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Board approves new major, adds new sport for 2020

April 24th, 2019

Threshing stone

Bethel hopes to add a new major in software development starting in 2020, along with a new sport, men's and women's swimming and diving.

The Bethel College Board of Directors, meeting on campus April 5-6, approved both proposals, as well as acting favorably on new mission, vision and values statements.

The board also took action toward starting up a previously approved sport, competitive dance, in fall 2019.

Software development is scheduled to be offered beginning in fall 2020, pending approval of the Higher Learning Commission in Bethel’s regular accreditation process.

The new major grew from work by a committee of faculty and alumni in the field to develop a proposal for bringing back some form of computer science major (Bethel currently offers a computer science minor).

“Software engineering and software development had the strongest outlook for growth, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and seemed to fit well with our current strengths,” said Karl Friesen, assistant professor of computer science, who organized and led the committee.

Friesen emphasized that “software development” describes the focus of the new major on learning to program computers to solve problems (rather than on building computers, or system administration).

“The software development emphasis is also something uncommon in our region – most programs are either the classic computer science major or a software engineering major or track within computer science,” he said.

Tony Hoops, athletic director, noted that the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) since 2012 has pushed its member schools to expand their sports offerings.

Bethel has not done so since it added softball in 2011 and competitive cheer in 2014, and it currently has the lowest number of sports offered (16) of any of the 13 KCAC institutions.

Competitive dance was previously approved because it should mesh well with the already established and successful competitive cheer program, Hoops said.

Swimming and diving is a “KCAC sport of emphasis for growth,” Hoops said, with the conference offering its first meet earlier this spring. “Swimming/diving is a growing sport within the state of Kansas and neighboring states at the high school and club level,” he added.

While Bethel does not have an on-campus swimming pool, it has good relationships with Newton High School and the Newton YMCA, which both have pools (and NHS has diving boards) of size and quality suited to training for competition.

The newly approved mission, vision and values statements will be officially rolled out with a campus celebration on May 3.

The Bethel Board also welcomed new members Blair Loganbill, Hesston, and Tom Penner, Moorestown, N.J., to their first meeting, and heard the final report from Carlos Romero, who recently announced his resignation as executive director of the Mennonite Education Agency. The board recognized Romero for his 18 years of service to MEA by presenting him with an engraved clock. 

“The actions taken by the board benefit Bethel College in many ways,” said Bethel President Jonathan Gering. “I am grateful for their continued leadership and commitment.”

Bethel College is the only Kansas private college listed in the Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section and the National Liberal Arts College category of U.S. News & World Report, both for 2018-19. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.