Dreams to opportunities

Two Concordia students hugging.

We’re all born with different gifts, but not all of us receive the same opportunity to do something with them. When you have an intellectual, developmental, or other significant disability, opportunities can seem even slimmer. Concordia University of Wisconsin offers the Bethesda College of Applied Learning in an effort to change that. Bethesda College is a unique, two-year post-secondary certificate program that allows people to realize their dream of receiving a college education.

Building bright futures

Set in the inclusive university environment of Concordia University of Wisconsin, Bethesda College is a two-year program designed to meet the higher education needs of students with intellectual, developmental, and other complex disabilities. It gives students with disabilities the ability to experience the full range of college learning and life and provides a “blended” model of instruction centered on the intellectual, vocational, social, personal, and spiritual growth of students. Our goal is simple: to prepare students for independent adult living.

The program integrates a sequence of formal instruction in four areas: Academics, Career Preparation, Adult Living Skills, and Campus/Community Life. We emphasize the development of the whole person through group instruction, supported by individual advising, coaching, and tutoring.

Bethesda College students shown working.

Our 4 Program Components


The program features a combination of Bethesda College classes and Concordia University classes. Classes are offered (according to abilities and goals), along with support in advising, peer mentoring, and tutoring. All classes nurture a mindset for lifelong learning and expand general knowledge in a liberal arts format, while promoting the growth of thinking and problem-solving skills.

Career preparation

The program also offers preparation for employment through a sequence of work experiences in internships both on campus and in the community. All the while, students are supported by individualized on-the-job coaching and group instruction so they can gain skills that help with employment, the philosophy of work, and career choices.

Adult living skills

Students receive group instruction combined with individualized guided practice in a range of skills that apply to adult independent living. We cover topics such as budgeting and money management, organization and time management, personal care, and homemaking.

Bethesda students living in the dorms at Concordia.

Campus and community life

Bethesda students enjoy full immersion in all aspects of campus student life and activities, including participation in spiritual life activities, service to the community, residence life, relationship building and forming friendships, leadership and advocacy. They can also participate in CUW co-curricular clubs and activities. Students are supported by structured planning meetings, peer mentoring, seminar study of social skills, and problem-solving guidance in an effort to integrate community resources, communication, and group living into the everyday lives of the students to create a successful experience.

Two female students friends.

Bethesda students wearing costumes for a party.


Who is the program designed for?

The program was designed for students with intellectual, developmental, or other significant disabilities. Typically students would be 18-25 years of age. Currently students need to be independent in their personal care including medication management, and personal hygiene with minimal assistance.

What do students gain from the program?

Students at Bethesda College:

  • Receive a Certificate of Applied Learning from Concordia University and Bethesda Lutheran Communities
  • Increased independent living skills through residential life training
  • Increased personal responsibility
  • Resume from a variety of internships
  • Social and emotional growth, enhanced ability to problem-solve, self-advocate, and make decisions

Why is Concordia University a good fit for a program like Bethesda College?

Concordia is a growing vibrant university recently named the safest campus in Wisconsin. Bethesda College is a unique partnership between Concordia University and Bethesda Lutheran Communities. The rich history of education and serving people with disabilities that both bring insure a high quality experience.

What are the criteria for admission?

  • 18-25 years of age
  • Have a developmental disability, autism, and/or intellectual disability
  • Ambulatory
  • Ability to navigate campus after training
  • Ready and motivated to work and complete coursework
  • Ability to self-medicate (if applicable)
  • Completed high school or under a dual-enrollment agreement

What qualities will make a student a good fit?

Students will benefit from the program if they have a desire to learn how to be more independent, and the motivation to work. Successful students will have the ability to navigate their way around campus once it becomes familiar to them, and demonstrate a basic level of judgement with regard to safety issues.

Does the program offer an option to commute?

Local students can choose to commute to campus. However, living on campus is an important component of Bethesda College. Because of this students are encouraged to live on campus.

What is the application process?

Prospective students must submit the following:

  • Application document
  • A recent psychological testing report (preferably within the last year)
  • High School Transcript (college if applicable)
  • Most recent IEP
  • Two Letters of Recommendation

When your file is complete, the next steps in the admissions process are:

  • Bethesda College Admissions Committee will review your file.
  • On approval, you will be contacted to schedule an interview on campus.
  • About the interviews- the purpose of the interviews is to get to know you and whether Bethesda College is the best “fit” for you.
    • Two interviews are held – one is the student interview and one is the parent interview
    • The interview process will take about 1 ½ hours.
    • If you have not already, you will also have the option to tour the campus and have plenty of time to ask questions


General Inquiries

Email: bethesda.college@cuw.edu
Phone: 262-243-2183

Direct Contact

Kristine Leonard - Director

Christopher Wright - Assistant Director

Sue Dowe - Program Assistant

Samantha Bear - Living Skills and Community Life Professor

Gail Kochelek - Internship and Career Prep Professor