and stained-glass windows that were brought in from the seminary’s previous locations. “Most importantly, we’re all together. There’s this sense of community that’s built by proximity,” Irving adds.  

The new space also represents intentional infrastructures for serving a changing student body. Last year, Bethel Seminary had 96 new online students in five programs, while it had just 86 new face-to-face students in 13 programs—and those were split between two campuses. Bethel’s student body mirrors a national trend toward online learning for adults pursuing theological degrees. Nationally and at Bethel, seminary students are increasingly multi-vocational or working full-time—in ministry or elsewhere—while juggling coursework and other obligations.

The space was designed for students to attend regular, on-site classes or periodic intensives—with ample, comfortable study spaces as well. The dedicated classrooms and conference room each feature touchscreen control, high-quality video projection, a dedicated presentation computer, wireless and wired laptop presentation connectivity, and a document camera that doubles as a high-definition webcam for distance students taking in classroom content or groups connecting with ministry partners or classmates.

“There’s a growing focus on online and intensive-based classes,” says Mark Posner, vice president of facilities and technology. “The goal was to create open and collaborative work and study spaces. But we’re also acknowledging the ability we have at Anderson Center to—at peak times in the seminary calendar, like during on-campus intensives—use the many other multimedia spaces in the rest of the Anderson Center building.”

Though the spaces themselves are designed with tomorrow’s tech-savvy learners in mind, they’re firmly rooted in tradition. The Nelson-Lundquist Flame Room Devotional Library is one serene, reflective space that was modeled after the one at the previous seminary complex. With nods toward the past and an eye toward the future, each space was intentionally designed to foster deep face-to-face connection while acknowledging the new ways through which students also connect seamlessly today.

The space in the Anderson Center Building is both beautiful and functional. I believe that increased synergy is possible with us being located closer together in our new suite. I look forward to students and alums being able to join us.

— Jeff Sanders, associate dean of formation and professional development

“So many of our professors have such history with Bethel Seminary. What they’re bringing in—that new students will be able to reap from—is a sense of how to hold history but look to what God has for us—as a community, as a body of believers—in the future,” says Vang. “My hope and my prayer with this new space is that it would become a place of safety—not just a physical space, but a sanctuary, a refuge. I’m excited that I get to be a part of building that.”

The Bethel Seminary Library remains at the 3949 Bethel Drive complex, undergraduate classes are currently happening there, and plans are being made for the future of that space long-term. For opportunities to support these projects, contact the Office of Development.

Bethel Seminary

There’s never been a more convenient time to begin a program at Bethel Seminary. Five Bethel Seminary degree programs are now offered entirely online. A dual-degree program allows students to complete both college and seminary in five years, saving students an estimated $7,425 and two years of coursework. And with every student receiving a free license to a premier Bible software product to support their ministry, they gain valuable resources they’ll use in their ministry long-term.

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