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Thrive update: cafeteria to break ground summer 2017

After three years of campaigning, the Thrive initiative has brought multiple projects to Oklahoma Christian University, such as high-definition projectors to Hardeman Auditorium, the renovation of Cail Auditorium and the opening of a state-of-the-art workout facility.

Thrive was intended to be a three-year fundraising program, but according to Director of Advancement Operations Will Blanchard, the campaign could be looking at an extended presence at Oklahoma Christian.

“Initially this was going to be the last year of Thrive,” Blanchard said. “My hunch is — and it’s a strong hunch since I’m one of the guys working on the campaign — that we’ll extend Thrive.”

The goal of Thrive was to raise $30 million to be used for building renovations, academic programs and marketing initiatives, and according to Blanchard the money has been raised but the campaign still has work to do.

“It’ll go at least another year, probably beyond this one because our commitment was to knock out those projects you see on the menu,” Blanchard said. “And even though we’ve raised the $30 million that we promised, we haven’t knocked out every project yet, and we want to get those.”


In 2014, Oklahoma Christian announced Thrive would bring a new cafeteria, coffee shop and additional food sources to campus. In 2016, Chick-Fil-A Express opened in the Gaylord University Center and Alfredo’s Express followed at the beginning of this year. While the coffee shop is nearing its grand opening, the cafeteria will not undergo construction until the summer of 2017.

Blanchard said it would take a minimum of one year to build the 17,000-square-foot cafeteria on the west side of the Gaylord University Center, prompting for a grand opening in the fall of 2018.

“There have been some cost changes and some scope changes multiple times, and there’s actually another one that we’ll be talking about here in the next couple of weeks, but our timing and our commitment are unchanged,” Blanchard said. “So that’s what we’re really focused on right now.”

The cafeteria will feature an open-floor serving area with multiple options including a Mongolian grill, personal pizza, salad lines and a home kitchen area featuring waffle makers. The dining area will be equipped with booths, tables which can sit 10 people and an updated dishwashing area. All sitting options will have access to power outlets, and the new building will extend out to the Lawson Commons.

“This is a lot,” Blanchard said. “You can see why it takes a while to build, to plan and raise money for, but we’re going to get it done and we’re going to get it done right.”

The Brew, Oklahoma Christian’s new on-campus coffee shop, has been under construction on the second floor of the Mabee Learning Center since 2016, but Blanchard said the new space will be worth the wait.

“I think I’m most excited about the coffee shop,” Blanchard said. “We seem to be doing everything right. We have the right people involved.”

According to Blanchard, Director of Creative Marketing Judson Copeland has been charged with making The Brew look and feel like a local coffee shop.

“Whereas in the past, we might have made something look perfectly fine but didn’t look trendy, we’re not doing that this time,” Blanchard said.

The Brew will feature custom art and furniture, chosen by Copeland, and architects have been working to give the new space the flow which “makes a coffee shop a coffee shop.”

According to Blanchard, The Brew will be one of the largest coffee shops in the Oklahoma City-metro area.

“It’s big up there, and it will have probably one of the best views,” Blanchard said. “All of those windows up there look south and you can see downtown when it’s clear and nice, and you’re looking right over the Gaylord Forum and the Bible building.”


 Oklahoma Christian’s Gaming and Animation Program opened an Advanced Visualization Lab in the fall of 2016 and is looking to further its facilities even more.

“We have a chunk of funding for an additional lab next to where the other lab exists now in that empty room in Vose Hall, and that will be primarily for nice computers that are outfitted for animation,” Blanchard said.

Along with the new lab, Blanchard said the department is also looking to purchase a motion capture suit for student use.

The north end of the Mabee Learning Center will soon see construction crews, as the second floor balcony will undergo renovation.

“It has been closed off for student use for as long as I can remember, but we’ve raised the money to get new flooring and redo the railing,” Blanchard said. “We’re going to put tables and chairs up there, and that will kind of be an extension of The Brew.”


Since the launch of the campaign, Thrive has raised $28,073,818.02 and has completed 14 projects, funded by 8,227 givers. Blanchard said his favorite part of the campaign is its transparency.

“Typically a campaign is done behind closed doors, and you come out and say, ‘Hey, here’s what we did,’” Blanchard said. “That has some challenges in it, like people aren’t excited about it until you announce it. But it has a lot of freedom because you can make a lot of mistakes, you can make a lot of changes and no one ever has to know.”

According to Blanchard, his goal – along with President John deSteiguer and Vice President of Advancement Kent Allen – has been adamant about telling the full story of what is happening.

“With something like the cafeteria, where we’ve had multiple cost changes and we’ve changed our minds on some things and we’ve done some things earlier different, the more we’ve been open the harder it is because you feel like you perpetually have egg on your face trying to explain things,” Blanchard said. “That’s also why I really love the campaign because we’ve been very committed to being forthright and we have been. I think that says a lot to me as far as the culture to our institution.”

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