Perry White

The national dialogue on higher education continues to question the value of college, especially the liberal-arts college experience. Heightened political awareness during an election year fuels renewed discussion of free college for all (potentially paid through taxation of private college endowments) and a keen focus on the rising cost of a college degree. These and many other threats are forcing permanent changes throughout the industry, especially the private education sector.

This is the environment that surrounds the creation and implementation of Bethel’s new strategic plan, “Extending Our Heritage, Expanding Our Impact,” highlighted in the December 2015 Context. As I review the themes, objectives and many initiatives our campus, community and constituency contributed to the plan, I see many exciting ideas designed to prepare the college to weather the uncertain times ahead. One is our objective to focus intentionally on reinforcing and seeking out local, regional and national partnerships.

One of those blossoming partnerships will produce its first fruit on campus at the end of May, between commencement and Alumni Weekend. Since last October, Bethel has partnered with the Harvey County Economic Development Commission to engage community donors to support our first continuing education offering on nonprofit leadership development, innovation and entrepreneurship. Local organizations can send employees (up to 40 overall) through the three-day program, with a curriculum based on the book Who Owns the Ice House? by Gary Schoeniger, that seeks to help them cultivate entrepreneurial thinking.

The premise of the “Ice House Curriculum” is that such entrepreneurial thinking is not limited to those who start their own businesses. It resides at all levels —within many, if not all, organizations. And such thinking can be nurtured. The curriculum seeks to draw out those assets in people and to help employees nurture those talents, contribute more fully within their industry—or perhaps, if inspired, strike out on their own.

Who Owns the Ice House? follows the story of Clifton Taulbert, growing up in rural Glen Allan, Mississippi, and the life lessons he learned from his uncle, Cleve, the ice house owner. The Ice House Curriculum (sponsored and developed by Schoeniger and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City) highlights in concrete ways the leadership and entrepreneurial lessons of building on a dream and uses Taulbert’s story to present and teach the eight core principles that make up the course of study.

We believe the sometimes invisible, not-for-profit sector has much to offer society. We believe that nurturing and supporting the future leaders of our nation’s nonprofit organizations and developing social entrepreneurship intersect neatly with the mission, values and history of Bethel College. We are excited to offer this opportunity to our local organizations and, in future years, the wider community.

If you’re interested in this program and its future, I’d enjoy engaging with you and welcome you to contact me directly at