Bethel University Foundation Announces 2023 Strategic Growth Award Recipients

This year, a total of $100,000 was awarded to two initiatives, which are aimed at enhancing the growth of Bethel’s enrollment, furthering the commitment to diversity and inclusion, and increasing the affordability of Bethel education.

By Macey Heath, social media content strategist

October 27, 2023 | 10 a.m.

SGA Award Recipients

2023 SGA Recipients

The Strategic Growth Awards (SGA), a program initiated by the independent nonprofit Bethel University Foundation, serves the mission of bolstering Bethel's financial stability. Seven years ago, the board of governors allocated a quasi-endowment fund of $5.5 million to support Bethel University’s growth initiatives through these awards.

SGA serves two primary objectives: first, to provide funding for initiatives aimed at boosting enrollment and improving student affordability, and second, to raise the visibility of the foundation. These awards are also intended to assist faculty and staff across academic departments, operational offices, athletic teams, and special programs.

“There is currently no other campus funding source for the Bethel community members that provides ‘R&D’ type funds to explore new opportunities. The Strategic Growth Awards are able to encourage innovation during challenging financial circumstances with no risk to the University budget,” says Pamela Buchanan, senior corporate and foundation relations officer.

These awards stand out from external grants as they allow innovative ideas to adapt and create a direct impact on students. “The positive impact of increased collaboration between departments has been noticeable through these awards, and in the process, this innovation has created ideas that have directly impacted the student experience. Most importantly, results from the first five years of SGA investment in Bethel community projects in the amount of $500,000 have had a return value in the amount of $3,340,632,” Buchanan says.

As many of the activities implemented through the SGAs are sustainable, these programs will continue to provide benefits to students in the future.

Represent Program

The Represent program is focused on expanding Bethel’s social work program through strategic recruitment and retention efforts for underrepresented and diverse groups within the field. The initiative is led by Nick Zeimet, director of field education and assistant professor in the Department of Social Work. Represent is not only a statement of Bethel’s commitment to diversity but also holds significant benefits for its students. “Students will benefit in several ways. Students from underrepresented communities in the social work profession will have the opportunity to apply for six $5,000 scholarships for the academic year 2024-25 and 2025-26.” These scholarships will provide crucial financial support, particularly to students in the College of Adult & Professional Studies and Graduate School.

Further, the program facilitates the formation of a support group led by a community expert, aimed at fostering identity development and promoting community building for students from underrepresented communities. Additionally, “students will benefit from intentional community partnerships designed to provide pathways to practicum and employment opportunities with supervisors who represent diverse backgrounds,” says Zeimet. This multifaceted approach aims to make Bethel a leader in promoting diversity and inclusion within social work in higher education.

The program encompasses four primary activities over the next three years: developing recruitment relationships with social service agencies, creating affordability options through scholarships and partnerships, establishing clinical field practicum opportunities, and creating a “Diversity in Social Work Education” symposium. These endeavors are projected to result in the enrollment of 15 new students of color in Bethel’s social work programs, generating approximately $250,000 in annual tuition revenue and increasing the diversity of the Bethel student body so that it more accurately reflects its surrounding communities.

Sem Together

Bethel Seminary's commitment to nurturing seminary growth and enhancing the student experience is embodied in Sem Together, a program launched in September 2023. The program received $50,000 in funds to develop a marketing campaign devoted to promoting the program. Its main goal is to enhance the reputation and enrollment of Bethel Seminary.

Sem Together fundamentally reimagines the existing seminary student experience, with a particular focus on M.Div and theology and ministry M.A. programs. Sem Together introduces a flexible cohort model, ensuring that students embark on their academic journey alongside a consistent group of peers, fostering collaboration and a strong sense of community within the classroom. Peter Vogt, seminary dean and program director, notes that this connectedness among students is vital in achieving the spiritual formation goals of the seminary programs.

“Our experience with cohort programs suggests that students are more likely to persevere in the face of inevitable challenges when they have a profound sense of belonging to a particular community,” Vogt says. The program also expands its pool of prospective students by catering to residential students with evening courses.

The program is taking steps to ensure a strong return on investment and increased enrollment. “We hope that this program will make our seminary offerings more attractive to prospective students. We think it is a ‘value add’ compared to other seminaries and will thus make Bethel a more attractive option. Right now, we are identifying social media ambassadors to use in promoting the program and identifying new places to advertise (podcasts, etc.). We are also launching a website to ensure clear communication about the program is available,” Vogt says.

These programs are vital initiatives that not only enhance the student experience but also contribute to the university’s financial stability and enrollment. 

Further your impact.

The Strategic Growth Awards is one way the Bethel University Foundation supports the Bethel community. The foundation also provides donors with support and resources to pursue their financial and charitable giving goals.

Learn more