Students and Faculty Plan for New Unity Garden on Campus

Lissa Diaz

Bethel College students, faculty and staff are joining together to create a “free to pick” garden on Bethel’s campus. The project is a collaboration with South Bend Unity Gardens, the college’s Enactus student team, and individual faculty who are passionate about beginning a garden on campus.

The idea “sprouted” when Assistant Professor of Biology Cassandra May, Ph.D., who has always enjoyed gardening, began sharing her vision to create a garden on campus. As she spoke with other faculty and staff about the idea, she found others who shared her enthusiasm and helped connect her to resources. This included a connection with the Bethel chapter of Enactus, an international student organization dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action.

“I had this idea for a garden but wanted a group of students to help carry it out, and here was this student group that happened to be looking for a project to take on,” says May. “It was a perfect fit.”

The students are helping to coordinate logistical details, recruit student volunteers, and take the lead on writing grant proposals to fund equipment, tools and various garden improvements. They received a $1,500 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and they hope to raise an additional $5,000 as one of three projects that will be promoted during Bethel’s 2017 Online Giving Day.

The Bethel College Unity Garden, or BUG, will join more than 50 other area gardens affiliated with Unity Gardens, a non-profit group started by Sara Stewart, a graduate of Bethel’s Master of Science in Nursing program and a 2013 recipient of the college’s Professional Achievement Alumni Award. The mission of Unity Gardens is to improve community health through access to fresh fruits and vegetables while bringing together a diverse community.  In helping the BUG get off to a good start, Unity Gardens will provide soil testing, seeds, and the help of a master gardener.

Students, faculty and staff gathered in November to dedicate the garden site, and planting will begin in the spring. Community members are encouraged to stop by the BUG, located near the corner of Russ St. and Forest Ave., and join in the gardening efforts – whether through planting, weeding, watering or enjoying the fresh seasonal vegetables and herbs as they become available. For updates on upcoming events, volunteer opportunities and a ripening schedule, visit the BUG Facebook page,


Student and faculty leaders pose for a photo at the Bethel Unity Garden dedication in November. From left to right: Senior Jordan Hopkins, Enactus VP of finance; Bethel President Gregg Chenoweth, Ph.D.; Sophomore Ellie Beilman, Enactus president; Sophomore Alexis Macias, Enactus VP of communication; Assistant Professor of Biology Cassandra May, Ph.D.; Dean of Arts & Sciences Janna McLean, Ph.D.; and Professor of Music Vicky Tan Warkentien, D.M.M.