Nearing the completion of Thrive’s second year, Oklahoma Christian University is kick-starting construction and beginning development for the program’s third and final year.
According to Director of Advancement Operations Will Blanchard, Thrive’s second year was a huge success, with an additional $10 million raised in cash alone for new projects.
“I’d say we’ve done very well,” Blanchard said. “We’ve had a record year of fundraising and that speaks to the generosity of our donors, especially our board of trustees.”
Blanchard said that as Thrive goes forward into its third year, some of the program’s largest campaigns will reach completion, allowing the fundraising focus to shift to other areas.
One of Thrive’s biggest ongoing campaigns is Unrestricted Match that addresses the financial needs of Oklahoma Christian, according to Blanchard.
“It’s a total of a $5 million initiative to essentially attack the financial needs of the institution, and to make sure that we can provide the best possible experience for our students at the price we’re offering it right now,” Blanchard said.
Unrestricted donations allow for greater flexibility in spending and, instead of going towards a specific project, donations go toward wherever the university needs aid.
Blanchard said that although Unrestricted Match has helped the university, it takes away from specific projects that Thrive originally wanted to focus on.
“This has been a great success and speaks a lot to the spirit of our donors,” Blanchard said. “But it also distracts us from these named projects.”
As Unrestricted Match nears completion, Blanchard said the Thrive initiative would be able to focus on more tangible goals in its final year.
“I’m excited to see that done and move to targeted efforts in year three that you can kind of get your hands on more,” Blanchard said.
Campus Café and Common Grounds
During Thrive’s third year, construction will begin for two of Thrive’s biggest projects: the cafeteria reboot and addition of a coffee shop in the Mabee Learning Center.
Blanchard said that although construction of the new cafeteria will not begin until January of 2017 – and will take approximately 10-12 months to complete – that students will begin seeing other pieces phased in throughout the construction process.
“You may see a new food option come online prior to that, but the whole cafeteria build won’t happen until January 2018,” Blanchard said.
Along with new food options, an outside vendor will be located on campus to serve food beginning next fall for students, although the name of the vendor will not be announced until later on.
The new cafeteria will be a build-out in the northwest corner, looking out over the Lawson Commons with more windows for natural light, fixed restaurant-style seating and new meal choices. Blanchard said that the space would include more options that students prefer in the current cafeteria.
“There will be an emphasis on more modern and made-to-order food options,” Blanchard said. “Kind of like Mongolian barbeque and the salad, wrap and sandwich stations we already have.”
The new cafeteria will also allow students to freely enter without using any cafeteria swipes. Instead, students will swipe their student IDs at the new food stations.
Blanchard said the construction for Common Grounds Coffee Shop will begin in May and continue throughout the summer, so the coffee shop will be open for students at the start of next school year.
Third Year Developments
According to Blanchard, Thrive introduced “fun” projects during its first and second years, such as the Dub fitness center, the cafeteria reboot and the coffee shop. Blanchard said the focus during the program’s third year would be more academic.
“A lot of next year’s projects are going to be focused on academics,” Blanchard said. “Which I hope would excite students; it’s at the core of why you’re here.”
On project will be geared towards creating new study programs and bringing in faculty members to teach the new programs.
“We’ll be raising several hundred dollars, that as we identify new programs OC needs to have – whether that’s a criminal justice system or additional health sciences – that will give us the resources to do the research and development to bring those programs in,” Blanchard said.
According to Blanchard, another primary focus of Thrive will be developing the Gaming and Animation Program due to the program’s growing popularity.
“It’s grown in size by leaps and bounds over the past several years and drawing a lot of new students, so it’s a priority area for the university to invest in,” Blanchard said.
Stations for Gaming and Animation students to work in are already underway in construction, but one of Thrive’s goals in its third year is to raise $95,000 for the program to incorporate a new rig for motion capture in the program.
According to Blanchard, projects have the potential to change or be added throughout Thrive’s final year.
“One of the beauties of Thrive is it’s very agile,” Blanchard said. “If something comes up that’s of great priority to our students and it makes sense to invest in it, then we’re not going to be tied to something out of ego.”
Blanchard said that he is always open to ideas from students for Thrive projects. To submit ideas for projects, visit the Thrive website.