Q&A: Zach Hill

Bethel's campus is safer than most, thanks in part to Zach Hill and the Safety and Security team. We sat down with him to find out what it takes to protect the Bethel community, what he wishes he could tell parents and students, and ways to be more aware.

By Monique Kleinhuizen '08, GS16, new media strategist

March 14, 2019 | 12 a.m.

 Director of Risk Management, Safety, and Security Zach Hill

Zach Hill, Director of Risk Management, Safety, and Security

As Director of Risk Management, Safety, and Security, Zach Hill sees a different side of campus than most. He manages a team that anticipates scenarios that could put the university at risk, puts policies and procedures in place to proactively mitigate that risk, and ensures the safety of each community member. It’s a task that looks different every day! A year into the job, we thought we’d sit down with Hill to get his thoughts on what makes the community so great, what he would tell students, and what he loves most about his position. Here’s what he had to say:

What brought you to Bethel, and what do you love most about this community?

I don’t have the typical Bethel story. I’ve been working in the private sector, doing corporate security, for over ten years, plus I was in the Army Reserve. But I was looking for a place where I could truly be a part of a community. Here, I’m greeted every day by an awesome team with a ton of energy. And I’ve never worked in an environment where so many non-security partners are so great to work with. From the marketing team to the event staff to Student Life … they’re all great partners with a passion for the university and our students. That makes the job a lot more enjoyable. This role has been the perfect culmination of my experience and expertise coming together with an awesome community.

How do you view your role on campus, and how do you think that's different at Bethel than if you were in a similar role elsewhere?

In other roles, I was a resource to businesses that had buildings across the globe. But I’m in this community constantly, and I feel personally responsible for it. I’m coming at this less from a law enforcement perspective, and instead I want to build security and safety into students’ everyday lives. I want students to feel safe and secure in what they’re doing. So one way we are enhancing our security is through our front gate policies. We now check identification for all people coming onto campus when it’s closed (9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.). Non-Bethel visitors are still welcome on campus, of course, but if they’re coming after-hours, they need to be registered by a campus community member. Now we have an idea, at any given time, about which non-Bethel people are on our campus.

We’re also providing an on-call shuttle, and it’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. That’s one way that we can make sure students feel safe getting where they need to go, no matter their abilities or access to a car, outside of our regular shuttle schedule. After those hours, my team can also provide escorts for people who feel unsafe or don’t think they can get home on their own. Just call!


This is Bethel, but it’s still the real world. If you see something that seems suspicious, we need you to report it, because we rely heavily on the community to be our eyes and ears. Be vigilant and prepared, but know that my team is there to support you, too.

— Zach Hill, Director of Risk Management, Safety, and Security

Are there any misconceptions about your team/campus that you'd like to clear up?

Everything. First of all, my team is responsible for ticketing cars, but it’s not a huge focus for us. We wish we didn’t have to do it, but as everyone knows, we have limited parking here. If we don’t enforce parking rules, it would be mass chaos. We actually tried for a season last year to reduce the amount of ticketing we did, and it quickly caused more problems. We had calls from frustrated community members asking us to come ticket people. But we’re always trying to improve our methodologies to make living and parking on campus as simple and straightforward as possible.

We also handle a lot of other things like providing ID cards with building access, and it’s always helpful if students check out the website so they have all the information they need ahead of time, and the process can run smoothly. We take care other behind-the-scenes things like insurance, environmental health and safety for our staff, and coordinating contractors who do hazardous waste disposal. We manage the entire fleet of Bethel-owned vehicles, including the shuttle. It’s a big job, but it all helps us to take a comprehensive view of campus and how we can make it safer for everyone here.

What should parents know about their students' safety on campus?

There’s a lot that happens on campus that not everyone’s aware of, and sometimes it’s difficult things. But my team is invested in making sure people are cared for and supported on their best days and their worst. The last thing we want is to be seen as the “bad guys.” We’re not here to get people in trouble. We’re not law enforcement. Our aim is safety and security, and protecting people.

We offer quite a few helpful services. We can jump a car or give a student a gallon of gas if they run out. But we encourage students to be proactive! Parents, remind students to have the necessities with them, especially in cold weather. Get them a good ice scraper, jumper cables, and an extra gallon of windshield washer fluid to keep in their dorm. The basic necessities that we, as parents and adults, do on autopilot … those don’t always come naturally to students. One book I have personally given to family members and friends is The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. It’s about using intuition to stay away from potentially bad situations, and has practical takeaways for every day life.  

Bethel is an incredibly safe place with a very trusting community. I can walk down the hallway and see $3,000 MacBooks and purses and phones, completely unattended, because people trust each other to a fault. By comparison to other campuses, Bethel is far and away safer, but because the risk here is so low, it can be a detriment to students. I worry about them going out into the real world, because they’re not always attuned to what’s happening around them and taking the proper precautions. This is Bethel, but it’s still the real world. If you see something that seems suspicious, we need you to report it, because we rely heavily on the community to be our eyes and ears. Be vigilant and prepared, but know that my team is there to support you, too.

Be Safe and Secure at Bethel

The best advice Hill can give students is to be aware. “Lock your doors, look up from your phone, have situational awareness of what’s going on in your world,” he says, noting that the safety skills he hopes students build in college stick with them far beyond it. “This world has a lot of bad stuff going on in it, so pick your head up. As a result, you’ll look people in the eye, and you’ll be a better person. But you’ll also be safer. And that’s what we’re about.”

Safety & Security at Bethel