Bethel Launches The 25

Momentum is building as The 25, a new program to empower female students, prepares for its first year.

By Cherie Suonvieri '15, content specialist

April 28, 2021 | 10:30 a.m.

The 25 logo

The program’s guiding scripture comes from Psalm 25:4-5: “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all the day long.”

The 25 began with five inspired female leaders, two days of collaborative brainstorming, and one shared passion: to empower young women to “go beyond” as they find their place in the world. More dreaming and planning followed, and now, The 25 is preparing to welcome its first cohort of 25 Bethel students in fall 2021.

Designed as a four-year cohort program, The 25 will accept 25 female College of Arts & Sciences students each year, who will then continue in the program until graduation. Through program meetings, guest speaker events, exposure to resources, and mentorship opportunities, student members of The 25 will learn, grow, discover, and become the leaders that God created them to be.

“The programming and events these students experience will prepare them to be highly successful leaders who will go out and make a difference in their communities,” says Heather Richards '99, GS'10, executive director of The 25. Richards herself is a Bethel alumna and worked in the Office of Student Life from 2006-2014. She returned to Bethel as the executive director of The 25 in early April this year.

“We’re excited to walk alongside young women, encourage them, help them understand their skill sets, teach them how to be confident, and celebrate what they’re going to do once they leave Bethel.”

— Jeanne Osgood, founding member of The 25

The 25 was built on the premise, “You can’t be what you can’t see,” which is why the program leans on involvement from its 26 founding members, who not only help support the program financially, but will also contribute by using their area of giftedness, which could include speaking engagements and mentorship. 

“We’re surrounding young women with other women who have gone before them,” says Jeanne Osgood '93, GS'19, one of the original founding members and senior associate for the president at Bethel. “Here, and across the country, phenomenal women are graduating with really exceptional skills, yet they don’t see themselves as future leaders of companies or non-profit organizations. We’re excited to walk alongside them, encourage them, help them understand their skill sets, teach them how to be confident, and celebrate what they’re going to do once they leave Bethel.”

One of the missions of The 25 is to reflect diversity among the founders and the cohort. Through the mentoring component of the program, students will have the opportunity to connect with a diverse group of leaders, from a variety of industries, experiences, faith backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities. “Mentorship has played a big role in my life personally,” Richards says. “Having had those female mentors walk alongside me in my 20s, 30s, and 40s—having someone who I could ask questions and who also shared my faith—was very important to me. A lot of young people don’t get that opportunity or don’t know that it’s something they can seek out. The 25 will help match students with mentors who want to give back to this next generation of students.” 

While there are 26 founding members to date, The 25 originally began with a core group of five Bethel alumnae, consisting of Osgood; Sarah Darr ’03, advice and planning product owner for Wells Fargo; Rebecca Hoeft ’89, chief brand officer at Sunrise Banks; Kristi Piehl ’97, Bethel Board of Trustees member and founder and CEO of Media Minefield; and Andrea Schilling ’91, Bethel Foundation Board member, and senior managing director and head of internal communications at Värde Partners.

The first five founding members of The 25.

The first five founding members, Jeanne Osgood, Rebecca Hoeft, Sarah Darr, Kristi Piehl, and Andrea Schilling, on the day they shared the concept of The 25 with Bethel University President Ross Allen.

For Osgood, seeing The 25 come to fruition is especially meaningful, because she brought the original five founding members together in the first place. Four years ago during her MBA program, Osgood was researching how women engage with organizations. “I found that women like to be engaged with organizations whom they have a deep, personal relationship with, so I started to brainstorm how we could get our alumni, community members, and leaders to engage with Bethel in a deeper way,” says Osgood, who was working at Bethel as a development officer at the time. That’s where the conversation started—and then over the next couple of years, she gathered the support from Bethel leadership, was awarded a grant from the Bethel Foundation, and invited Darr, Hoeft, Piehl, and Schilling to collaborate.

“It became apparent that this group was passionate about coming alongside female Bethel students,” Osgood says. “We began to ask how we could use our giftings and our circles of influence to enhance the education that they get at Bethel. We asked how we could walk alongside them during their four years of school and help them wrestle with what life is like as a woman, in both their professional and personal lives.” 

“We wanted to provide a way for female students to see how other Christian women were utilizing their God-given skills and wiring in order to be the very best they could be.”

— Andrea Schilling, founding member of The 25

Schilling notes that through conversations the group became aware of an interesting phenomenon at Bethel and other Christian universities. “It seems that some women are afraid to have ‘bigger’ or higher paying jobs than men. That somehow striving to ‘be more’ might limit your ability to find a spouse, or that making money might not be ‘Christ-like,’” she says. “We wanted to provide a way for female students to see how other Christian women were utilizing their God-given skills and wiring in order to be the very best they could be.”

After a few initial meetings, the group rented an Airbnb and brainstormed for two days, dreaming about what bringing this passion to life could look like. They whiteboarded the entire program, and at the end of their time together the name, The 25, came to them, as they centered on Psalm 25:4-5 as their guiding scripture: “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all the day long.”               

Osgood says The 25 has become something far beyond what she’d imagined when she first began dreaming of increasing alumni involvement at Bethel. “When you surround yourself with people that dream big, people with whom you can be vulnerable with, and people who push you to be better—God can do so much more,” Osgood says. The 25 is meant to create a similarly supportive community for its incoming student-members.  

The 25 has already garnered attention from local media for its innovative approach and unique funding structure, as it was founded by alumni and continues to be supported by alumni, along with business leaders newly introduced to Bethel. “As a member of the Board of Trustees, I want Bethel to continue to innovate and be a leader in higher education,” Piehl says. “The 25 program already has other schools taking notice. It's an opportunity to help other young leaders see what is possible and to explore their potential.” 

The 25 on KSTP-TV

President Ross Allen says he’s thrilled to see the program building momentum. “We need to figure out how we can empower young women to realize the value of their unique contributions so they can step forward into our world with confidence,” Allen says. “The 25 is positioned to have a transformative impact, at Bethel and in our broader communities.” 

The 25 is in the midst of accepting applications for its first cohort. Young women who will be starting their first year at Bethel in the fall are invited to submit their application by May 3, 2021. 

“When I was going to Bethel, it was a time when there were not a lot of females at the management or C-level,” Hoeft reflects. “I had to carve my own path without anyone to look to as a role model. I want our future female leaders to know what is possible and how to achieve it. You can’t be what you can’t see.” 

Two Bethel students

The 25 at Bethel.

We believe we can do more to unlock the value and potential women bring to the table, at Bethel, in the workforce, and in society at large. So, we're leveraging the power of women connected to Bethel who have gone before and helped pave the way for female leaders to come.

Learn more