Springfield, MO

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Evangel president rolls out 18-month strategic plan

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Evangel University President Mike Rakes on Tuesday discussed new development and academic projects coming to the school as part of its recently launched strategic plan.

Rakes, the February interview guest for Springfield Business Journal's 12 People You Need to Know series, said two projects, upgraded theater lighting and a new marching band scholarship program, are designed to improve Evangel's student experience, a key goal for the president who's six months into the job.

"A rising tide lifts all the boats," said Rakes, speaking from Alamo Drafthouse Springfield. “That’s what we’re seeing. The kids are excited.”

The upgraded theater lighting is coming to Evangel by way of a donation from a private donor, the university announced on Tuesday. This spring, LED lighting and circuitry upgrades for the theater venue in the Barnett Fine Arts Center are expected to cost $50,000, according to a news release, upgrading the system to more than 30 lighting configurations from two.

"These lighting upgrades will further enhance our students’ hands-on stage experience and improve the visual elements of our numerous productions," said Vickie Wisdom, professor of theater, in the release.

At the 12 People event yesterday, Rakes also said school officials were in the process of reinvigorating the student marching band. He said the university is setting aside 100 scholarships for the marching band as part of plans to grow attendance.

"It's going to be awesome," he said. “It differentiates Evangel from a lot of other schools.”

Reached this morning, Evangel Director of Marketing and Communications Erin Hedlun said the school's marching band has been inactive for the past few years due to a low number of student participants and COVID-19.

"His vision is that the band would continue to grow in number over the next several academic years and become a focal point of our university," Hedlun said of Rakes' scholarship program.

Evangel in December rolled out a trio of construction and renovation projects in the works to the tune of $1 million. A project featuring outdoor basketball courts with communal patio seating was unveiled, as well as student union upgrades and a monument entry sign.

It's part of an 18-month strategic plan that Rakes is spearheading, he said yesterday.

"We call it the adaptable plan," he said, noting it's accessible and actionable by staff.

Beyond student growth and experience, branding also is a key focus, he said.

Rakes suggested a capital campaign could be on the way in another 18 months or so.

"I keep having this crazy feeling that it's Evangel's turn now," he said.


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