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Thrive update: third year to bring new opportunities, coffee and community

Thrive – the fundraising initiative for Oklahoma Christian University – is beginning its final year in the midst of completing its biggest projects, while instituting several new projects.

According to Director of Advancement Operations Will Blanchard, though this is the final year for Thrive, fundraising for Oklahoma Christian University through the campaign will continue, but at a lower intensity.

“Thrive was very experimental when we started it, and that’s part of the reason we left it at three years,” Blanchard said. “Thrive will end in terms of the three-year overarching goal, and then we will continue on year-by-year. So there will be a Thrive year four, but it won’t be a part of this three year program. It won’t end, but we’ll just change how we talk about it.”

Blanchard said many projects for year three have not been posted online yet, but will be finalized in the next week.

“Before we post anything public, we make sure we’ve done diligence and figured out how much money we think we’re going to need,” Blanchard said. “Prices are going to change a lot but, for the most part, we really try to get things vetted before they go on the menu.”

Originally, Thrive set a goal of completing 30 projects before the end of the campaign, but surpassed that goal early. This opened up the campaign to new and more academic projects that will be featured this year.

New Programs

Thrive has been working to raise funds for many departments such as gaming and animation, business and finance, nursing and the introduction of a criminal justice degree.

“If you’ve been on the quad, you have seen that we’ve got new virtual reality systems and computers for the gaming and animation program,” Blanchard said. “We’re building that out, because that program is one of our fastest growing programs and it needs some breathing room for those students.”

In addition to the virtual reality system, Thrive has recently put in a grant for a motion capture suit and plans to create a new lab.

“The room next door to the gaming and animation studio will become a secondary lab,” Blanchard said. “Just picture the lab in Garvey, but bigger. Those labs will be able to be used by computer programming, computer science and a number of other programs.”

Thrive will also continue working on remodeling Heritage Plaza for the nursing program.

“We just had a dedication this week for the new classrooms on the first floor,” Blanchard said. “There are two big classrooms and one smaller room that are all brand new for the nursing students, since they haven’t had devoted classrooms like that.”

The next step for the nursing project is to remodel the second floor to imitate a hospital.

“We’re going to have hospital beds and high-tech simulation mannequins that cry, bleed and die,” Blanchard said. “This will give our nurses the chance to get the full experience.”

The business and finance departments will also be given the addition of a mock-trading floor, complete with a stock ticker.

“Students will be able to practice financial trading, something banks and financial institutions say they love when students have first-hand experience with,” Blanchard said. “We’re almost halfway to that goal, which is $300,000 or so. My hope would be that we see progress on that before the end of the school year.”

Blanchard also said Thrive will be working on a criminal justice degree program due to an increase in student interest, rounding out the academic sector of Thrive for the year.

A Place for Community

The on campus coffee shop is the close to reaching completion. Blanchard said it is set to open in January 2017.

“There have been some delays on construction and the design of the space,” Blanchard said. “We had initially set a goal of sometime this fall and knew that was a hopeful goal. With the delays, it looks like the January goal is more realistic.”

The coffee shop will be called ‘The Brew’ and will be located on the second floor of the library.

“We had a coffee shop on campus when I was a student here, and it was a cool space for community,” Blanchard. “To put it in the center of campus, overlooking the Bible building and right across the hall from Spiritual Life, it’s going to be really neat.”

In addition to the coffee shop, Thrive plans to renovate the balcony on the north side of the library to provide more seating for students.

“We’re going to do a modest remodel so it can be up to code and students can go out there and use it,” Blanchard said. “We’ll put tables out there so that students can get a coffee at the Brew, walk across the library, sit outside and look over Hartman Place.”

Another large project for Thrive is the cafeteria reboot, the first stage kicking off with the grand opening of Chick-fil-a next week.

“The larger cafeteria remodel, I expect, will break ground before the school year is out,” Blanchard said. “It will probably take a year for the cafeteria to finish, which means it should open in the fall of 2018.”

Blanchard said because it will be four years from the time they announced the remodel to the finish, means most students who voted for the remodel in the Student’s Pick campaign will not be in school to benefit from the new cafeteria.

“What we’ve been trying to do is things we can offer quickly,” Blanchard said. “Chick-fil-a doesn’t require a massive build-out, so we make that happen right away. We’re making sure the students get the perks as quick as we can bring them online.”

When construction begins on the new cafeteria, Blanchard said everything in the Gaylord University Center will be disrupted.

“The new space is going on that northwest corner, so when it does start to go in, all of that is going to get messy,” Blanchard said. “Waiting for the end of the semester is a good idea, because that gives us the summer to really mangle it up and then get some temporary things in place so it will be functional by the time students get back.”

Additional smaller projects will also be a goal for this year, including the replacement of the carpet in the Garvey Center, the expansion of the IT infrastructure and general maintenance around campus.

“One thing we don’t think about is just how expensive it is to do those kinds of things,” Blanchard said. “Replacing the carpet just in Garvey is about $100,000. We’ve got a larger piece that is going towards anything that needs repair, which means everything from parking lots to roofing.”

The funding for the IT expansion will go towards replacing the Wi-Fi routers across campus and updating connections.

“When you have 2,000 students streaming Netflix every night, it puts a big strain on the system,” Blanchard said. “We are very aware that the students sometimes get frustrated with the speed of the internet, so we’ll be working on making some of those things better for the students.”

Looking Back

While every project has served a purpose on campus, Blanchard said there have been a few that he has enjoyed more than others.

“My favorite thing we’ve done has been Student’s Pick, which was year one of Thrive,” Blanchard said. “We wanted to get our students engaged with a campaign, because students haven’t been close to a lot of our campaigns.”

He also said that the upcoming coffee shop is the project he’s most excited about.

“That whole place is really exciting to me, that there’s this place in the center of campus where we can come together and be a community,” Blanchard said. “I think that’s really special.”

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