In an announcement to Kansas high school administrators and counselors Tuesday morning, Bethany College President Will Jones revealed the college is launching the Swedes to Sweden program. Beginning in the 2018 Fall Semester, any first-time freshman starting at Bethany will be eligible for a free seven to 10-day service-learning trip to Sweden at the completion of their sophomore year. This study-abroad opportunity will engage the entire sophomore class and be led by Bethany faculty, staff, and alumni.
“It is great to be a Bethany Swede! Over the past 12 months, we have welcomed the largest freshman class in the history of the college, completed a strategic planning process, received the largest single gift in the history of the college, achieved reaffirmation of our accreditation, and closed on a loan from the USDA to purchase New Hall and refinance our existing debt. The Swedes to Sweden program is another win for Bethany students, faculty, staff, and alumni,” said President Jones.
According to some of the best research on higher education, high-impact practices like common intellectual experiences, learning communities, collaborative assignments and projects, global learning, and service learning result in significantly better learning outcomes, increased GPAs, better persistence, higher-rates of student-faculty interaction, and greater appreciation for diversity. They are also the types of experiences that employers value as well.
Bruce Karstadt (’73), President and CEO at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, commended the college for “looking to the future” in regards to student international experience. “Bethany College and the Smoky Valley region have a heritage deeply rooted in Sweden. And while I cherish these historic connections, this program is about the world today and the kind of world we want for tomorrow,” he said. “This is such an incredible opportunity for younger generations to gain modern insights into a country that serves as a global leader in sustainability, gender equality and human rights. A service-learning project in Sweden will give Bethany students an invaluable international experience for personal growth, and one which is increasingly important for professional success, as well. I’m so proud of my alma mater for this bold investment in tomorrow’s leaders.”
Bethany College has enjoyed a special relationship with Sweden since beginning in 1881. Many of those involved in the founding of Bethany College, and have served the college through the years, have sustained strong identifications with Sweden. The college benefits from this rich heritage long celebrated in Lindsborg, known as Little Sweden, USA. Bethany students participate in festivals such as Svensk Hyllningsfest, Midsummer’s Day, and the St. Lucia Festival. The Bethany College Swedes have won more conference championships than any team in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. The Pearson Distinguished Professor of Swedish Studies has enriched the educational experience on campus for almost 20 years. Exchange programs with Karlstad University and Linnaeus University in Sweden have also benefited Bethany students and in return brought international students to campus.
During the strategic planning process last academic year, Bethany College identified its Swedish identity as one of the distinguishing characteristics of the college to be strengthened over the next five years. One significant initiative that was named in the Bethany, Arise! strategic plan was the sophomore class trip to Sweden. The details for the program will undergo further refinement in the coming year. College officials stated Swedes to Sweden is being made possible thanks to the generous philanthropic support of alumni and friends and stronger net revenue.
“I am very excited for our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The Bethany learning and living environment will be enhanced thanks to this effort,” President Jones said. “Imagine the conversations, thoughts, and dreams Swedes to Sweden will spark during the coming years.”