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Summer Construction Brings Renewal to Favorite Spaces on Campus

This fall, look for a fully-renovated Nelson Hall, new faculty offices within the humanities, and five new engineering labs. The Bethel Seminary complex, renamed Lakeside Center, is now home to the Department of Education and Office of Military and Veteran Services.

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

September 04, 2019 | Noon

Engineering lab on the 2nd level of Bethel University's Academic Center (AC)

One of five new engineering labs on the 2nd level of the Academic Center (AC)

Summer means a few things at Bethel: student-faculty research, camps, and construction. While undergraduate students have been away this summer, campus has been filled with trucks and construction crews, building out new spaces and updating a few old ones. Here’s what to look for this fall:

Nelson Hall Renovation

In January, Bethel announced that Nelson Hall—Bethel’s oldest residence hall, built in 1968 across from Kresge Courtyard in the center of campus—would undergo a significant renovation, funded by a bond refinancing. This summer brought on a complete remodel, with new carpet and high-efficiency LED lighting. All 100-plus dorm rooms have gotten cosmetic updates and individual air conditioning units, with updated bathrooms throughout. 

Two four-person wheelchair-accessible suites have been created with wider doors and open floor plans, as well as shared ensuite bathrooms with roll-in showers. This means Nelson now meets Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and offers wheelchair-friendly housing that’s on par with Bethel’s other freshman dorms. 

The first floor community space has been updated with soft seating in view of a shared, open-concept kitchen and new fireplace. It’ll be home to the Flapjack Friday event Nelson residence life staff host for student residents each week. A brand new shack and study area also open into the lounge space, making it feel much larger than the previous configuration.

“We’re removing physical obstacles and opening up the flow of traffic,” says Mike Lindsey, director of campus planning and space management. “It’s more open, more inviting, and will more easily accommodate large-group events like Homecoming cheer practices and dorm activities.” 

In the center of the second floor, there’s a more active space with ping-pong and pool tables. The third floor is a quieter destination, with a lounge space designed for studying and conversation, and both the men’s and women’s sides have intentional study lounges. The resident director (RD) apartment has also been completely renovated. 

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Nelson Hall Summer Construction 2019

Photos of updated spaces in Nelson Hall

Engineering Lab Expansion

With the addition of four standalone Bethel engineering programs in the last two years, there’s been an increase in students doing specialized design work. Five new labs have been built on the north end of Academic Center (AC) level 2, with specialized equipment and capabilities in fluids, robotics, materials, and mechanical engineering—plus a fifth, flexible lab where students can move seamlessly between lectures and hands-on experiences in the Intro to Physics, astronomy, and physics education courses taught there. 

“Hands-on, project-based learning is all the rage right now, and we’ve been doing it for 30 years,” says Physics and Engineering Chair Brian Beecken. “That has been a hallmark of the department as long as it’s existed, essentially. We’re nationally known for it. When students go into graduate school or industry, they don’t sit in a classroom; they’re doing things. Students start with open-ended projects their first year at Bethel. They learn how to design and present their work. And this new space allows us to scale the quality of learning we’ve established in the past.” 

The labs are visible through windows to Brushaber Commons (BC) and Royal Grounds coffee shop, with new walkways making them a more fluid part of the wider Bethel community. 

Engineering lab on the 2nd level of Bethel University's Academic Center (AC)

One of five new engineering labs on the 2nd level of the Academic Center (AC)

Department of Education Spaces

The former Bethel Seminary complex on the north end of the 3900 Bethel Drive campus has been renamed Lakeside Center. The former Faculty Hall has been renamed Building C and renovated to house faculty in the undergraduate Department of Education. It’s received cosmetic updates including fresh paint, an accessible lift, and modern woodwork and lighting to tie together the midcentury modern features of the historic building. Faculty have individual offices on the second level, surrounding a shared community gathering space with soft seating, study tables, a large conference table, and a lofted ceiling. 

Down the hall in Lakeside Center Building D, an Elementary Education Teaching Lab and Secondary Education Teaching Lab have been created using the remaining funds from a 2010 Teacher Effectiveness Initiative grant from the Archibald Bush Foundation. The two teaching labs are flexible—with seating of different heights and materials that can be pulled together into discussion groups or moved around the room—and include extra storage so that teaching materials are easier to access. 

“We’re trying to maintain the culture of how children develop: through play, creating lots of different opportunities for learning. There’s flexible seating and wraparound whiteboards; it’s really creative,” says Associate Professor Jolene Pearson, director of the early childhood program. “There’s a movement right now to protect early childhood programs and kindergarten from being too academic. Young students need to be able to move, and we need to allow our college students to move, too. Having this kind of space inspires students to want to teach that way.”

Currently, 324 students, or about 14 percent of the undergraduate student body, are enrolled in education programs or pursuing elementary, secondary, or educational endorsements in the space.

One of the new Department of Education spaces at Bethel's lakeside Center

One of the new Department of Education spaces at Bethel's lakeside Center

Other Updates

The Office of Christian Formation and Church Relations—located across from the University Library on Hagstrom Center (HC) level 3—has been refreshed. The space is now more open-concept, with soft seating to welcome students; plus new paint, carpet, and furniture. 

With Bethel’s recent announcement of a new Office of Military and Veteran Services, a space has been outfitted in Lakeside Center Building A for Executive Director John Morris. He has a dedicated office as well as a reception area from which he can serve prospective and current students in all of Bethel’s four schools. 

Other minor updates have happened across campus, including:

  • New sidewalks in front of Lissner Residence Hall
  • Paint, whiteboards, and new rolling furniture in AC level 3 classrooms
  • Paint, new flooring, updated cabinets, and whiteboards in the biology lab in AC139
  • A new classroom in the nursing department atrium, with a former nursing classroom (Hagstrom Center 254) now allocated for wider university use
  • A retrofitted chemistry laboratory in AC117 to make way for new electrical components in the Academic Center and future science expansion
  • Two biology faculty are now located on the opposite side of AC level 2, between ecology and environmental studies labs and the physics and engineering faculty. 
  • The Departments of History and Political Science have been relocated to a refreshed space in the Clauson Center (CC) 429 suite.
  • With the recent change in certification requirements for athletic trainers, athletic training faculty and classrooms have been moved to Anderson Center to be nearer to Bethel’s other adult programs and support staff. Three new full-time athletic trainers will office in RC2 across from the Athletic Training Room.

Visit Bethel

Stop by and see campus, including our new spaces! Campus visits are free and customizable, and they’re always open to alumni and friends of Bethel. Take a tour of campus—including a ride on a golf cart—and leave time for Chapel and lunch in Monson Dining Center. If you’re interested in a specific academic area or sports team, let us know so we can help you put together a day that fits your interests.

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