Friday, August 29, 2014

Facebook official

Guest blog by Chay Reigle '15

Bluffton’s campus has seen its fair share of relationships; its acres have served as the spot for a first date that leads to many more. It’s been the location for numerous weddings during the summer months, most recently in late June for 2014 alumna Megan (Moreo ‘14) Etzkorn, who married the love of her life while standing atop a rock in the prayer labyrinth. And, building on the 100+ year legacy, I’m happy to say that Bluffton’s newest couple are two happy beavers.

J. Denny and Jenny Beaver, that is. Our newest mascot, Jenny, was officially welcomed to campus in a video reveal the day before classes began. I’m Chay Reigle, senior public relations major at Bluffton and creator of the video, and boy, what a wonderful time it was making Jenny a reality this summer.

To clear up any confusion: J. Denny and Jenny are not married, nor are they related. They’re both beavers, and so they go by the surname “Beaver.” They spent the summer enjoying campus. Whether J. Denny was driving Jenny around in a golf cart, Jenny was besting J. Denny at carpet ball in Bob’s Place, or the pair was reading a classic book on beavers in the Musselman Library, the two seemed all but inseparable these past few months.

As the summer student worker in the public relations office, it was my task to create the video from start to finish. That means writing the script, scheduling the time of shooting with two very busy performers, finding and scheduling the extras, filming every scene multiple times to get it right and then editing the video. It was filmed in one day over a six-hour period, stopping only for lunch and the occasional water break. 

Both performers maintained their roles throughout the entire day, and if I had the slightest clue of who were under the costumes, I’m sure they would tell me that walking around in a beaver suit on a hot, humid day is not fun.

That’s right: to this day I have no idea who any of the J. Denny or Jenny performers are. They communicated with me through thumbs-ups and pointing at their wrists to ask how long our break would be. Students not knowing the identities of the performers is part of the mascot mythos, and my performers were real troopers to take orders all day without a peep out of them.

While the image of J. Denny—and now Jenny—appears on the surface to be a product of the university, their livelihood absolutely depends on the students. Students are the ones who volunteer their time donning the beaver costumes. We are the ones who tag J. Denny and Jenny in Facebook posts, take selfies with them and high-five them at basketball games. In fact, every Bluffton University video featuring J. Denny has been produced by a student.

Creating this video was my favorite part of my summer job. I think Jenny is a great addition to the Bluffton identity, and I’m happy to see that J. Denny finally found someone. 

Next time you see them, take a moment to appreciate all the hard work that goes into creating the personas that staff, students and alumni alike have become so fond of when we reflect on our times at Bluffton.

>>> news release introducing Jenny

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The heading-to-college caravan

Driving on SR 15 Saturday afternoon, I couldn't help notice several caravans heading to move-in day for some college – or at least that’s the conclusion I reached.

One in particular caught my imagination. “Dad” was driving a pickup loaded with what appeared to be either a sofa or a futon covered with a tarp. Right on his tail was this cute little yellow car. Its driver, a young lady with straight blond hair, chewing her fingernails.

She was so close to the pickup that I assumed as soon as he moved back into the right lane that she would zip on by him. Instead as soon as there was (barely) enough room between the pickup and the vehicle being passed she too moved to the right lane, never leaving more than three feet between the two vehicles.

At that point I noticed a third vehicle in the caravan, a mini-van, drove by “mom.” She was leaving a reasonable amount of space between her and the little yellow car, but definitely not enough to invite anybody to get between them.

Caravans much like this one will be heading to Bluffton on Friday. Parents will be bringing their first, their last, their only child to college. Students will be relying on one parent, two parents, siblings or extended family to help settle in.

If I might be so bold to give a bit of advice from the realm of “been there, done that.”

Dad, look in the rearview. See that little girl/beautiful young lady afraid to lose you? I know you want to hold her tight and never let her go. But for her sake, she has to know that you know she can do this – on her own. Of course you can do nothing to keep her from tailgating right now, but encourage her to be courageous, to set her own destination and find her own way.

Mom, why is it that we are always in the rear, counting heads, making sure nobody gets off track? Your daughter may not make the same choices you would. She may change majors, she may decide to take a semester abroad, she may dye her golden locks purple. It’s OK. It’s her journey. Give her advice. But do not insist that she follow your advice. You've given her a firm foundation. She may stumble as she finds her way, but she will find her way.

Daughter, in the cute little yellow car, I know you are nervous. It’s a big step moving away from home. They may not say it, they may have trouble showing it, but your parents are so very proud of you and want the very best for you. And as hard as it is for you to leave, it’s just that hard for them to let you go.

So once the final box is unpacked. When it’s time for goodbye hugs, time for orientation activities to begin. Stand tall, take a deep breath, leave that nest…

But do try to call home at least once a week.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Burned out?

RT @teewy5 Focus on your purpose. Remember why you do what you do. We don't get burned out from what we do, we get burned out when we forget why we do it.

With the new school year comes new beginnings, full of excitement, expectation and opportunity, much like a brand new doodle-free notebook just waiting to be filled with notes of knowledge to expand our minds.

So what’s this about being burned out?

The academic year has cycles. It’s not unusual for students to struggle in late November, February and in April with stress, with feeling burnt out. Those are the times when academic projects are typically due and finals or mid-terms are looming. Throw on top of that preparations for Christmas, spring break and graduation. Too much to do and too little time.

Which leads to burn out.

For those of us in the working world, burn out doesn’t come in such a predictable timetable. Sometimes it feels as if we’re Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day”; the alarm goes off, we go through the same morning routine, drive to the same place, talk to the same people, do the same things, eat the same foods, go to bed at the same time only for the alarm to ring so you can do it all over again.

That’s where @teewy5’s (aka Tyler Neal ‘13) tweet comes in. Why do we do the things we do? Why is it important to finish that chem lab/history research/business report/English paper? I propose that its importance lies not in the grade, but because it’s a step toward the ultimate goal of becoming a chemist, historian, entrepreneur, published author…

So, students, as you make your way to that first class of 2014-15 with your brand new doodle-free notebook, keep your eye on the prize and remember why you are doing this.

And add a few doodles along the way – Carpe Diem.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ah, the memories

Nothing like a stroll through your old stomping grounds to make memories flow. Seeing that I work at Bluffton, campus typically doesn’t feel much like my “old stomping grounds.” Once in a while though…

Like earlier this week as I walked into Bren-Dell to see how renovations of the lobby were proceeding.

From alumni and student feedback received following announcement of the class of 1964 class gift toward Bren-Dell lobby renovations, I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only one with fond memories of this space.

Bren-Dell (named after long-time professors M’della Moon and Naomi Brenneman) opened in 1962 as a residence hall for women. At some point, it became a men’s hall and in recent years has become a ‘split’ hall, housing men and women on separate floors.

The constant? The lobby. It has always been a place to gather, to hang out, to watch TV; a short-cut from Ropp to Marbeck.

I could tell my stories of cutting through the lobby… flirting with the guys watching M*A*S*H (one in particular)… eventually joining the guys to watch M*A*S*H (one in particular)…

But what are your memories of this space? Please do share!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

It's Summer Time

Faculty and staff enjoy ice cream served by the President's Cabinet to celebrate summer.

May is such an odd month for those of us working at Bluffton University.

According to our academic calendar, summer officially began on May 5, the day after graduation. It is so crazy quiet on campus. Student parking lots are empty.  When you do see faculty strolling through campus, they are often wearing shorts, t-shirts and sandals. I ate lunch at Marbeck earlier this week - thinking there might have been a dozen of us in The Commons.

Outside of the Bluffton bubble, it’s not yet summer, which begins for some on Memorial Day, for others in early June when local schools are out for the summer. (Thanks Polar Vortex.) People are wrapping up the school year, competing in end-of-the-season sports tournaments, planning graduation parties. Life has definitely not slowed down off of Bluffton’s campus.

Which leaves us in a type of limbo straddling these two worlds. Not that I’m complaining. Especially because this “slow” time doesn't last long – or at all for some of us.

While lunching at Marbeck, I learned that roughly 8,000 visitors are expected on campus through various conference and events this summer – beginning with soccer tournaments and the Special Olympics which together brought an estimated 2,000 people to campus just last weekend.

And that does not count three orientations for new students, a Discovery Day for prospective students and the Ultimate Frisbee Alumni Reunion, which are all happening on campus in June alone.

Then there are multiple off-campus alumni events to host, publications to design and print, student life activities to plan, summer research to conduct, etc.

It is true, there is a different vibe on campus in the summer, it’s more relaxed and much quieter (well at least until the band camps start in July.) But don’t let our casual clothing fool you… a lot happens on campus while the students are away.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency

by guest blogger Robin Bowlus, public relations director

Next Wednesday is a big day on Bluffton’s campus. It is Civic Engagement Day. The day when the yearlong campus-wide study of our Civic Engagement theme is celebrated with presentations by students, faculty and staff.

This year’s theme, Race and Ethnicity in America: Celebration, Struggle, Opportunity has focused on celebrating the particular contributions and experiences of people from varied races and ethnicities. At the same time, we explored the ongoing struggle in the United States, including our region and our campus, toward equally welcoming people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Each year, a planning committee works to ensure that the Civic Engagement theme is well incorporated into the academic and student life events on campus. And, as part of Civic Engagement Day, the committee works to have a keynote event to cap off the day.

Last September, I prepared for my annual watching of the Miss America pageant. Something I have done since, well, forever. In fact, my mom tells a story of me as a four-year old “cutting my hair” after we watched the pageant. I wanted to “have pretty hair” not realizing that their hair was styled in up-does, and not cut off.

I soon got over my fascination with the pretty hair, dresses and princess crowns, and what I saw was educated girls being recognized for their talents in music, dancing, etc., their physical well being and their poised public speaking skills on issues of the time. As a young person, I didn't really see women being recognized in this way. Anywhere.

That night in September, I watched as Miss New York, Nina Davuluri, was crowned Miss America. She was my “pick” too, so all in all it was a good night. It wasn't until the next morning on the morning talk shows and social media sites that I saw her being questioned by the media and others for “not looking American enough to be Miss America”. WHAT!?

You see, while she was born in America, her parents are from India. So she is the first Miss America of Indian-descent. The media firestorm that erupted the following weeks was unbelievable even for me as a communication professional who watches the media with great interest.

Ms. Davuluri is a graduate from the University of Michigan and plans to go onto medical school after her reign this year. Her talent was an ethnic “Bollywood” style dance routine. And her platform, cultural competency, is what I feel helped her manage the media firestorm that she found herself in. Watching and following the story, I knew we had to invite her to Bluffton to be our Civic Engagement Day keynote speaker.

Her personal story and last seven months of her life are exactly what we have been talking about all year. So I shared my idea with the Civic Engagement committee and they said yes. Then, Miss America said yes! She will speak this Wednesday, April 9, at 7:30 p.m. in the Sommer Center. The event is free and open to the public. She will speak on her social media campaign #CircleOfUnity – Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency.

Since 1921, the Miss America organization has been celebrating the successes of young women. Each contestant has a platform, to advocate for organizations and causes that they are passionate about; most often, causes they each have personal connections to. Since September, Nina has been traveling all across the U.S. to companies, national events, and colleges and universities like Duke, Tulane, The Ohio State University, Loyola, Bluffton and many more.

I invite you to come to campus Wednesday night and engage in this civic conversation.

>>> more about the Civic Engagement Day keynote address

Learn more about the many philanthropic efforts of the Miss American organization at 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Make memories

Saw a Facebook post this morning which both made my heart leap for joy, and my stomach drop with panic.

“There are only 6 Monday nights left in this academic year. #fistpump” (Thank you Carrie Phillips.)

Not sure why spring semester always seems more stressful than the fall. Could due to a lack of sunlight, cold weather, cabin fever?

February is typically the worst. Mid-terms and projects, all due before spring break. Then once students return from break, it’s like a mad dash to the finish line. Graduating seniors start to panic, realizing that they will soon be out in the “real world.” (I'm starting to panic because my trusted student assistants are leaving me for the summer.)

If I might give a piece of unsolicited advice to you seniors… do not fear the “real world.”

While it can be frightening to leave the comfort of the known, just think, where you would be now if you had never gotten on the bus for your first day of kindergarten?

You have spent your past four (or so) years preparing for “life as well as vocation, for responsible citizenship, for service to all peoples and ultimately for the purposes of God’s universal kingdom.”

Just six weeks before you take on the world. Finish your college experience strong. Take advantage of the Center for Career and Vocation. Send out resumes. Prepare for your next step.

But at the same time, be sure to make memories. Compete on an intramural team. Play Tennis Ball Golf. Stay up late with friends and floormates solving the world’s problems. Enjoy meals in The Commons. Make trips to the Whippy Dip. (I hear it opens Friday!)

While the “real world” is not to be feared, make sure you enjoy every last moment as a student on Bluffton’s campus.