Weird but Right: The Caf Returns

Posted more than a year ago.

I like telling people the truth. I really do. But being a person of integrity and living in a glass house are two different things, right? I think so. And to prove my point, let me give you an example from my life.

Johnny D. asks the quintessential academic small talk question.

What was your major in school?

I have at least two options for responding. I can give an honest and dignified summary.

My Bachelor’s is in English Literature.

Or I can go full-on glass houses on poor, unsuspecting Johnny D.

So I started as a dual major, computer science and art. Then I decided I wanted to be a counselor, so I switched. The psych faculty scared me, though, so I jumped to mass communication. That was really cool, but I didn’t quite fit. News media wasn’t really my thing, you know? So I dabbled back in art for awhile before breaking down under the notion that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life… Then I thought, I’ll just study my Bible and learn my guitar (because I could totally be in a band). I never really practiced my guitar, though, and I got a “C” in Prison Epistles. So those were out. Anyway, finally my girlfriend (now wife) convinced me that stories were in my blood and that I should study literature. I listened and found a great fit. So, after multiple classes out of sequence, several summer courses, a slew of wasted electives, an extra semester of study and the debt to go with it, I graduated with a Bachelor’s in English Literature.

Oh, my master’s? That’s in business.

The first answer is just as true as the second. Plus, it’s cleaner, way easier for everybody, and it keeps me from looking like an incompetent, indecisive weirdo. Push come to shove, I’m giving you the first answer 99% of the time.

In fundraising campaigns we typically default to honest and dignified summaries, also, and we avoid glass houses at all costs. Why? Because following major projects (like, say, a bachelor’s degree) from beginning to end involves a long road of starts, stops, and direction changes. Vision expands. Vision narrows. Mistakes are made. Prices jump. Prices drop. Demand shifts. Timing is good, then bad, then good again. If you tell the whole messy story, then there’s almost no way to come off with a sparkling record as campaign leaders.

No, you look like incompetent, indecisive weirdos.

But here’s where Thrive is a different animal. We didn’t commit to dignified honesty. We committed to living in a big, digital glass house. And that means that I choose to look boldly weird when I tell you things like this…

We’re launching a $1,000,000 Café Reboot: Phase II


“Time out!” you’re saying. “We’ve heard this one before. Didn’t you tell us in December 2014 that the cafeteria design had been polished and that its price was going up from $3M to $4.2M? And didn’t you just say in February 2016 that you were done?! I thought we were set to build this bad boy in 2017!”

You’re nailing it on all counts. But the fact is, like every bizarre twist in my undergrad story, this jarring change is going to get us where we need to go. It’s uncomfortable. It’s embarrassing. But it’s right.

Here’s why.

Chick-Fil-A Big

Yesterday our students descended in droves upon the first chain restaurant ever to grace Oklahoma Christian, our new Chick-fil-A Express. We expected the rush. After all, in every student (and prospective student) survey we’ve done regarding the new cafeteria design, we’ve heard that expanded meal options are the number one priority. Ahead of look, ahead of flow, ahead of location, students want good, mainstream eats.

OCU_Dining_c0300_v04 FINAL

Funny thing, though. In my 2014 picture of the new cafeteria (above), there’s no Chick-fil-A Express... And perhaps you can guess why? That’s right, we didn’t originally plan to put one in.

But this spring, after months of consideration, we had the opportunity to get one of these franchises for our students. Knowing how much our Eagles wanted an option like this and knowing that we could bring a Chick-fil-A online almost two years faster than the full cafeteria, we jumped. The papers were signed, the building plans set, the training began, and today (right now!) chicken and waffle fries are on tap daily.


Adding outside vendors (yes, plural; more soon) meant changing the scope of the cafeteria project. We could reduce the original renovation plans to better absorb the cost of the vendor areas, but that would mean giving our students a dining facility much less spacious and much less comfortable than promised, or we could increase the scope to meet the original specs and accommodate the new vendor areas.

This second route, while it puts us on the fundraising trail again, is what we’ve decided is the best plan for meeting the needs of our campus community. By adding Phase II we’ll have a more complete and long-lasting facility for all of us to enjoy—and a few great, extra food options to boot. It's the weird, right choice.

“But what’s this mean for timing?” you might be asking now. 

My answer: nothing. Our plan is still to begin building the full cafeteria in 2017 and to open the new facility by fall 2018. What this change means most is that our fundraising teams will be pounding the pavement extra hard to knock out Phase II before this academic year is done.

So if you know anyone keen on investing in a new cafeteria, let me know. And pray for us, too. This Thrive business isn’t always easy or glamorous—sometimes it even leaves us looking like weirdos—but I’ve never been more convinced of its unconventional value.

Thanks for loving us. And thanks for following along on our messily honest journey!