BGSU announces $13.5 million in gifts to support student success
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Bowling Green State University students will have more support than ever before as they design their college and career experiences through Life Design, a new initiative that is changing undergraduate education, thanks to transformative gifts from two alumni.
Following a special Board of Trustees meeting on April 20, the University announced an unprecedented commitment to the initiative with $13.5 million in gifts to support Life Design from two alumni philanthropists, Geoff Radbill ’68 and Mike Kuhlin ‘68. The gifts will change the higher-education paradigm, expanding the initiative, naming facilities and making BGSU the first university in the United States to offer Life Design on such a broad scale.
“As president, and on behalf of Bowling Green State University, we offer our sincere gratitude to Trustee Geoff Radbill, Jan Kohn, former chair of the Foundation Board, Mike Kuhlin and his late wife, Sara," said BGSU President Rodney K. Rogers. "Their transformational commitment to student success enhances our ecosystem, which empowers our students to design their college experience, their career and their life. These gifts will help prepare our graduates to do well, but also do good."
In addition to traditional academic support and advising, students can participate in the four-year Life Design program that features extra support from college and career design coaches who help students find purpose, prioritize well-being, make connections and jump-start career, promoting critical thinking skills necessary to navigate problems and discover workable solutions.
The initiative aims to graduate students in four years or less, minimize student debt and create a well-established career network.
Within the Life Design program, students receive support and coaching to succeed in all facets of life, in addition to their academic classes. The program – which is designed for students of all backgrounds, ability levels and majors – equips students with intentionality: BGSU wants its students to understand the why behind their academic journey and the how behind living a balanced life.
“The extraordinary generosity from Geoff Radbill and Mike Kuhlin demonstrates the power of private philanthropy and its transformative impact for a public university,” said Pamela Conlin, vice president for University Advancement and president and CEO of the BGSU Foundation, Inc. “Because of these gifts, BGSU will be able to provide an enhanced educational experience that meets our students where they are and inspires them to be prepared for opportunities and life after graduation. This unique approach reinforces our ability to drive public good through our graduates who will make a difference in their families, communities, and professions, and we are grateful to Geoff and Mike for their support of our mission and vision.”
Geoffrey H. Radbill Center for College and Life Design
With the announcement of the transformative gifts, BGSU alumnus Geoff Radbill ’68 was recognized for a $7.5 million commitment for college and life design, which will provide student and programmatic support, as well as critical facilities support for the renovation of a dedicated college and life design space in the Mathematical Sciences Building, which will be named the Geoffrey H. Radbill Center for College and Life Design.
Located in the heart of campus, the Geoffrey H. Radbill Center for College and Life Design will feature an inclusive and collaborative space for students to work with coaches as they design their college experience and gain tools and skills to design their life. The renovation is scheduled to be completed in spring 2023.
Radbill, a member of the BGSU Board of Trustees, earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from BGSU and retired from AXA US (now known as Equitable Companies), a global financial services company, as senior vice president and chief operating officer of the retail distribution unit.
As a longtime supporter of the University and student success, Radbill has created numerous scholarships in finance, insurance, accounting and management for BGSU students.
Michael and Sara Kuhlin Hub for Career Design and Connections
While Radbill's gift focuses on college and life design, fellow 1968 alumnus Mike Kuhlin was recognized for a $6 million commitment to career design and connections, supporting an innovative approach to career planning and student success that will be housed in the Michael and Sara Kuhlin Hub for Career Design and Connections.
Focused on transforming the University’s ability to support students as they plan and prepare careers after graduation, the gift will provide resources for student internship and co-op experiences, workshops, professional development and executive speakers, employer and alumni engagement initiatives, technology and other emerging needs.
The Michael and Sara Kuhlin Hub for Career Design and Connections will be located on the second floor of the Bowen-Thompson Student Union.
Kuhlin earned a journalism degree at BGSU and went on to a distinguished career in corporate communications with Ameritech, now AT&T, retiring as senior director of corporate relations. Mike met his late wife, Sara, while both were students at BGSU.
In 2016, BGSU named the Michael & Sara Kuhlin Center, a state-of-the-art learning facility that houses the School of Media and Communication, in recognition of the Kuhlins’ philanthropy and support of the multi-million-dollar facility.
The Life Design experience
Leveraging best practices from the Life Design Lab at Stanford’s d.school, BGSU students in the Life Design program will learn to prioritize the well-being of themselves and others – which includes robust access to programs and resources that teach mental, physical and financial well-being – make connections that build an invaluable network while in college and jump-start their careers before graduation.
"We are focused on creating positive outcomes for students, which extends beyond the classroom," said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Joe B. Whitehead Jr. "Life Design is a true value-add for our students, who will receive a more holistic approach to their education as they define their own success, creating new opportunities and setting them up to live a life they want to lead.”
While each student journey is unique and students can enter the program at any time during their college experience, most students spend the first two years focused on college and life design, while years three and four are typically focused on career design and connections.
Students in the Life Design program will build their own “Flight Plan,” starting with enrolling in BGSU 1910: Life Design and connecting with a design coach during their freshman year.
In their second year, students will continue to receive one-on-one coaching as they begin to prototype opportunities for experiential learning and explore connections for their future careers. By year three, students will begin to expand their career plan along with a faculty mentor and complete experiential learning such as a co-op, internship or research opportunity.
In the final year of the program, students engage with the expansive BGSU alumni network, connect with additional professional development and officially launch their next move, whether it’s a career or graduate school.
Years in the making
Life Design has evolved over the past three years at BGSU, starting as a small pilot program and growing to the transformative experience it is today.
In 2019, President Rogers taught the first version of BGSU 1910, seeing up close how the first-year seminar course could jump-start the academic careers of students by helping them design a plan that aligns with their own values, personalities and life goals.
Over the next two years, BGSU expanded the program, creating an Office of Student Success and Life Design, and hired an initial cohort of coaches.
In 2021, BGSU paired more than 1,800 students with design coaches, hired an executive director for College and Life Design in Adrienne Ausdenmoore, defined its new organizational model and identified the physical spaces where Life Design will grow in the coming years.
"Life Design is an incredible opportunity to redefine student success and shape the future of higher education," said Ausdenmoore. "We are so grateful for these gifts that ensure our students have the opportunity to design their college experience, their careers, and by extension, their lives. This is an investment in the entire institution, and most importantly, an investment in the futures of our students."
Life Design intends to achieve tangible benefits for students after they graduate from BGSU, not only socially and emotionally, but financially as well.
By helping students find and define exactly what they want out of their BGSU experience, the plan will help students graduate in four or fewer years, minimizing student debt.
Through nurturing critical thinking skills early and often, students have the opportunity to find what they like – and don’t like – then involve them in professional development opportunities replete with chances to connect with current and future professionals in their chosen field.
The program is built upon a simple principle: Students with a well-rounded toolkit are best prepared for success during their college journey and the life that comes after it.
Updated: 04/21/2022 11:04AM