By Tara Snyder
The BethelBiz mentorship program at Bethel University has cultivated much more than career goals or five-year plans. Since the start of the program in 2013, hundreds of students have utilized the priceless, real-world experience and advice freely given by Bethel alumni and faculty.
Linda Goodwin joined the Bethel Foundation Board of Governors and later joined as a trustee. She has been responsible for cultivating the BethelBiz mentorship program. The purpose of BethelBiz, according to Goodwin, is to connect not only current students with alumni, but alumni with alumni.
“The vision, and what Bethel is known for, is community,” Goodwin said. “We wanted to really expand on that.”
Dave Fauth participated as a mentor in the program’s early years in 2014. However, one of Dave’s most significant connections came out of a meeting with a mentee who had already graduated: Matt Johnson.
Johnson had graduated in 2011 with a degree in finance, and upon his graduation, had hoped to become a financial planner. A few years passed, and Johnson realized he was ready to make a career switch. Unsure of where to start, he turned back to his alma mater and landed at the BethelBiz program. In 2014, Fauth and Johnson hit it off.
While Fauth and Johnson’s beginning conversations revolved around the business world, it wasn’t long until Johnson and Fauth both realized that their conversations needed to continue. And continue they did, for six years this past October.
“Our conversations were a whole lot more than what I anticipated,” Johnson said. “It transformed into this greater connection.”
When creating BethelBiz, Goodwin looked at similar programs across the country, but worked more closely with other Minnesota colleges.
“This mentorship program is really about the whole, and holy, persona,” Goodwin said. “It’s really about spiritual and personal development.”
The program has seen many changes since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Goodwin said that while the mentorship relationships may have seemed strained due to a lack of in-person meetings, they needed to continue in order to utilize the connections the program offers.
“They (the mentors) really say ‘I need to give back,” Goodwin said. “They feel that at their core. They feel called to it.”
Approaching their ninth year, Goodwin is excited to see what new applicants will bring to the table.
Fauth and Johnson have seen many milestones together since the beginning of their mentoring relationship. Johnson now has three little girls, and both he and Fauth have made career switches–all the while supporting one another.
“We count on one another for prayer, and help one another through life,” Fauth said.
Fauth acknowledged that while he has been a Mentor, he has learned just as much from his mentees.
“It has also been a great learning experience for me. I have learned just as much, if not more, from those I have met with,” Fauth said.
Johnson says that in his experience, the mentor program made him feel a broader connection to the Bethel community. Since that first meeting all those years ago, Fauth and Johnson have come to know each other as best friends, with their families spending time together this past summer.
Johnson isn’t the only Mentee to find success in the program. Hannah (Ragsdale) Lee, a 2016 graduate, considers her former BethelBiz mentor and his family as family friends.
“I feel fortunate that as part of my mentorship, I got to know not just Ben (Matthews) but his whole family,” Lee said. “I benefited from career advice from Ben, but also benefited from their generosity.”
When the time came for Lee’s wedding, Matthews and his family made the guest list. However, the COVID-19 pandemic rang in just before the wedding bells, so Lee was forced to have a much smaller wedding with only eight attendees. However, this life update hasn’t changed her relationship with the Matthews. In fact, Hannah’s husband is now considered a friend of theirs too. “I’m working and married, but we still keep in touch. My husband and I have traveled to stay with them in Oklahoma City because we consider them family friends now,” Lee said.
The BethelBiz program is expected to grow in the coming years, with more and more mentors applying to help out current students.
“Because of the whole year of being isolated, now more than ever people are realizing the importance of expanding their networks, meeting business professionals, and others in the program,” said Goodwin.
The 2021 BethelBiz program applications are open now.
*Note: This article has been updated to include proper Bethel employment status and name corrections.