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Board supports rephrased mission and values statements

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College’s mission has been the subject of recent discussion at the board level — as well as across campus and with church leadership — leading to proposals for adjusted language, which the Futures Committee presented at the board’s fall meeting.

Bethel College’s Board of Directors, meeting on campus Oct. 16-17, unanimously approved revised mission and values statements. What was previously one lengthy statement that embodied both mission and values has now been distilled into two, more succinct, statements that tie to the existing vision statement (approved by the board in October 2011) in order to “add clarity and impact for each.”

The mission statement now reads:

“Bethel College is an independent institution of higher education. The mission of the college is to prepare students, through active learning and rigorous instruction imbued with the spirit of liberal arts, to become critical thinkers and engaged global citizens.”

The importance of Anabaptist identity leads off the values statement.

This describes a vision and mission “grounded in the values inherited from its historical relationship with the Christian faith tradition of the Mennonite church” and lists seven values intrinsic to Bethel’s institutional character and fundamental to working to carry out the mission of the college: discipleship; scholarship; service; integrity; community; peace and social justice; and diversity.

Only after suggesting seven values (as compared to the previous “four core values”) for the values statement did the Futures Committee realize that seven matches the number of teeth on a threshing stone, Bethel’s primary marketing and identity symbol, said Melvin Goering, the committee secretary.

“The Futures Committee kept the four key value terms from the current mission and values statements, recognizing their centrality in both the internal and external [Bethel] constituencies and their ability to provide continuity with Bethel’s heritage,” he continued. “Three [more] values were added that seemed basic to Bethel’s identity and link with the church.”

Focused discussion on reworking Bethel’s mission and values statements began last January at a board retreat in Dallas. Review of the mission of the college is a responsibility the board undertakes periodically.

At its spring meetings in April, the board gave the Futures Committee a mandate to “consider a re-articulation of the Bethel College mission statement” that would answer three major questions.

Those were: What is Bethel’s core business? Whom does Bethel serve? What is compelling about the service Bethel provides?

The Futures Committee continued its work over the next months via e-mail with one face-to-face meeting in Denver.

In the meantime, Bethel President Perry D. White met with students, faculty, staff and administrators in a variety of settings to hear their answers to the three questions. Ray Penner, board chair, also queried leaders within Mennonite Church USA on the values held most dear within Mennonite education.

All input from the various constituencies regarding the mission and potential values was shared in entirety with members of the Futures Committee.

The proposal for rephrased language for the mission and values statements came to the full board from the seven board members of the Futures Committee plus President White.

“The mission statement serves as a directive to the full campus,” White said. “It guides institutional decision-making. It guides curricular decision-making on the macro and micro levels – from general education to departmental offerings to individual courses.”

He continued, “Perhaps most important, the mission statement articulates the standards by which we intend to measure our work. It sets the assessment criteria for our entire curriculum.”

Futures Committee members are Tom Adrian, Newton; Brett Birky, Denver; Dan Flickinger, San Francisco; Melvin Goering, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Galen Goertzen, Spokane, Washington; Suzanne Wedel, Marblehead, Massachusetts; and Heather Esau Zerger, Newton.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2014-15 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2014-15. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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Sidebar: Three statements in tandem guide Bethel College work

The vision, mission and values statements of Bethel College are intended to be seen and evaluated as a unit. Each provides insight into Bethel College but from different perspectives and with different objectives.

“It is challenging to boil Bethel down into one sentence or phrase,” said board member Deb Schmidt, Newton, “but it is necessary to succinctly provide direction to the work of the institution.

“The three statements are akin to the Trinity, each individually descriptive of the whole but together seen as one guiding focus.”

VISION STATEMENT (adopted by the Bethel College Board of Directors, October 2011)

At Bethel College we welcome with open hearts, stimulate personal and spiritual discovery, transform through the power of community and inspire the leaders of tomorrow.

MISSION STATEMENT (adopted by the Bethel College Board of Directors, October 2014)

Bethel College is an independent institution of higher education. The mission of the college is to prepare students, through active learning and rigorous instruction imbued with the spirit of liberal arts, to become critical thinkers and engaged global citizens.

VALUES STATEMENT (adopted by the Bethel College Board of Directors, October 2014)

The vision and mission of Bethel College are grounded in the values inherited from its historical relationship with the Christian faith tradition of the Mennonite Church and intrinsic to its institutional character. We believe these values to be fundamental to our work together, as we seek to carry out the mission of the institution.

Discipleship: that prizes a high level of conviction and pursuit of authentic faith

Scholarship: that prizes intellectual curiosity and critical inquiry

Service: that prizes compassion and concern for the powerless

Integrity: that prizes honesty and accountability

Community: that prizes social connectivity and shared endeavor with others

Peace and Social Justice: that prizes commitment to a peaceful and just society

Diversity: that prizes all individuals for their unique combination of heritage, personality and talents

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