Thursday, December 11, 2014

Finals Week through Twitter

Must be the end of fall semester. The parking lots on campus are starting to empty and Bluffton’s Twitter feed is filling up with students celebrating (or stressing about) the end of fall semester finals and the beginning of Christmas break.

@BlufftonU: So finals week is upon us. Remember to breathe!

@BKurilec5: Finals week...when cleaning my room sounds fun. #needtofocus

@ScoutWeber: I just want it to be Christmas break already so I can chill and stop worrying about school

@BlufftonBound: Good luck on those finals, Beavers!! Study hard, but don't forget to take a break tonight for the Finals Breakfast :) #BlufftonU #tradition

@RebeccaMarieHan: @BlufftonU thank you for the Christmas breakfast tonight, it was amazing! #thankful

President Harder, faculty and staff members serve breakfast.

@EAlpeter: I'm getting so anxious to go home

@MIGUEL_GILLIE25: Hoop session and lift to ease the pain #Active #Focused

@j_fayee: Couldn't stay awake when I was writing my paper and now I can't go back to sleep now that I'm in bed...

@JonesWt13: Anyone wanna come keep me company while I study

@j_fayee: Honors party at Rudi's!!

@MIGUEL_GILLIE25: Exams have been in my favor so far this week let's hope it stays that way.

@JonesWt13: Got up a little early to study before my final, and I haven't looked at my notes or anything... #imscrewed

@AmyBlankenship6: Another semester in the books! #finalsweek

@BKurilec5: DONE with Capstone.

@kroushia6: I get to go home tomorrow

@j_fayee: Just finished my last final at Bluffton ever!

@blufftonU: You made it! Now go home and get some sleep

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Both the volleyball and women's basketball
teams made time for site seeing while in St. Louis.
What are the chances? Sometimes things just happen like they are meant to be.

Like when a season-opening tip-off women’s basketball tourney is scheduled for the same weekend in the same city as the volleyball team is playing in the first round of NCAA post season tournament AND when volleyball plays Friday and basketball plays on Saturday/ Sunday AND when the basketball team is planning to be in town Friday night anyways for team bonding. One could not have planned this any better.

While I had heard the word serendipity before, I remember being encouraged to embrace the concept of serendipity in my first ever collegiate class taught by Dr. Ray Hamman. He talked a lot about serendipity, of “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprises,” of “making discoveries, by accident, of things which they were not in quest of.” (Wikipedia) And to being open to make the most of these “pleasant surprises.”

Like rearranging basketball team bonding activities to include cheering on fellow student-athletes in the national tournament. 

I had the opportunity to drive one of the vans for the women’s basketball team. We were very close to a mutiny in my van as we drove all over the Washington University at St. Louis campus trying to find the gym, especially as the time ticked closer and closer to game time.

Once we finally arrived. I have to admit that I was pretty focused on the volleyball game and didn't pay much attention to the team sitting at the end of the court. That is until the game was over. After the announcement that fans needed to stay off the court following the game, that storming the court could be grounds for legal action.

Win or lose, the volleyball team always huddles after the game to do the Beaver Call.

Was it planned? Was it one of those moments of embraced serendipity? But the basketball team joined the volleyball team on the court. Classmates. Fellow student-athletes. Friends.

I’m a Beaver, You’re a Beaver,
We are Beavers All
And when we get together
We do the Beaver Call
B-E-A-V-E-R Beavers! Beavers!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Different decades... Same spirit

1942 May Day processional
Guest post by Carrie (Holcomb '99) Phillips
Archives and special collections librarian

As I've been working with students in the Introduction to the Study of History class with their assignment work in the archives, I've been wondering how many other college and university archivists out there are alumni of the institutions they serve. So while my unofficial facebook straw poll of my own librarian and archivist colleagues populates, I'm going to talk about why that's working out REALLY WELL for me.

Carrie Phillips with
student assistant Dana Otto
As a 1999 graduate of Bluffton, I've got four years of my own Bluffton memories to think of fondly. Singing in the nun chorus of The Sound of Music. Living in the same Ropp Addition room during two different years. Studying for Humanities II with the guy I'd eventually marry. And lots more.

Because I have these memories to support the study that I've undertaken to be in this vocation, I think I'm especially well-suited to care for the traces of Bluffton from times past - all of the memories and stories which are tangled and embedded in the materials for which I care on a daily basis. The decades may be different, the technology is different, and the names are different, but the experiences and spirit surrounding them are often remarkably similar - something I know because of the context I have as a fellow Beaver.

And speaking of technology, I'm particularly excited about a project we've been working on in the archives to make some of those stories and experiences a little easier to revisit. Using equipment purchased by the Ohio Private Academic Libraries consortium (of which Bluffton is a member) and some that we have here at Musselman Library, we've begun digitizing some of those traces of Bluffton from times past, and we're posting them online at a site we're calling Bluffton University Memory.

To date, my assistants and I have scanned and posted more than 500 photographs from the University Archives photograph collection, as well as about 20 years' worth of issues from The Witmarsum, the student newspaper. The collections are searchable, so you can look for photos of your residence hall, or writeups from early football games or accounts of what life was like at Bluffton in the time surrounding World War II.

As a legacy alumna, it's been really fun to find traces of my grandparents here - something that happens more often than I ever expected in my daily work. Using Bluffton University Memory, I can read about their selection as May Queen and Most Popular Man in the May 23, 1942 issue of The Witmarsum and I can see photographs of the 1942 May Day processional, as they crossed the field of onlookers prior to the Maypole dance.

With this post, I invite you to browse the site and see what memories you find. As we continue to add more issues of The Witmarsum, more recent photographs and even more content, I expect to connect more and more alumni to more of these stories and experiences.

Spend some time reminiscing with Bluffton University Memory, and send your comments to!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Finding Your Purple Profession?!

Guest post by Shari Ayers, Director of the Center for Career and Vocation

I humbly submit to you that I am a “Lost Item Whisperer” – finder of lost papers, pursuer of wayward keys, the first person you should call when your passport has seemingly evaporated on the night before that trip-of-a-lifetime. I’m not sure that “lost item whisperer” is an actual profession, but if it is, I’m your gal. 

I have noticed that what often prevents people from finding the things they have misplaced is the tendency to concentrate their search in the expected places. The key to finding lost things is to look in the places that are unexpected, inconvenient and sometimes downright mystifying. (How did my cell phone get in the cereal box?!) The key, in other words, to finding things is to be open to surprise.

November is National Career Development Month. Bluffton’s Center for Career & Vocation is working with wonderful partners around campus to provide workshops, employer visits, networking events, lunch discussions and much more. All of these opportunities are clustered around the theme: “Finding Your #PurpleProfession … through Curiosity, Hope and Gratitude.” It’s a mouthful, I’ll grant you! You may find yourself wondering: what’s a Purple Profession and why does it need finding? Who lost it in the first place?

Here in the Center for Career & Vocation, we use the term Purple Profession to describe those creative, vocational moments when two seemingly unrelated things are held together in a new way: 
  • It could be an undecided student who is leaning toward a double major in business administration and youth ministry because she wants to be a thoughtful, effective leader for faith-based organizations.
  • It could be a public health major who opts for a semester in Guatemala because he wants to use his bilingual skills and his global experience to help change the world.
  • It could be a graduate who always knew she wanted to be a math teacher, but who is now surprised to find that she can also put her Bluffton theatre experience to use to produce the first play her inner city district has seen in almost a decade.

I don’t know if a Purple Profession is ever truly lost, but I do know that in my own life this kind of innovative, exciting, emerging work has usually been found in surprising places, and quite often at unexpected (perhaps even inconvenient) times. What has helped me to be open to such creative callings has been cultivating a spirit of curiosity, a sense of hope and a deep well of gratitude for the opportunities before me. These are the same things we are trying to generate throughout this month long series of events and conversations.

Kendra Nickel and I like to say that the Center for Career & Vocation exists to help students emerge from their Bluffton experience feeling both “career ready” and “purpose led.” Sometimes that can seem like an unexpected, inconvenient and even downright mystifying goal. Always, though, it feels like helping someone to find that true #PurpleProfession.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Break a leg

Ramseyer Theatre is the best. I have great memories of building sets, setting the stage, helping with costumes, box office duties, ushering… and once in a very great while serving as an extra on stage. However, I don’t recall ever having an actual line in a Bluffton production. Probably for good reason.

The last time I was on stage, in front of an audience, was the fall performance in 1984. I have no idea what the play was. I’ve looked through old Istas, contacted Carrie Phillips on #AskAnArchivist day, but no luck. *

Whatever the show was, I was playing the part of a peasant townswoman. Hair kerchief, apron, brown shirt, dingy skirt… and a diamond ring.

See, my guy and I had gotten engaged just a few weeks prior to opening night. I vividly remember director Gene Caskey catching the light bouncing off the diamond during dress rehearsal, and one of the stage hands offering to hang on to the ring for me, and me just twisting it around so that the diamond was “hidden” in the palm of my hand. Yea – that ring was not coming off my finger without a fight.

Tomorrow night is opening night for the 2014 rendition of the Bluffton University fall production in Ramseyer Theatre, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Thornton Wilder which I have never heard of. But it does sound intriguing.

The play is set in 1942—or maybe the dawn of human history, or maybe the present. Mr. Antrobus comes home from a busy day inventing the wheel and the alphabet to be greeted by his wife of 5,000 years, slingshot-obsessed son, precocious daughter and ever-present maid (not to mention the dinosaur and mammoth). The family faces repeated catastrophes, both natural and human-made, in this genre-bending, comic allegory of the human condition, struggling to survive war, floods, ice and themselves—by the skin of their teeth.

Remember Ramseyer, a cozy theatre, comfortable seats, budding thespians, simple sets where the acting takes center stage? There’s time to get your tickets and support Bluffton’s students on this historical stage. 

And if you happen to catch a flash of light from the maid’s finger.** Don’t think a thing about it.

**I have no knowledge whether the maid is or is not engaged and if she is, whether she will or will not defy authority and keep the ring on.

* Carrie came through. The fall 1984 production was "Squaring the Circle."

Friday, October 24, 2014


I have a friend who takes great pleasure in keeping the world informed as to how many weeks it is until Christmas (nine – in case you were wondering.)

Which when viewed with a Bluffton student focus translates to just 27 more class days (plus finals) until Christmas break. No wonder people are starting to get a little stressed. Mid-terms, papers, presentations and projects are all coming due – or at least looming. Then you add the concerts and theatre productions to perform, athletic contests to compete in, special projects to complete for work or extracurricular organizations… it’s enough to make one want to hide until it all goes away.

Step in the student life professionals who work hard to provide ways for our students to stay balanced, serving their emotional, social, physical and spiritual needs.

Balance is the key word here. One must be hitting the books first in order for stepping away from the books to be helpful.

There must be tension in order for there to be balance. Think of a teeter totter. It’s pretty much pointless without someone on both ends. In the same way too much tension without balance is a bad thing – think of a spring that’s too tightly wound. Once it lets loose, look out, as it can cause some major damage.

Whether you are a new student experiencing a semester-end for the first time, a parent of a student struggling with balance or non-student dealing with the tension between work, home and community – it’s all the same. 

Embrace the tension. Seek the balance. And Grow through the process.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Honor Code a Disservice?

Let me be very upfront here. I love Bluffton’s Honor Code.

As a student, the idea that profs would leave the room during tests – in effect saying, you are adults, you know right from wrong, we are going to trust you to make good decisions – was very powerful. And the way that the honor system – this expectation that we will make good decisions – enveloped campus life in general, helped create the person I am today.

Now did we always make good decisions – well… no. But we learned from those not-so-good decisions.

To be faced with a real, flesh and bone example of where the Honor Code was a disservice, where the honor system failed one of our students, completely caught me off-guard.

A few years back, there was a campus-wide discussion about the validity of the Honor Code in today’s world. Students and members of Student Senate actually initiated this discussion. Students and faculty were concerned about the ease of cheating with cell phones in everyone’s pocket, about standard processes being followed in all classes, and about graduating unprepared students into the world and how that reflects on a Bluffton University degree.

Now I understand their concern.

The honor system is what you make of it. It can be an extremely effective tool to teach ethics and personal responsibility. Or it can be just another system to be worked, as this graduate admitted to me last night. “You know the honor system. I worked the system. I did whatever I had to [in order] to graduate.”

So sad. Yes, he has that piece of paper and he can say “I am a college graduate.” Unfortunately that only gets him in the door. It’s going to be his drive, his knowledge, his initiative, his trustworthiness that gets him the job and helps him keep that job. He also shared with me that he lost a job earlier in the week for sliding by, for doing just enough to get by, for working the system. So sad.

In recent years, faculty have strengthened the Honor Code. Policies have been clarified to make sure it is presented the same in every classroom, in every discipline; a revised version of The Pledge to be signed on essays and research papers has been added. The goal remains for all students to embrace the spirit of the code which was established by chemistry professor H.W. Berky in the early days of Bluffton University.

It is my belief that the vast majority of students today do embrace the honor system. They learn from it, grow because of it. Unfortunately though, as the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.”