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.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Taking on Cancer

Baseball vs. Cancer 2014
Cancer is one of those diseases which has touched just about everybody at one time or another, whether through a parent, a grandparent, friend, neighbor, child, niece or nephew or yourself.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Bluffton baseball players have "taken on" cancer by raising funds for childhood cancer research, then shaving their heads in the week before heading south for spring training. 

I would suspect that some do it because Coach said to, or that the team expects it, but others have more of a connection – or so I've learned through social media.

But it wasn't just the baseball guys who got involved. Math professor Dr. Darryl Nester ’88 also stepped up to the plate.

In all, more than $800 was raised in cash during the lunch-time head-shaving extravaganza from students, faculty, staff and others who attended, for a total team donation of more than $8,500.

New this year, faculty, staff, alumni and friends joined forces to crochet caps to show support for the guys.
More than 80 caps were crocheted, enough for every person who participated, with the extras going to a local hospital to be given to cancer patients.

All in all – not a bad day for Bluffton University.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Thinking spring

The mammoth pile of snow at least two 'blizzards' ago.
There’s a pile of snow taking up a parking spot in the Riley Creek lot.

That’s not unusual. Every winter when the lot is plowed, snow is pushed into two huge piles, one at the back of the lot on the grass near Sauder Visual Arts Center, the other to the front of the lot at the corner of the driveway and Elm Street.

What is unusual is the size of these mammoth piles of winter’s gift to us.

We in the PR house have decided to make a game of it rather than continuing to be depressed by the sheer size of these mountains of frozen moisture. We have all selected a date when we think the blockage of vision when looking right will be completely gone. Dates range from the optimistic March 8, to the pessimistic April 7, with the realists selecting dates in between. When the snow is gone, we all go out to eat.

Let’s just say, I will gladly pitch in to buy another person’s lunch if the snow leaves us quickly… that is as long as the pile melts naturally with the warmth of the sun and sweet spring rains.

Then came yesterday, a snow day for the Bluffton village schools which warmed up nicely mid-afternoon. Do you see where this is going? Huge pile of snow, day off of school, relatively warm temperatures? I felt like that old grump resisting the urge to yell at the kids to get off that snow pile, so my chosen “melt by” date wouldn’t be in jeopardy. Others in the office were cheering the kids on knowing the snow pile needs all the help it can get to melt by March 8.

Today? Today I’m enjoying warm rays of sunshine. Walking outside without bundling up. Yes, it’s just a tease. It’s way too early for winter to be completely finished. There will be more snow.

But for today, the school kids are in school and the pile is melting naturally.

And I’m enjoying happy thoughts of spring.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Making student-alumni connections

Chris Wagler, alumni relations student assistant and phonathon caller
Guest blog by Chris Wagler '16

As college students prepare for the real world, connecting with alumni in your field is crucial. Not every college student gets that chance and those who do benefit significantly. I have been given that opportunity as a phonathon caller. I first thought “Oh you just ask people for money.” I could have not been anymore wrong about that. What I learned from just one year of working the phonathon will stay with me forever.

I spoke with an alumnae last year who guided me through her journey to becoming a CPA. We talked about what classes she took and how much studying she did. This experience helped me plan out my classes. It was great to hear a story from a recent graduate who knew the material and it helped reduce my stress level.

The phonathon gives you a chance to connect with alumni and thank them for the annual charitable gifts they send to our university. Without them, I would not be here and many other students would not either. Most of the people I speak with are pleased that we call them.

The calling software allows the student-callers to see what the alumni's major and extracurricular activities were when they were students, so we can find some common ground for our brief conversation. I was able to talk with one alumnus about the soccer program and how far we have come. Another alumnus talked about grad school and what path he took. I had a couple questions about grad school and he had some valuable advice for me.

I have also been able to learn more about the history of my school and alumni are always interested to hear about the improvements in curriculum and facilities.

Bluffton is truly a community and talking to past alums helps reinforce that idea. Alumni have stories that can change your life. Many talk about how different school was back then compared to today. Some had to work two jobs and that makes you appreciate what you have now. One alum had no idea what career he wanted to pursue and talked about how worried he was. He assured me that by the time graduation comes; you know what you want to do with your life. To think that a person can get all this and get paid is wonderful. Who doesn't want a job like this?

I truly look forward to working the phonathon when I can learn more about Bluffton’s past and how it can influence my future.

by Chris Wagler
Student Alumni Association vice president, Bluffton University Business Leaders treasurer,
Alumni office student assistant and accounting tutor

Editor's note: Students from Bluffton will be calling alumni in early February for the annual winter Phonathon. This is your chance to learn about Bluffton today from current students, share experiences and advice and, yes, support your alma mater. 

To make it more exciting, an anonymous alumni couple will match new and increased gifts to Bluffton, given Feb. 1 - March 2, 2014, up to a total of $30,000. So when the phone rings, say “Hello” and accept the challenge to help raise $30K in 30days.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What is a mentor?

Ron Geiser
I didn’t call him a mentor. Didn’t see him as one who “took me under his wing,” providing guidance and direction leading to professional success in my chosen career.

He was my boss. He gave me jobs that needed done so he could focus on other projects.

Looking back, he was also a mentor.

As a student back in the 80’s, I worked as a writer for Ron Geiser in the Bluffton communications department. My beat was academic affairs and the music department. It was my responsibility make my way to College Hall and Mosiman Hall each week, gather information for future events and write news releases about them. I also wrote feature stories, a few of which appeared in the magazine.

I can still remember him shaking his head as he watched me write out a release longhand - with paper and pen - and then type the finished piece. He “encouraged” me to compose articles directly on the typewriter. What a time-saver and important skill for a future journalist/communications professional to learn.

Ron brought me back to Bluffton in a staff role in the 90’s. Again I didn’t see him as a mentor as he gave me the assignment to “desktop publish” posters and brochures using WordPerfect, an assignment which directly lead to other roles I would eventually serve in at Bluffton.

Ron also served as Bluffton’s sports information director for many years. It is for this role that he’s being inducted into the Bluffton Athletics Hall of Fame tomorrow night, along with athletes Becky (Reineke ’98) Boblitt and Bill Lape ’62. I’m really excited for him to be given this recognition.

A student once asked me to be her mentor.  I’m sure I gave her a “deer in the headlights” look while thinking “If I’m your mentor and you don’t succeed professionally, does that mean I’ve failed you?” That’s more responsibility than I want to take on.

But I will gladly be a supervisor and give assignments, and suggestions on how to do them well, so I can focus on other projects. Do them well and I’ll give you more challenging assignments. Then maybe, someday, you’ll look back and call me a mentor. And I’m OK with that.

That’s just one more thing I learned from Ron.