Centered on Jesus

We asked Bethel community members to tell us: In your own words and lived experience, what does it mean for Bethel to be a Christ-centered university? This is what they said.

By Michelle Westlund '83, senior content specialist

March 02, 2020 | 10 a.m.

Christ-centered University

Through our thoughts, words, and actions, we’ll demonstrate what it means for a university to be centered on Jesus Christ.

It’s a rather bold vision:

“Rooted in faith. Committed to excellence. Bethel will become the leader in Christian higher education by building stronger communities, equipping confident leaders and gracious servants, and preparing passionate world-changers. Through our thoughts, words, and actions, we’ll demonstrate what it means for a university to be centered on Jesus Christ.”

So, how is this vision—this bold and lofty vision—lived out in real life, in real time, in the Bethel community? How is Jesus at the center of what we do here? 

We asked Bethel community members to tell us: In your own words and lived experience, what does it mean for Bethel to be a Christ-centered university?

This is what they said.


“The integration of faith and learning is such an important distinctive of Bethel University. My faith is the motivation for my passion and commitment to my position and to the potential of post-secondary education as a transformative experience. I believe that an education will change students, and God will use those students to change families, communities, and the world.”

Jessica R. Tangen Daniels GS’06, ’08

Program Director, Doctor of Education-Leadership in Higher Education


“Bethel creates an environment in and outside the classroom that allows students to grow into effective Christ-followers. I think of my own life: The environment at Bethel when I was a student in the ’90s allowed me to wrestle with my faith, learn from faculty who loved Jesus, and search the Scriptures to find God’s path for my life. God began something in mw when I was 18 years old—a spiritual foundation was built at Bethel, and it set me on a course to follow Christ throughout my adult life. Now, as Bethel’s director of alumni and family relations and a longtime adjunct faculty member, I get a front-row seat in seeing how a Bethel education helped shape thousands of alumni in looking more like Christ. I’m grateful that Bethel continues to be a place where faculty love Jesus and invest in students to help them find their place in God’s world.”

Jennifer Scott ’95, S’02

Director of Alumni and Family Relations and Adjunct Instructor


“Having attended Bethel a long time ago, I’m very pleased to see how those in leadership have held fast to biblical truth and values in a rapidly changing and uncertain time, even for people who follow Jesus. Having had three children attend Bethel, we’ve been able to witness firsthand the high quality of their experience—academically, socially, athletically, musically, and spiritually. As a physician who deals with difficult medical and ethical issues daily as I train young doctors, it’s been encouraging for my wife and me to have our children go through this vital life stage in a place where their biblical faith is not mocked and disregarded, but promoted and pursued.”

Mitch W. Duininck ’81, M.D.

President/CEO of In His Image Family Medicine

Bethel parent and supporter


“Bethel takes the pursuit of truth and academic rigor seriously. Because we're a Christ-centered university, we're motivated to pursue truth not for ourselves, but because our Lord is the Author of truth. As a Christian, I don't study politics just because it's fun (though it really is), but also because God has called us to understand truth in His creation, including political truth. He's also called His church to be an agent of redemption in the world, and we need to understand politics to live out that calling.”  

Chris Moore

Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science


“I’ve learned more about my faith since coming to Bethel and specifically studying relational communication. One of my spiritual pathways is relational, so in learning more about people and relationships as whole, I have a better understanding of how Jesus calls us to Christian community. The professors at Bethel have taught me skills and helped me analyze relationships better to glorify God and truly love others.”

Brady Tongen ’20

Communication Studies major

“To be a university centered on Christ, you can’t just talk like Him—you have to live like Him. Every day, our students, faculty, and staff work to live like Jesus. Our faith in Christ is central to everything we teach, learn, and do. We believe that merging our faith in Jesus with significant learning experiences creates unique graduates—smart Christians who have a storm-hardy faith and the intellectual capacity to tackle some of the world’s most challenging problems.”

— Michael Vedders ’04, GS ’07, Chief Enrollment and Marketing Officer

“As a student at both Bethel University and Bethel Seminary, I learned about Jesus from an academic perspective, from a theological perspective, and also from a deeply relational perspective. At Bethel, Jesus is not taught as merely a religious figure, but as an invitation to a life-changing relationship. This emphasis invites Bethel graduates and Bethel as an organization to press into the heart of God and what God cares about.”

Stephanie Williams O'Brien ’05, S’12

Pastor, Mill City Church and Adjunct Professor, Bethel Seminary  


“In our many years of association with Bethel, we’ve seen changes in the culture around us, and we’ve seen Bethel adapt to those changes with integrity. So many institutions drift from their mission, but Bethel has maintained its emphasis on integrating faith and academics. The focus on community and spiritual life, in addition to academic life, helps people grow as whole Christian beings. God is at work at Bethel.”

Gwen (Peterson) Larson ’72

Retired educator

Bethel parent and supporter


“My experiences at Bethel have prepared me really well for life after graduation. I’ve seen myself grow in my faith. I’ve developed relationships with people who are really good leaders, people who are really good contributors to God’s kingdom and to the world. People here really do show up for what they say they will, and that’s the most influential part of my leadership experience at Bethel.”

Kennadie Anderson ’20

Biology major

Student Body President


“We have a passion to graduate people who will make a difference in the world. Our students can engage almost any issue as long as they know that we love Jesus and have high regard for the Bible. We give them a safe place to explore, even as we care deeply that they come to a more robust and storm-hardy faith.”

Jay Barnes



“Bethel has challenged me to think critically in the context of science and faith, so that I can take and apply this knowledge to the traditionally secular scientific field beyond Bethel. I don’t say this lightly, but Bethel has one of the best and most rigorous science programs of any Christian university.”

Joshua Turek ’19

Biology major


“Our graduate physician assistant students experience the centrality of Jesus at Bethel from day one in our program. They feel compassion and mentorship from faculty who see them as unique image bearers of our Creator, and they see how faculty are more concerned about who students are becoming, not just what they are learning—a truly transformative experience.”

Wallace Boeve

Program Director, Physician Assistant Program


“For me, Bethel is three distinct cords woven together to build strong women and men: cords of academic quality; a holistic approach to development; and a deep and rich theology that believes the Bible is truth and Christ is our Savior.”

Julie Blomquist White ’76

Chair, Bethel Board of Trustees


“There’s an additional layer to everything Bethel does and teaches. As a business major, classes emphasize ethical decision-making. Professors push students to not only think about how they will act as professionals in their future workplace, but how they will act as Christians.”

Aiyanna Klaphake ’20

Business major


“As Christ-followers, we’re called to serve with excellence, humility, and love. We accomplish this by creating community that fosters transformation in the lives of our students.”

William Washington

Vice President for Student Life

Bethel parent

At Bethel University, we're called to more.

As a leader in Christ-centered higher education, Bethel University integrates faith with top-ranked academics to prepare women and men for excellence in leadership, scholarship, and service. Through meaningful relationships with faculty, experiential learning opportunities, and a Christ-centered community, our students learn to tackle the world's most challenging problems as they prepare for unique callings in the Kingdom of God. 

Learn more