Bethel Named Preferred University Services Partner of NAHL

As the preferred university services partner of the North American Hockey League and its affiliated leagues, Bethel will provide thousands of athletes with an opportunity to continue their education as they pursue their hockey dreams. In flexible online programs, they’ll be able to align their schooling with their hockey schedules and find robust academic support.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

September 20, 2022 | 11:30 a.m.

Bethel-NAHL Partnership

The Austin Bruins host the Minot Minotauros in a North American Hockey League (NAHL) game at Riverside Arena in Austin, Minnesota. NAHL players now have the opportunity to pursue online education opportunities at Bethel after the university was named the preferred university services partner of the NAHL. Photo courtesy of Eric Johnson and the Austin Daily Herald.

Bethel University recently reached an agreement with the North American Hockey League (NAHL) to provide online higher education opportunities to its more than 3,500 athletes. As the preferred university services partner of the NAHL, Bethel will help athletes in the NAHL and affiliated leagues like the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) and the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) continue their education as they pursue their hockey dreams. "We are excited about partnering with the NAHL and NA3HL to provide flexible and relevant educational opportunities that meet the unique needs of their players," says Jessica Daniels, associate provost of innovation and partnerships.

Junior hockey leagues like the NAHL, NA3HL, and NAPHL provide players with a chance to develop between youth and college hockey, helping them better prepare for college while also chasing after their goals of playing Division I or Division III NCAA hockey. According to Bethel Men’s Hockey Coach Chris McKelvie, the partnership is a great fit, as Bethel’s educational offerings will help ensure these hockey players are also ready for the next steps in their education. “The way Bethel has structured the program will allow players to enroll at their own pace and yet still be challenged to better equip them for full time enrollment in college whether it be at Bethel or elsewhere,” he says.

The NAHL is the largest junior hockey league. Along with 725 players in the NAHL, it includes about 850 in the NA3HL, and about 2,000 high school players—including 1,000 seniors—in the (NAPHL). Along with the NAHL and its partners, Bethel is now uniquely set up to provide flexible options to those competing in all junior hockey leagues. “These players are chasing their hockey dreams, which is really their primary focus in the junior leagues,” Daniels says. With that in mind, McKelvie notes it’s important that players will receive support while taking classes that fit their hockey schedules. “The care and attention the players can receive while enrolled at Bethel sets our programs apart while showcasing part of what makes Bethel special,” says McKelvie, who is helping Bethel leaders like Daniels navigate the nuances of junior hockey.

Players will be able to choose from a robust selection of affordable online programs and courses, which include lab options. For those still finishing high school, Bethel offers early college and PSEO options—which are free for Minnesota high school students—that meet both their high school requirements and also provide college-level credits. Others who have completed high school can pursue education opportunities in Bethel’s online undergraduate programs. “We are able to help them complete college requirements and remain academically engaged while they pursue their hockey dreams and explore their options,” Daniels says. “So we are thrilled we can meet these educational needs for them in a relevant, flexible, but meaningful way.”

Bethel’s flexible online classes will make it convenient for players to make progress academically at times that work best for them—no matter where they are in their seasons or journeys. But that flexibility won’t compromise quality. Daniels notes courses were created with Bethel's standard academic rigor and will be taught by faculty who are committed to serving each students’ needs. Daniels notes players in the NAHL and affiliated leagues are disciplined and focused, and Bethel respects and appreciates their dedication to hockey. That’s why Bethel is also dedicated to their academic success. Bethel will provide proactive support to ensure student success—from advising, tutoring, writing help, and more through the Academic Resource Center to strong peer relationships within the Bethel community.

“We are dedicated to the success of these athlete students. The student-faculty and peer interactions are high and intentional in these courses, ensuring relationship and felt community.”

— Jessica Daniels, associate provost of innovation and partnerships
Associate Professor of Business Stephen Whiting stressed that Bethel is committed to holistic development and wellness, not just teaching academic disciplines. Whiting, who brings unique experience after decades of playing and coaching hockey, is providing support for the launch of the Bethel-NAHL partnership. And he has served as an unofficial advisor for numerous NCAA hockey players. “One of my passions is to help student-athletes through sports psychology and mindset training,” says Whiting, who also coaches the Bethel men’s club hockey team. “When students start to struggle academically, I love showing how those same skills can be applied academically to reduce anxiety and procrastination, develop the discipline to get work done, and do so with excellence. Those skills will help them beyond hockey and college.”

Bethel will also assist players in making sure they meet their eligibility requirements. Most will pursue online, part-time classes so it does not affect their future eligibility to play at the university level. As players age out, Bethel is prepared to offer or enroll them full-time to maintain their eligibility. It isn't an NAHL regulation, it is a divisional compliance issue. “We are able to provide them with and account for all of these options and variables,” Daniels says.

McKelvie commended Daniels for facilitating a forward-thinking opportunity with the NAHL. He and Whiting are excited to help many junior hockey players to better prepare them for what's next—both in hockey and their educations. “I am excited about the large number of junior hockey players that have the potential to benefit from Bethel's strong academics coupled with the caring community and support,” Whiting says. “That combination will enable student-athletes to stay focused on their hockey goals while making progress and keeping sharp academically.”

Study at Bethel as you pursue your hockey goals!

Through the Bethel-NAHL partnership, you’ll find a robust selection of academic programs and all the support you need to pursue your education in a way that compliments your hockey career.

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