Thursdays are the highlight of the week for James Stump, Ph.D. That’s because he gets to spend an hour-and-a-half working with BUILD (Bethel Undergraduate Intellectual Leadership Development) students. “I come home every time and tell my wife I’m so grateful I get to do this,” he says.
BUILD is a new program for Bethel, but it’s been on Stump’s mind for many years. The philosophy professor and former Bethel administrator first dreamed up the idea for an honors program in 1998, when an editorial in the “Bethel Beacon” brought to light the fact that Bethel lacked a program for intellectually gifted students. After years of thinking about it, Stump wrote up a proposal for the program and got it approved. But by that time, it had morphed from an honors program into more of a leadership program.
“BUILD is a way to attract intellectually strong students to Bethel, provide them with scholarships and develop them into leaders,” Stump says.
In its first year, BUILD is comprised of 11 students from Colorado, Florida, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Michigan, Indiana and Russia. Many have different majors. One of Stump’s goals was to keep the program diverse so that different viewpoints would come out in discussion.
The group meets for a seminar weekly, where they engage in intellectual discussion about current events and the book they’re reading: “Christ and Culture.” In addition, they belong to three subcommittees: website, recruiting and missions. And each semester, they go on a planning retreat.
“The goal is to infect the rest of the campus with intellectual awareness,” Stump says. Ultimately, they would like to organize and run a leadership conference for high school students. Stump encourages the students to take ownership of the group, often stepping back so they can lead.
“This is a positive cohort group for the students,” Stump says. “It’s iron sharpening iron.”
After nearly two semesters, Stump is excited about where the program is heading. “I’ve had a blast. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a professor,” Stump says. “As long as they let me lead it, I will.”