Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top Bluffton stories of 2010

Not to be outdone by the plethora of Top 10 lists to be released next week, here are the top Bluffton University news stories from 2010 as chosen by you our readers. (according to Urchin web stats)

10) Basingers invest $1 million in their hometown
James and Frieda Basinger of Bisbee, Ariz., left their entire estate to be split between Bluffton University and Mennonite Home Communities.

9) President extends reach
The public phase of Extending Our Reach- The Campaign for Bluffton was launched at the annual President’s Forum.

8) Students honored for academic excellence
Students were recognized for their academic achievements at the annual Academics Awards and Honors Forum.

7) Distinguished Bluffton alumni to receive awards
Robert Smucker ’52, Dr. Paul Ropp ’66, Chad Stearns ’00 and Dr. Stephen Jacoby were honored at the annual alumni awards banquet.

6) Renovation brings fresh, ‘green’ focus to Bluffton campus restaurant
Renamed to reflect a shift in focus to a restaurant atmosphere, The Commons at Marbeck offers fresh foods and healthier options from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

5) A great education at great price: U.S.News & World Report
In addition to being once again listed in the top tier in the Best Regional Colleges listing, Bluffton is also in the top 10 in the Great Schools, Great Prices category.

4) Bluffton names 2010-11 Athletics Hall of Fame inductees
J. Roger Howe ’49, Charles Stapleton ’78, Louis Stokes ’73 and the 1992 softball team will be inducted into the Bluffton Athletics Hall of Fame in January 2011.

3) Bluffton shuts down Earlham in 26-7 win over Quakers
Bluffton improved to 2-3 on the season and 1-2 in the HCAC with their first conference win since the final game of the 2007 season.

2) Art resembles life for one of Bluffton’s ‘Little Women’
Sarah Diller played the youngest sister in Bluffton’s May Day production of Louisa May Alcott’s classic.

1) Bluffton rallies in fourth quarter for 30-28 win at Kalamazoo
Following a winless 2009 campaign, the Beavers win their first contest of 2010 in dramatic fashion.

Before checking out the actual stats, I noted a few stories that I felt were important in the past year. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I looked them up. While some of the stories were on both lists, I totally missed others and am surprised by still others that weren’t included on the stats list.

No disrespect to the football team – but hello, the volleyball team went 23-7 overall and just missed a second consecutive invitation to the NCAA regional tournament. And don’t forget about the introduction of the new health care concentration to the MBA and the baccalaureate social work evening classes. And the introduction of J. Denny Beaver… that one really surprises me.

What additional stories from Bluffton in 2010 do you think deserve to be mentioned?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Home or Bust

Look out parents – your kids are coming home for a three-week break!

Oh, sure you parents of first year students might be asking “why the warning? I’m so excited to have my son/daughter home.” Well, I used to be naïve like you.

First of all, warm up the washer and dryer. They will be bringing home baskets of dirty laundry, every stitch of clothing they own, because they have not done laundry since Thanksgiving break. Guaranteed.

Then there’s your grocery bill. Yikes! “Mom, what are you getting me for Christmas?” “I’m feeding you for three weeks.”

Of course I’m joking. There is a special joy in caring for your loved ones. Plus, you can find out a lot about what they’ve been doing while doing laundry. For instance, my son came home from his first semester with multiple intramural champion t-shirts. Of course my loaded question was, “And how were your classes?” And who doesn’t get warm fuzzies from making your loved ones’ favorite foods?

You may have visions of spending LOTS of quality time with your offspring, working side by side wrapping gifts, shopping, making cut-out cookies, going caroling, the real Rockwell Christmas. Well, sorry to bust your bubble, but forget about it.

Chances are pretty good that for the first few days your student will eat and sleep, not necessarily in that order. Once they have recovered from the rigors of finals week, you’ll find out that their internal clock is now running on college student time. On college student time, it’s not unusual for one to make plans to go out with friends at, say 11 p.m.

Your son/daughter will probably make plans with friends that you know nothing about until they are walking out the door. You may have prepared a family game night thinking they were going to be home for the evening. That’s OK, you can eat the popcorn while watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.” By yourself. For the fifth time.

Then there is the new routine you have developed in your student’s absence. You know that carefully choreographed morning bathroom routine. “How did we ever do this with one more person in the mix?”

However, the students I’ve talked with are really looking forward to going home for break. Is it to see friends? To eat homecooked meals? To bid farewell to fall semester classes? Yes. Yes. And yes. But it’s also to see family, to be loved, to relax and rejuvenate in the comfort of home.

And as a parent, doesn't that make for a wonderful life?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bluffton's own Secret Santa

Guest blog by Dr. George Metz, professor of education and NCAA faculty representative

At Bluffton, not only are we planning and preparing for the Christmas celebration and holidays, but we are also planning and preparing for the final stages of the new Health and Fitness Education Center. Like a child anxiously awaiting opening presents at Christmas, the anticipation is exciting!

The new Health and Fitness Education Center will be an incredible addition to the campus. The entire campus community will be able to utilize the many features of this facility, from the enhanced Hall of Fame display, to the faculty and staff offices, the weight training and fitness areas, and, yes, the fantastic arena for intercollegiate and intramural sports events. Unlike the brightly decorated boxes under the tree, we can see and already know the contents of this present and we can’t wait for the time to come!

You, too, can join in excitement. An anonymous donor [Bluffton’s very own Secret Santa] will match donations to the Health and Fitness Education Center made before Dec. 31! This person will match your gift of any amount up to $1,000! What a great way to double your gift to Bluffton.

If your situation permits, perhaps you can join us in the increasing anticipation of the new center and make your donation before Dec. 31 to take advantage of this Christmas Bonus!

As the Christmas season rapidly approaches, join us in the celebration of the coming of Emmanuel – God with us – and continued blessings into the New Year.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


So the season of Advent is upon us; the season for preparing for the coming of Christ, a season of generosity, joy and peace.

And preparation. Did I mention preparation? Gifts to buy, parties to plan, gatherings to attend, cookies to bake, presents to wrap. It’s so easy to let this time year become one giant to-do-list, rather than a time to reflect, enjoy and share generously.

Oftentimes it’s helpful to have devotions to help guide our reflections. This year, Bluffton’s campus ministries team, students, faculty and staff, have compiled Advent devotions which are available online. In addition to being available from the Bluffton website, these devotions are linked from the Mennonite Education Agency site.

The Bluffton University Nutrition Association’s annual Fill the CUP spaghetti dinner is always an enjoyable event. Students serve a three-course spaghetti dinner at no charge while diners are asked to make a donation of cash or non-perishable foods which are then donated to the Church United Pantry (CUP) in Lima.

A total of $1,000 and 124 lbs of food items were donated to CUP while students, alumni and community members gathered to share good food, conversation and laughter.

There are also opportunities to give without receiving anything in return, opportunities to share generously.

Students donated 35 shoeboxes filled with gifts to Operation Christmas Child in a drive organized by the Spanish Club. Advisor Jesse Oliver said, “It was wonderful to see the generosity of the university students!”

A group of campus support staff, The Backbone, has taken the lead in collecting items for the Findlay Coats for Christmas campaign. The campus community has been invited to decorate a Christmas tree in College Hall with hats, gloves and scarves. New and slightly used accessories will be accepted through noon Dec. 9.

While making our lists and checking them twice this season, let us all find time to reflect, enjoy and share generously.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Counting our blessings

2010 Bluffton University public relations team
It may be a bit cliché, but in this time of year when the to-do-list explodes way past manageable, nerves fray and time becomes a precious commodity, this year I’m going to make a conscious effort to keep the holidays in perspective. My first step will be to count my blessings.

In that vein, I’ve asked my colleagues to name their blessings, resulting in the following.

Top 10 Things We in the PR House are Thankful For

10. To have our offices in a comfortable, warm house with windows letting in the beautiful sunshine. (Scott Borgelt, writer)

9. The excitement, school spirit and good will J. Denny Beaver has created, leading to his opportunity to be in Bluffton’s Blaze of Lights Parade on Saturday. (Robin Bowlus, PR director)

8. All of our Facebook, Twitter and blog friends. You have no idea how good it makes me when you “like” my posts, and when you make a comment… oh happy day. (me)

7. My friends! They're always there when I need them and know how to put a smile on my face when I need it the most. (Megan DeNoi, student assistant)

6. We're thankful for a fun staff that works well together! :) (Stephanie Finn, student writer)

5. Coworkers and supervisors who embrace my less-than-perfect self while challenging me to excel. (Julie Hadding, communication coordinator, although I think we can all relate to that)

4. A family-friendly work environment. Whether you are torn between work and toddler issues, aging parent issues or something in-between, there is flexibility, support and understanding.

3. Meaningful work. We’re not just making wigits. We’re sharing exciting news about a great place in order to attract prospective students and keep our alumni connected to their alma mater.

2. Our student workers – Maria Langenkamp, Megan Yoder, Megan DeNoi, Cody Litwiller, Ariel Shuey, Stephanie Finn, Brittany Fry and Jordan Childress. We could not do what we do without you.

1. Cookies. Last week we received a giant decorated cookie from the mom of one of “our” students. She just wanted to say thanks for taking care of her kid. What an unexpected blessing. But really, thank you. Thank you for sharing your students with us. We are so honored to be part of their life, to watch them grow from unsure first-year students to capable, confident young adults.

Now it is your turn to create your very own Top 10 Blessings list. You’ll be surprised how this exercise helps start the holidays on a positive note.

So from our house to yours, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Exploring poverty

Zeke Tracy works on his drawing project
Guest post by Phil Sugden, assistant professor of art

This year, the committee promoting the civic engagement theme will use select digital technology avenues to encourage discussion around the topic of “Living With Enough: Responding to Global Poverty.” Two of these venues are a Facebook page and a Twitter account.
Our hope is to engage the community on Bluffton’s campus and the extended campus community, including alumni, parents, friends and others, as we all struggle with this question of global poverty.

Feel free to join these conversations and visit the university civic engagement site for more news.

We are also working closely with departments to encourage students to more deeply explore this issue through class assignments. For instance, the art department is getting a little more creative with its final drawing and painting assignments. The final project for the Drawing 204 class will be “The Landscape of Poverty: A Conceptual Drawing.” In a conceptual drawing, the idea of the work takes precedence over the actual design of the piece. These drawings will question and explore poverty, the nature of poverty or the cause of poverty from a personal point of view.

Completed works will be hung in Marbeck Center in April and then will be on exhibit in Findlay’s Coffee Amici next summer.

You too can get involved! Submissions for “The Landscape of Poverty” art show in Marbeck and Coffee Amici are open to the public. For more information, contact professor Phil Sugden on Facebook, Twitter or via email at

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Living with Enough

What does it mean to live with enough? How much is enough?

The Bluffton campus community is exploring the issue of poverty through the fourth annual Civic Engagement Theme. Guest speakers, class discussions and assignments, and student life activities planned throughout the academic year encourage us to wrestle with various important civic questions.

This year’s theme is “Living with Enough: Responding to Global Poverty.” Topics chosen for previous themes have been environmental stewardship, security and immigration.

Yesterday Scott Sundberg, Mennonite Disaster Service director of communications, spoke at Forum about how disasters impact people on the margins more so than those in the ‘center.’ He spoke primarily about those affected by Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans/Gulf region.

While his presentation was thought provoking, one idea in particular grabbed me – he spoke of the “desperation of people in the margins” and then defined people in the margins as the poor, the marginalized, the minority, the sick, the elderly. The elderly? Desperate?

When you think about it, that explains so much about the actions and decisions of our loved ones as they age. At one time they were in the ‘center’- active, productive, self-sufficient, leaders in the community, church and family, doers not receivers. Then, through no fault of their own, they find themselves on the margins; unable to care for themselves due to mental or physical limitations, no longer helping others but needing help themselves. That transition is bound to create a sense of desperation.

While Scott’s focus was more on supporting the poor and disenfranchised, what he had to say is so relevant for the elderly. The ‘center’ must reach out in love and respect, not with a sense of obligation or duty. We must listen. Take time to understand. Make time. Serve in love. Love.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Making memories in Ramseyer

Have you ever been in a place and wondered if the walls could talk what memories they would share?

For me, Ramseyer Auditorium is such a place. On a typical day it is a quiet, classic, dimly-lit place. In the weeks leading up to performance, it’s a place of much activity, music and laughter.

Some may remember this space just inside the College Hall east doors as Ramseyer Chapel. For others it is Ramseyer Theatre. Somewhere along the way it was renamed Ramseyer Auditorium. Several years ago it was renovated with the organ removed and new seats and lighting installed.

Just think of the many performances from this stage over the years…the comedies, dramas, tragedies, one-acts. Think of the audiences who were challenged to view life in a different way or perhaps given a respite from life’s challenges by these performances. Think of the many performers who stretched themselves to take on the roles of villains, heroes, senior citizens, children, dogs (as in Snoopy); those who stepped out of their comfort zone by just appearing on stage and others who experienced the first-time thrill of directing.

An actress I’m not. But my roommate was. This means I helped with several theatre productions. I appeared on stage twice – both times as part of a crowd. I may have had two lines in my entire collegiate theatre experience. Suffice it to say I did not find my calling in Ramseyer Theatre, but many good times were had while building set and serving as a stage hand.

Stepping into Ramseyer Auditorium this morning, the set has been transformed once again into a living room, complete with a “brick” exterior wall, a sofa, chair and a table decorated with glass figurines.

Ramseyer is ready for opening night of Tennessee Williams’ classic “The Glass Menagerie.” Tonight is the final dress rehearsal. While I don’t personally know of the memories created while building this set, reading through this script, blocking and rehearsing, I’m sure if the walls could talk, it would have stories to tell.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Appreciating talent

Didn’t make it to New York last week? Did you ever miss out! Approximately 30 members of the Bluffton community gathered for a “Meet us in New York” event centered around a Thursday evening piano recital in historic Steinway Hall.

Four Bluffton students, pianists Brandon Fullenkamp (Wapakoneta, Ohio), Stephanie Patterson (Findlay, Ohio) and Tim Yoder (Dalton, Ohio) and composer James Brake (Ohio City, Ohio), had their New York City debut in Steinway Hall during this event.

Friday evening President Harder and Karen Klassen Harder hosted a dinner at Sardi’s. My husband and I were seated with three of the four student performers. What a treat. By the time we gathered for dinner, the students’ New York experience was drawing to a close.

Knowing I had a follow-up news release to write come Monday morning, I started asking questions. Actually, I asked one question, sat back and took notes as the conversation started to flow. “What was the best thing about this experience?” What was interesting was that everybody picked up on a different highlight, the Steinway tour, a backstage tour of a Broadway show, the Broadway show itself.

Then I put my pen away and enjoyed one of the many highlights of the experience for me; just getting to know these students a bit better. The conversation ranged from the various Hogwarts Houses from Harry Potter (this one went over my head), to what each of our strengths are according to the Strengths Finder survey taken during First-Year Seminar, to goals and dreams for the future, to Brake family stories. There was a lot of laughter and sharing of desserts.

I know I’ve written several times in this blog that our students are the best. This belief has once again been confirmed. The students represented themselves, the music department and Bluffton University very well during the recital and throughout the week. During the recital I noticed my sports-minded husband getting into the music. When I asked him about it later he simply said, “I appreciate talent.”

Roughly four years ago professors Lucia Unrau and Michelle Latour presented a faculty recital in Steinway Hall for the first “Meet us in New York” event. Will there be a third event? Possibly. Will it be next year? Most likely not.

But if and when you learn about another New York alumni event, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to see our students in action. You’ll not be disappointed. In the meanwhile, you are always invited to performances in the elegant Yoder Recital Hall. (Shameless plug: James Brake and Tim Yoder will present their junior recital Nov. 14 on campus. music calendar)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The more things change…

Ever wonder how much student life has changed in the years since you were a student? In reading blogs written by five Bluffton students, it turns out that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I get a kick out of reading their musings, ranging from sharing about having fun with friends to stressing about classes. Students chosen to maintain blogs for admissions include three men and two women; three sophomores, a junior and a senior; a soccer player, two runners and an artist; a sport management major, business major, social work major and undecided major. One is blogging during a cross cultural experience in Northern Ireland.

The tug between your hometown as home and Bluffton as home is a tension students have experienced throughout the years. Katy wrote, “I loved being able to catch up with my high school friends. Then, I came back to Bluffton late this afternoon, and went on a McDonald's run with some of my friends.” How much sweeter is the rare weekend home when most of your weekends are spent creating memories on campus.

MCB and student life professionals work so hard to plan events on campus. These events sound interesting; relaxation week (complete with yoga and dodgeball), Marbeck After Dark, an Ace of Cakes competition.

I absolutely love the idea of an Ace of Cakes competition. Kim wrote “We decided to go with a Halloween themed cake. Much to our despair, the other teams there were really, really good.” Wonder if they’ll need a judge next time?

Events which actually pull together the various groups on campus for a common event are so very special. Zach tells about the Homecoming dance, “I have never seen so many people show up for an event at Bluffton. We had a good mix of the different sports teams as well as many other organizations.” Sweet.

Other universities have reported that while they started student blogs as a recruiting tool, they soon learned that the blogs also served an alumni relations function. Alumni love seeing campus life through the eyes of current students, to see what’s changed, and – perhaps more importantly - what hasn’t.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


What a weekend! If you didn’t make it back to Bluffton, you definitely missed out.

I made it to campus in time for the meeting of J. Denny Weaver and J. Denny Beaver. That was so classic. You could tell the Professor Weaver was very honored to share his name with the new mascot. And he and his wife Mary were so pleased with the actions, the looks, the attitude of the Beaver. Although he joked that all the good B mascot names were already taken and that’s how we ended up with J. Denny.

After a quick lunch at the alumni picnic it was time for the Homecoming court coronation.

In the weeks prior to Homecoming we started giving grief to the senior members of the PR student staff. To the point that Cody Litwiller was told it was his DUTY to be the Homecoming king because it is tradition that one of “our” students is on either the Homecoming or the May Day court.

Cody Litwiller and Ashtyn ShaferPR royalty over the years have included Molly Pawsey (Homecoming 2004), Natalie Troyer (Homecoming 2005) Jana Hammer (May Day 2005), Carol Ritz (Homecoming 2006 and May Day 2008), Mary Eckert, Thea Rosengarten and Evan Miller (Homecoming 2007), Jenna Patty (May Day 2008), Drea Ressler (May Day 2009) and now Cody Litwiller (Homecoming 2010.) As embarrassed as Cody was the first time we brought this up, he seemed to be really enjoy himself as the newly-crowned Homecoming King.

It was such a great atmosphere out at the stadium for the game. Student groups were selling flowers, baked goods or providing face-painting to raise funds. Alumni with small children were gathered where the kids could play in the green space between the baseball outfield and the football field. Other alumni and family members were leaning on the fence watching the game. Peg was there. As an alumnus from the ‘80s walked by I heard her yell, “See you Cincinnati.” Students came ready to cheer on their classmates and friends. And the Beaver was in his glory.

Saturday night was my first President’s Dinner. It was nice. A little fancier that the typical alumni gathering but not over the top. Good conversation around the table. A nice meal served by tuxedoed student waiters and waitresses. And to my surprise, our waiter was Alex Carter, conference special teams player of the week.

The highlight for me was the student presentations. Three of the students who will be performing in New York City next week and Dr. Lucia Unrau performed an eight hand piano piece. Totally unbelievable. Eight hands on one piano. You just have to see it to believe it. Keep watching Bluffton’s Facebook fan page next week for a sample.

The second student presentation was former PR student assistant Hannah Mattingly telling about her semester in Uganda and how it’s helped confirm her vocation.

What a great ending to a great day, that reminder of “why we do this.” Why we work at Bluffton, why we support Bluffton, why we keep up on what’s happening here. It’s all about the students and seeing them grow in confidence and ability, and achieve and do things they never even imagined.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Alumnae to reunite

Guest blog by Julia Szabo, director of alumni relations and annual giving

Homecoming is less than three days away!

As an alumni program planner, this means I get to create opportunities throughout the weekend for alumni to come back to campus and reconnect with their friends, classmates, former professors, coaches and current students. For many years, we’ve had the traditional football alumni breakfast, and we will continue this tradition this weekend and for as long as those guys want it.

But when I discovered that there are more than 1,200 alumnae (a group of female graduates or former students) living within 20 miles of Bluffton, it struck me that I need to create more alumni events geared toward women! For help with the what, when and how….I asked the five members of the Women’s Council for assistance.

They suggested we host a breakfast for alumnae at the same time as the traditional Homecoming football alumni breakfast. This will be an opportunity for Bluffton alumnae of all ages to reminisce about campus life - from a female perspective - and to share stories of their post-graduation lives and careers. To get the memories primed at the Homecoming breakfast, I’ve invited five past Bluffton Homecoming queens to share some anecdotes from their coronations.

If you don’t already know about the Bluffton University Women’s Council, it has been around for decades, quietly helping at alumni events and assisting students and academic programs in various ways….for example, purchasing a much-needed sewing machine for the theater department.

Last year, when some female undergraduate students wanted to attend the 19th annual Dynamic Women in Business conference at Harvard University, the Women’s Council provided those students with funding to help cover travel expenses and registration fees. Thus, the Bluffton Women’s Council “Professional Enrichment Grant” was born!

Now, each year alumnae have an opportunity – by donating to the Women’s Council – to assist 4-5 students each year with costs related to attending a professional conference in their major area of study. What a great legacy…Bluffton alumnae helping Bluffton female students get a head start on their professional careers!

So, help us get a new Bluffton tradition started this Homecoming….come to the women’s breakfast, and consider a contribution to the Women’s Council to encourage those future female professionals from Bluffton University!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gazing to the eastern sky

Guest blog, Michael D. Edmiston Ph.D. '72,
Professor of chemistry and physics

Perhaps you have heard this is a good time to view Jupiter in the eastern sky. It is a good time for Jupiter, and maybe also Uranus.

I have been waiting for a good night to set up some telescopes for viewing Jupiter. We want clear sky, no moon, and Jupiter high enough in the sky at a reasonable time of night. Tonight and the next week-or-so should be pretty good.

Tonight (Wednesday, Sept. 29) Jupiter rises at 7 p.m., but will not be high enough for good viewing until about 8:30. The last-quarter moon does not rise until 11 p.m. Therefore we have a window from about 8:30 until 11 to view Jupiter without much interfering light from the moon.

* * * * * * *
For those of you near campus, I am going to set up several telescopes on top of Shoker this evening. I will have them ready to observe by about 8:30, and will probably stay out until 10:30.
* * * * * * *
With a small telescope having 40 or 50 magnification, you can easily see the same four moons that Galileo saw almost exactly 400 years ago. You can also barely see them with binoculars, except it is very difficult to hold the binoculars steady. The four moons are Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Jupiter's moons are fun to watch because they orbit so fast that they look different each night.

Tonight Io, Ganymede and Callisto will be on the true-left side of Jupiter, and Europa will be on the true-right. Using a telescope it is likely that right/left will appear reversed, and that's why I said true-left and true right. In the telescope, the three moons will appear on the right with one on the left. Binoculars give a true view. The moons and Jupiter all appear approximately on a straight line from Earth's vantage point.

Tomorrow night (Thursday, Sept 30) is especially interesting because at 8:30 p.m. Ganymede and Callisto will be on the left, Io on the right, and Europa not visible because it will be behind Jupiter. However, around 9:50 p.m. Io will begin to disappear behind Jupiter (on the true-right side), and Ganymede will begin to reappear on the true-left side. By 10:30 Io will be gone, and Callisto, Ganymede and Europa will all be on the true-left side. For those who want to stay out late on Thursday night, by about 12:36 a.m. Friday morning, Io will reappear on the true-left, and therefore all four moons will be visible on the true-left side

As an added bonus... the planet Uranus is very close to Jupiter, and should be visible as well. On a dark night you can see both Jupiter and Uranus with your eyes alone, but probably not from Shoker because of the lights. If you do see Uranus with your eyes (without a telescope) you probably will not distinguish Uranus from a star. With a telescope Uranus will appear small, but will have an observable cyan (blue-green) color. If you can hold them steady, you might be able to distinguish Uranus with binoculars.

For the next few nights, Uranus is only 1.30 degrees away from Jupiter. If Jupiter is at the center of a clock face, Uranus will be in the 10:00 position at 8:30 p.m., and in the 11:00 position by about 10:30 p.m.. The field-of-view (FOV) for typical binoculars is about 7 degrees, so Uranus and Jupiter are well within the same FOV with binoculars, that is, you can see them at the same time. The FOV for most small telescopes is about one degree, so Uranus will be just outside the FOV if Jupiter is inside the FOV. You only have to move the scope a tiny bit left and up to get to Uranus once you have found Jupiter. Remember, you are looking for something star-like, but through binoculars or a telescope it will not be as small of a point as a star, and it will have a pale cyan color.

For reference the width of your little finger, held arm's length, is about one-degree. Therefore, once you have found Jupiter, hold your left little finger at arm's length, and tilted toward 1:00 on a clock-face, and put Jupiter just visible on the right side of your finger, and Uranus should be roughly just on the left side of your finger.

For those of you too far away to come to Shoker... At 8:30 p.m. tonight, Jupiter will be in the low slightly-south-of-east sky, about 16-degrees above the horizon. By 10 p.m. it will be in the east-south-east, about 30-degrees above the horizon. By 11 p.m. it will be in the south-east about 40-degrees above the horizon. The moon will rise in the east at 11: p.m. but will not be high enough to see over trees until about 11:30 p.m.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Real men wear pink

2008 Dig for the Cure volleyball match
A few years back a new shirt showed up in the wash during my son’s Thanksgiving break. For a time, it was his absolute favorite shirt. Bright pink it was - inscribed with the words “Honk for Healthy Hooters.”

Wearing pink to raise awareness of breast cancer issues is not a new thing. Little pink ribbons are all the rage, on handbags, lapels, car magnets, etc. For that matter ribbons have come to symbolize many different awareness campaigns, Alzheimer’s (purple), Aids/HIV (red), missing children (yellow) and many, many more.

Beginning Friday night, the five Bluffton fall sports teams - football, volleyball, cross country, men’s and women’s soccer - will do their part to raise awareness of breast cancer issues during “Pink Week.” Each team will wear pink as part of the uniform, such as pink socks, jerseys or helmet stickers.

The volleyball team will raise money for Side-Out Foundation during a "Dig Pink" match with Manchester on Wednesday, Sept. 29. To make a donation toward breast cancer research, medical services and support services, visit Bluffton’s Side-Out page.

The soccer teams will wear pink during a Saturday, Oct. 2, doubleheader versus Transylvania. At halftime of the women’s match, pink roses will be presented to breast cancer survivors in players’ families.

Out of all the various types of cancer – lung, prostrate, colon, skin, ovarian – and other health and societal concerns, isn’t it curious that breast cancer continues to attract this much attention.

Could it be that so many of us have been touched with this disease though our aunts, uncles, mothers, grandmothers and other loved ones, that it is personal? It is something we can relate to, a disease that we can share personal stories about.

Hence we proudly don pink shirts, socks and ribbons in honor and in memory and pray for the day that breast cancer is eradicated.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


There was a touch of color in the trees, a bright blue sky, warm sun, cool breezes; a beautiful fall day on Bluffton’s campus - the perfect day for a picnic, for throwing a Frisbee, for looking forward in anticipation to the Health and Fitness Education Center building project.

Students, faculty, staff, alumni and others gathered Tuesday noon for a picnic near the site of what will be the new Health and Fitness Education Center. Frisbees were used to support plates of standard picnic fare.

The changing colors of the Frisbee caught many (including me) by surprise. While not analyzing it, I thought it was purple out at the picnic, but it was an odd purplish-white in the office. Having many other things to occupy my mind yesterday afternoon, I didn’t think much more about it until reading a comment on J. Denny Beaver’s Facebook page this morning about the changing colors.

Now it makes perfect sense – a transforming Frisbee to promote a project which will further transform the university. Very nice.

In just the years since I came back to Bluffton as a staff member, many new buildings have changed, enhanced and invigorated campus... Guess I have been here for a while: Salzman Stadium was built the year I joined staff. It was also the year my student assistant was born . Oy.

Just like Yoder Recital Hall (1993) and Centennial Hall (2000) provided new and expanded opportunities for students, the Health and Fitness Education Center will do the same.

President Harder spoke about the center in his annual President’s Forum. After showing artist’s renderings of the building exterior, the performance arena, weights and fitness center and described the sports medicine center, he drew a chuckle from the packed house when the next slide featured just one word “When ???” From the audience reaction, many were obviously asking the same thing. When??? How soon??? Will I get to use this facility as a student???

The answer to that question is up to us, to you, to me, to all who love Bluffton. To find out how to help with the answer, visit

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New look, same spirit

Walking into College Hall just feels different these days. At first it’s very normal. Open the doors on the library side, steps down to the business office, steps to the right to Ramseyer Auditorium, steps up to the president’s and academic affairs offices.

But then something is different, the hallway goes on and on; and where is the stairway up to the classrooms and Learning Resource Center?

While renovations of the Burcky locker room and The Commons were taking center stage this summer, two other construction projects were quietly happening on campus that have changed the feel of two of Bluffton’s original academic buildings, College Hall and Musselman Library.

The College Hall addition includes restrooms on each floor, an elevator, stairs and storage areas. Work continues on landscaping and vestibules for a new elevator in Musselman Library which will make the 1930 building completely handicapped accessible.

As a student I spent a lot of time in College Hall. My first-ever college class was in College Hall 306- Cartooning with Ray “Sugar Ray” Hamman during the September mod. (Remember the mods? One class for one month - loved it!) What a great introduction to Bluffton – the class, the professor and the mod, but I digress.

In that same room I had my one and only class with the “Third Bren-Dell guys”- Stats with Ron Friesen. Ron would flip through a stack of index cards, picking a “random sample” of people to work problems on the blackboard. I’ll never forget the terror when my name came up in the random sample, of course for a homework problem that I hadn’t been able to solve. Luckily Gary Basinger was also in the class - “Gary, Help!”

Ah the memories of classes with Dale Dickey and Gene Caskey in the top floor; learning how to fold a fitted sheet in Speech class, being pulled out of my shell in Acting. Then there was building set and working stage crew in Ramseyer…

College Hall was the first building built on Bluffton’s campus in 1899. It was in front of College Hall that President Noah C. Hirschy said something like “The foundation has been laid; now let us expect great things.”

It is good to see improvements be made to College Hall, to know that like Bluffton this first building will continue to grow and evolve to meet the needs of all students now and in the future.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Meet you at The Dam

The Dam will be out in full force as the volleyball team plays its home opener against Adrian tonight at 7 p.m. There’s already a buzz growing on campus.

I just love the energy The Dam brings to athletic contests when students line up-sometimes three or four deep-on the stage to cheer their classmates. On occasion friends will come dressed for the game, other times the word will spread to wear a certain color – such as a white-out or a black-out or, my personal favorite, the Purple Polooza.

To add to the excitement, J Denny Beaver, Bluffton's new mascot, is expected to attend his first volleyball game tonight.

While hints have been dropped in the past month via posters and YouTube videos, J Denny was officially introduced to the campus community at Opening Convocation. It would be an understatement to say that he was well received. A comment to a photo posted on Facebook summed it up well – the faculty looked like “kids at Christmas” when J Denny Beaver appeared.

J Denny Beaver is named in honor of Dr. J. Denny Weaver, professor of religion emeritus, who served as Bluffton’s NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative for more than 20 years. Dr. Weaver retired in 2006. He plans to be on campus for Homecoming (Oct. 9) to meet his namesake.

It’s going to be fun watching the mascot create its own mystic under the tutelage of Dan Stanowick, Marbeck Center assistant director and former BGSU Freddie the Falcon. Dan has been invaluable in guiding the creation of the J Denny Beaver persona and training the person(s) who don the beaver.

When the beaver first arrived on campus in July, Dan was the first to put it on. He went into another room, closed the doors, drew the blinds, and in a few minutes emerged as J Denny Beaver.

Our first reaction? J Denny Beaver is buff. But yet he is approachable, non-scary for little kids. It’s amazing how easy it was for him to communicate, to show emotions just by changing his posture and body language. And if the introduction is any indication, Dan has done a great job in passing this knowledge on to Bluffton’s new mascot.

So welcome to Bluffton J Denny Beaver! We’re all looking forward to seeing you at The Dam tonight and for many events to come.

Want to keep up with J Denny’s activities? Friend him on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pure luck?

"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
- Thomas Jefferson

In just nine short days new students will be moving onto campus. Along with vans and U-Hauls of possessions, they will arrive with hopes and dreams.

At Bluffton, they will find many opportunities; opportunities to discover, to serve, to grow, to experience, to prepare for life and vocation. And the “lucky” ones will have amazing experiences outside of the classroom that will build their professional resumes.

Four such “lucky” music students will have the opportunity to make their debut in Steinway Hall in New York City on Oct. 21. (news story)

Did the music faculty put all their students’ name in a hat and draw our four random students for this experience? Of course not. These students made their own luck through a combination of natural talent and hard work.

Alumni are invited to Meet us in NY to show our appreciation to these students. The alumni relations office is planning a tour of the Steinway Factory to see a frame being bent for a grand piano. President Harder and his wife Karen will host a meal at Sardi’s. Plus there will be plenty of free time to take in a Broadway play or visit a NY gallery where a Bluffton art professor’s drawings are displayed.

Of course music students are not the only ones to make their own "luck.” Several students have taken advantage of this summer’s Ministry Inquiry Program to assist a pastor, others received a Summer Discovery Grant to carry out an individualized research experience, and still others have gained professional experience through summer internships.

During the school year, there are opportunities to serve as research assistants, tutors, office assistants. Granted, many of these jobs are filing, data entry… not overly exciting. However, the assistants who show ability, trustworthiness, initiative, may be "lucky" enough to receive more interesting projects.

So a word of advice to new students - get involved, work hard, be prepared to take advantage of opportunities if/when they are made available to you. In a nutshell - make your own "luck." And remember: Hard work beats talent when talent won’t work hard.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Encouraging excellence

When Yoder Recital Hall was being built in the mid 1990s it was my job to take construction photos. So every week I’d take my trusty camera and hard hat – yes my very own hard hat in order to enter construction zones – and make my way to the west side of campus to take photos of what was new.

One day when it was nearing its completion, I remember walking in and catching my breath. It was so elegant- so simply, beautifully, classically elegant. Stunning.

In the nine years since its opening, Yoder Recital Hall continues to be well used. It is the site for student recitals, faculty performances, chapel services, May Day performances and, several times a year, the venue for professional artists brought to campus through the Artist Series.

Regional, national and internationally-known soloists, ensembles, dance and theatre troupes and others have performed through the Bluffton Artist Series for more than 80 years. The goal is to bring a wide variety of world-class performers to campus each year and to provide something of interest to everyone.

This year’s Artist Series is no different; there’s an award-winning piano soloist, brass ensemble, percussion group, boys choir and the Massenkoff Russian Folk Festival which combines a vocal soloist, an ensemble of Russian folk instruments and Russian folk ballet. Intriguing.

I think it’s appropriate that before the professionals take to the stage, the 2010-11 music schedule begins with a senior recital. After all, it’s all about the students, preparing them for life, encouraging them to stretch their wings, giving them a glimpse of what might be.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Several years ago Bluffton received a grant from the Lilly Endowment to promote the “theological exploration of vocation” or to put it in other words, to help students consider their vocational decisions as callings.

Typically when we think of callings, we think about the path into the ministry. Pathways helped us consider that some are called to vocations in education, in wellness professions, in the sciences, fine arts, mathematics, etc… Students, faculty and staff were encouraged to discover that place where “our great love meets the world’s great needs.” (Palmer)

Several programs were introduced and/or strengthened through Bluffton’s “Pathways to Mission and Vocation” also known as simply as Pathways. We celebrate the opportunities provided and seek stories of how the program helped students and graduates look at vocational decisions in a new way.

Students were given the chance to apply for grants to explore vocation during the summer. Several students received Summer Dreaming Grants to experience new vocational possibilities. This program will continue as Summer Discovery Grants with funds from the Karl V. Schultz Endowment.

For students considering a pastoral call to ministry, Pathways supported the Pathways to Ministry Scholars program which provided social support and scholarships. Several students, faculty, staff and community members received 20-hour mediation training and Bluffton formed the first student Damascus Road committee.

Pathways monies were used to bring national figures to campus as special Forum speakers including Jim Wallis, Sojourners magazine editor-in-chief; Robin Wright, former Washington Post foreign correspondent; Cornell West, civil rights activist; and Alan Page, state supreme court judge and former NFL great.

Special guest speakers were brought onto campus as Pathways Scholars-in-Residence and as guests for specific departments. The Civic Engagement Themes of the past three years were supported by Pathways as were three major conferences planned and held on campus (Women in Ministry, Mennonite Writers and Beyond Borders.)

These opportunities and many more were provided by Pathways. Now the question is – how did Pathways help you discover your call? That’s where you come in. We are looking for feedback from you. What did you experience? How did it shape your future? Would you recommend the experience to others?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Pardon our dust 2

Guest blog by Mark Bourassa

In my years as the director of Marbeck Center, many of the highlights include changes and renovations that we have made to the facility and program. This summer has marked a significant renovation to our campus restaurant as we make changes in our main service area, The Commons.

The Commons has undergone a complete makeover as we change the ways in which we serve our customers. The change involves a movement away from traditional cafeteria style design to a scattered station approach. Plans include designated staffed stations such as Pizza & Pasta, Hometown (traditional meal), Fresh Vegetables, Carved Meats, Deli/Sandwich, American Grille and Red Hot Chef all serving up fresh food prepared right in front of you! Not to mention the salad/soup bar, beverages and dessert areas.

Construction has been on-going throughout the summer and we have continued to serve meals to our summer conference guests. It has been challenging at times to work around the inconveniences of the construction, but our guests have been very understanding.

The serving stations and equipment began arriving two weeks ago. It has been quite a transformation and comments have been overwhelmingly positive from our campus guests and university staff in regards to the new look.

Plans are to begin serving from all concepts beginning on Aug. 1 with the final week of our summer conference groups. This will be our “test run” in preparation for the arrival of our students.

I’m excited about our new dining services concepts and am looking forward to seeing how our students will respond to the changes!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pardon our dust

College Hall expansionDon’t you just love summer? Sunshine, no winter coats, vacations, open windows, t-shirts, orange barrels lining the interstate. Well, maybe not the orange barrels.

Summer is a prime time for construction on the interstate system… and on Bluffton’s campus.

Every year our own buildings and grounds staff work to renovate and maintain existing buildings with new roofs, windows and other behind-the-scenes routine maintenance. This summer they planted trees, completed the College Hall replacement window project, continued the Musselman Library lighting project and installed new carpeting in select Ramseyer Residence Hall rooms and new shower floors in Ropp Addition. Many of these projects will reduce energy consumption.

In recent years the construction crew from Thomas & Marker, Bellefontaine, Ohio, almost seems like an extension of building and grounds. This is the company that built Yoder Recital Hall (1996), Centennial Hall (2000) and Bob’s Place (2002), along with renovating Beeshy Bridge, Klassen Court and other projects across campus.

Summer 2010 is no different, except this year Thomas & Marker has taken on three projects, a renovation in the Burcky Gym locker rooms and additions to College Hall and Musselman Library that will make these historic buildings accessible for all.

Musselman LibraryThe three story College Hall addition is being built on the west side and includes classroom upgrades, lobby areas, restrooms and an elevator. (pictured above) Plans are being made for an official tours to be given on Homecoming, Saturday, Oct. 9. The new Musselman Library elevator entrance is located on the west side of the library building. (pictured to left)

The Burcky Gym renovation greatly expanded the locker room facilities for baseball and football. During an open house preview last Friday, current football Coach Tyson Veidt and former football Coach Carlin Carpenter were comparing the old and new facilities. “The old locker room wall was here,” Carlin said indicating an imaginary line nearly cutting the new space in half. And when the AC kicked on he exclaimed, “And there is air conditioning! We never had air conditioning.”

The new locker room complex prepares the way for the next major building project on the master plan, a health and fitness education center which will be Bluffton’s first LEED-Certified building project.

So yes, while construction can be an annoyance, pardon our dust because the finished product is going to be sweet.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A home-away-from-home

Can you picture your dorm room? I’m sure you can. It was your ‘home-away-from-home’ for four years. Your living room, bedroom and breakfast nook all rolled into one.

It was most likely your first experience with interior design, with decorating on the cheap. I picture the carpet squares my roomie and I duct taped together to make a floor covering, the loft, stuffed animals, a bottle repurposed as a vase, milk crates stacked into makeshift shelving…

It’s that point in the summer where the cicadas’ songs mark six weeks until frost, and new students and their parents make multiple trips to town buying supplies and starting a pile of “stuff to take to Bluffton.”

Current students were surveyed on video sharing their thoughts of items new students should remember to bring – and in some cases what they should leave at home. It was interesting to me that some things just never change. Students were still encouraged to bring an umbrella, games, a fan, crates…

Was there some special thing you brought to college that always made you smile and be reminded of the people who loved and supported you ‘back home?’

I can think of two. First was a huge mug filled with quarters from my Grandpa. That was back in the day when Bluffton students needed quarters for laundry and of course the vending machines. What a wonderful gift to stay connected. The second was cheap 5x5 pictures of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Yes, an odd gift given by the guys I worked with, but they were bright sunny yellow, a reminder of good times and good friends. Those pictures had a place of honor in my vanity all the years I lived on campus.

It won’t be long now until students start moving onto campus and making their 11'x14' area their own. My advice - for what it’s worth - along with a computer, bedding, towels, clothes, be sure to pack something that makes your place a Bluffton truly your very own home-away-from-home.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Building community

Let’s celebrate. In less than a year, the Bluffton University Facebook fan page has nearly 1,300 ‘likes.’ The last time Bluffton tried to create an online community, we struggled to get 130 members. Well, that could be an exaggeration…

Back then, Bluffton built a password-protected site just for alumni with a “bulletin board” (predecessor to the wall,) email directory, profile update and enewsletter features. While we still use parts of Bluffton Alumni Online Community, other parts totally tanked. You can still sign up to receive enewsletters, update your contact information and submit alumnotes through the community, but little opportunity remains there for actually building a virtual community.

Fast forward several years and Bluffton is again making forays into what is now called social media. We started with Twitter just over a year ago, then expanded into YouTube and blogging. It’s been fun watching interest grow, especially in this blog.

Then, last fall, the university Facebook fan page was created. The response to the fan page is humbling. It has attracted a true community – alumni, prospective students, students, parents, faculty, staff, trustees… You are communicating, creating community; whether it is welcoming a new student, commenting on a video, providing advice to students, reminiscing or “liking” a post. It’s been a hoot to be part of this process. Don’t stop now!

Of course there is also the Bluffton LinkedIn group created by an alumnus. Although I must admit I haven’t spent enough time on LinkedIn to really understand it.

There is one thing about social media. It’s definitely not stagnant. There’s going to be some new platform coming. I’ve heard that it will probably be mobile, maybe some version of FourSquare? (If you FourSquare, be sure to check in at Marbeck, Musselman Library or the PR House next time you are on campus!)

At a social media conference last spring I learned a new word – plork as in play+work. And that’s what I enjoy about my job… I get to spend my day plorking and enabling people to virtually connect.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Light bulbs and toilet paper

Several years ago I picked up a series of postcards at a conference for inspiration. These high gloss cards featured high quality images of common items on a brightly-colored background: a light bulb, a roll of toilet paper, etc.

It was, in my opinion, an amazing tongue-in-cheek annual fund campaign, eye-catching, fun. I only wish I remembered which sister college did this so I could give them proper credit.

Gifts to the annual fund (which we call the Bluffton Fund) support the university’s general operating budget. Tuition covers approximately 75 percent of the cost of student education. The remainder is paid through the gifts to the university and investment income.

For the past several years, Bluffton students have observed Tuition Gift Celebration Day in February or March. It’s that day which figuratively marks when tuition no longer covers undergraduate educational expenses and gifts/investments begin picking up the tab. Students have shared that Tuition Gift Celebration Day is an important reminder that there are many alumni and friends supporting them.

To be fair, the Bluffton Fund is not used to buy light bulbs and toilet paper, but supports scholarships, faculty resources, student services, athletic programs, classrooms, labs, maintenance and many other academic, social and spiritual opportunities.

So why am I telling you all this? Bluffton’s fiscal year ends on June 30. Here is your chance to support today’s students while finishing the 2009-10 fiscal year strong.

Give online
President’s society

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ah, summer

B&G summer workers
There is quite the misconception regarding college campuses during the summer. “It must be nice to have your summers off.” Um, yea, about that…

Granted it is more low-key, a bit quieter, parking spots are easier to come by – especially on Fridays - but there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work accomplished during the summer.

This weekend is a prime example for the admissions staff. They are welcoming members of the class of 2014 with a summer orientation on Friday, then turn around and host an Open House Discovery Day on Saturday for the class of 2015 and those still deciding for this fall. Crazy!

Student life is busy matching roommates, assigning rooms, making plans for 2010-11. One exciting change for the fall is the contract signed with the Bluffton Hospital providing 24/7 health care for Bluffton students.

Heavy cleaning, painting, mowing, landscaping… the Buildings and Grounds staff and their expanded student staff have their hands full this summer as they do every summer.

The IT folks will be replacing old computers and monitors, upgrading software while dealing with the normal helpdesk-type emergencies and IT requests.

In PR, we’re updating materials for admissions, creating new television commercials, preparing for a couple new initiatives to be unveiled in the fall. I think our project list is longer now than it was back in January.

And this probably incomplete list is just to ready the campus for students in the fall. In addition there is the Marbeck and Conference crew who hosts guests on campus throughout the summer, such as family reunions, youth groups, summer sports camps and the ever-popular band camps.

There is a definite cycle to the academic year, beginning with the excitement of students returning in the fall, to the comfortable vibe of Homecoming, cabin-fever/rising stress level of February, to the rush to the end from spring break to graduation.

Summer is the time to make all things shiny new for the cycle to begin anew - in 71 days.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Making steps toward a just world for all

We’ve come a long way.

The Bluffton magazine mailed last week takes a look at the Shriver Report through a Bluffton lens, telling the stories of Bluffton alumnae from various eras.

It’s odd to think that it wasn’t that long ago that women were encouraged to receive training to work outside the home – but only if they wanted to be a teacher or nurse. That notion is so foreign to our current reality that it seems like it should be studied in history books, not heard in stories told by our mothers and grandmothers.

Among the goals listed for the Bluffton women’s study minor is “to work toward the goal of a just and equitable world.” While women have come a long way, sometimes it feels like we have a long way to go.

I remember talking with Dad after learning that women were often paid less than men even when doing the exact same job. I was in junior high and this concept was totally unbelievable to me, “That’s so not fair.” To which Dad replied, “Why sure it is. Men work to support their families. Women work for extra spending money.” I remember thinking then, as now, that is so wrong.

But then this is the same man who instilled the belief in me that I can do anything I put my mind to. Like the time I found a leak in the waterline to the livestock. When I reported the problem to him, his response? “So fix it.” He told me what to do. I did it. And, to my knowledge, he didn’t go check my work. What an amazing life lesson.

That was in the era when women worked outside the home, but still felt solely responsible for all homemaking chores. Super Moms they were called.

Luckily we, men and women, have continued to change. I look at my son’s generation and am amazed. The guys cook, clean, are involved with child-raising (or in my son’s case - dog-raising.)

So, yes, we’ve come a long way, women. There are so many opportunities now open to us. We owe a debt of gratitude to the women who paved the way for us to enter what was previously considered “male” professions – medicine, politics, business…

But, we’ve also come a long way as a society. Let us continue to treat each other with respect, with kindness, with fairness and work together toward “a just and equitable world” for all.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

New understandings

Guest blog by Cody Litwiller, PR summer intern

Every May term, Bluffton University students engage in a three-week-long cross-cultural program. I was one of those students this May, and had the opportunity to experience Israel/Palestine along with 29 other students, led by Randy Keeler and Stephen “Tig” Intagliata.

To many, Israel/Palestine is considered the center of the world, so being able to experience this land and its people is an experience which has put my worldview on a new axis.

In preparation for the experience, our cross-cultural class read books from a range of authors on the religious and political conflicts in the land. We visited a mosque in Perrysburg, Ohio and attended a service at a synagogue in Lima, Ohio. A local Palestinian woman also prepared a meal for our group, and we heard presentations from members of Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT).

While in Israel/Palestine our group made an effort to see a variety of sites and listen to presenters representing a selection of political and religious positions. We visited significant biblical sites and read accompanying scripture at those sites. Our group sang hymns in the old domed churches and had chances to meditate by ourselves at a few biblical sites.

During the 16 days of our travels, we stayed in hotels, kibbutzim and Palestinian homes. The Palestinian home stays allowed each member of our group to become immersed in the culture in a way most do not get a chance to experience. These personal interactions with the people of Palestine gave each person a unique story to share and provided a new angle to view the current conflict.

The Palestinian family I lived with for two nights were an older couple who lived in Old Bethlehem. They are one of the few remaining Christian families in Palestine. Their home is a large old house, which used to serve as bedrooms for their eight kids. Now, all their kids have moved out of the house and with the exception of two kids, out of Palestine. These empty rooms are now used to host guests and their grandkids. My Palestinian hosts enjoy this opportunity to host guests, and use the opportunity to share their story.

Our host, Tony, has a rooftop garden which he uses to grow a staggering variety of vegetables, fruits and spices for his family. The roof also serves as the location for his New Zealand rabbits, which they eat, and his large water tanks. The Israelis have siphoned off a large portion of the Palestinian water supply, so families are forced to either store water in tanks on their roof from the rainy season and a bi-weekly water service, or pay extra to use the same water the Israelis use.

Not having easy access to water is something that is hard to imagine in Illinois, where I’m from, but the Palestinians live with that reality. Being mindful of my water usage while I was there was a constant reminder of the lifestyle the Palestinians lead and how resourceful they need to be on a daily basis. This Palestinian home stay, coupled with our kibbutzim and hotel stays, gave us a full spectrum of living conditions in Israel/Palestine.

Our itinerary included the Sea of Galilee, Masada, the Dead Sea, Caesarea Maritima, the Western Wall, Nazareth Village, the Dome of the Rock, the Israel Holocaust Museum - Yad Veshem and many other churches and archeological sites. With the aid of our guide, each of the members of our group came to a new understanding of these historical and biblical sites.

The other major focus of the trip was the current conflict over land. We listened to presenters from the Bethlehem Bible College, Mar Elias School, Aida refugee camp, the US consulate, Operation Dove workers at the At-Tuwani village near Hebron, and heard many other Palestinian and Israeli voices throughout our experience.

This cross-cultural experience has created a new global awareness in my thought process and forced me to positively reevaluate my identity as an American.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Going Green-Staying Green

Going green is big business.

Wind turbines are sprouting up all around. I’ve heard that farmers are being approached to lease corners of their land for a wind farm near Arcadia, and last weekend I noticed that a solar field is being installed near Upper Sandusky.

Going green is very visual – or is it?

Bluffton is going green, but you’ll not see wind turbines out by the Emery Sears Athletic Complex, nor will you see solar panels attached to Neufeld Residence Hall. We’re changing light bulbs. Seriously.

Mustaq Ahmed ‘77, director of buildings and grounds, wrote in a note to all faculty/staff, “This project is part of our ongoing effort to be environmentally responsible at Bluffton University. We have taken a slightly different approach to joining the going green movement. We are slowly and methodically moving forward with our established objective of making simple, inexpensive adjustments that have big payoffs in the long run.”

A total of 83 fixtures and 166 lamps in Musselman Library have been replaced to provide more efficient and brighter lighting. It is estimated that this change alone will reduce energy consumption for lighting at the library by 40 percent, for an estimated annual savings of $3,200 a year.

Now that is impressive.

Then there is the ever-popular “Trayless Tuesdays” where there are no trays in Marbeck Center. This saves both on water and soap to wash used trays, and reduces food waste as people only take what they can carry. I’ve eaten in Marbeck on Trayless Tuesday. While it is a challenge to balance a plate, salad bowl, beverage and utensils, the concept is a good one. There are some universities who have removed trays completely.

And that isn’t all, B&G has, or is planning to, install
  • Low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators
  • Motion-sensor light switches
  • Thermostatic radiator valves, which keep rooms from overheating by regulating the heat coming out of radiators
  • Energy efficient windows
  • Small high efficiency boilers for heating
  • Insulation on exposed pipes
  • Using carpeting and flooring material with high recycled content

Bluffton has gone green. For in Mustaq’s words, “At B&G we believe the greenest energy is one that is not produced.”

Monday, May 17, 2010

Finding solutions

Guest blog by Rory Stauber

I serve as the community liaison for Bluffton’s community mediation program. A few years ago, Bluffton began offering 20-hour mediation training to interested individuals. We now provide mediation services to community organizations, juvenile courts and on-campus and have seen some dramatic results.

I recall a truancy mediation in which a middle-school boy had missed virtually the entire semester. The parents were not much help. The authorities were ready to send him to juvenile lock up.

During mediation with family members and his teacher, we traced the problem to a broken bicycle preventing him from making the distant bus stop on time. One family member volunteered to buy a replacement part; another said he could install the part; an aunt agreed to donate a lock for the bike; the teacher offered incentives for the student to attend class. The boy did not miss another day the rest of the semester. Hey, Mediation Works!

In fact, Mediation Works! is the name we have given to the public education component of our program. If you are the parents of more than one child, or you grew up with one or more siblings, you have already participated in mediation. What parent hasn’t mediated a dispute between siblings that begins with something like, “It isn’t fair that Sally gets to…..”?

We practice a type of mediation called “restorative” which is concerned with the needs and responsibilities of both victims and offenders, seeks to put right wrongs, and as much as is possible, to restore relationships.

Juvenile courts in Putnam and Allen counties are referring cases to our community mediation program, and we conduct mediations on campus and in the community including church and neighborhood disputes.

The community mediation program has conducted workshops and training for organizations including Lima Memorial Hospital, Lima Metropolitan Housing Agency and the Institute for Learning in Retirement at Bluffton University. If you are part of an organization that may be interested in a workshop in conflict and communication skills, let me know!

We lead low- and no-cost workshops for all kinds of groups, businesses and agencies considering the possibility of mediation. We also offer 20-hour mediation training for students, staff and community members.

For more information on trainings and workshops visit or contact me at

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Seeing the world in a whole new way

So the flurry of activity that surrounds graduation has come and gone. And as with most highly-anticipated events, it’s over in a blink of an eye then summer officially begins. Students move off campus, e-mail and phones become much quieter (leading to some withdrawal symptoms – “Hello, tap, tap, tap… it this thing working.”)

While offices may be quiet, May can be a very exciting time of self-discovery for Bluffton students. Three-week-long cross-cultural experiences are typically scheduled during May Term.

Guatemala homestay, 2009Way early this morning my husband and I took the group traveling to Guatemala to the airport. The first two weeks in Guatemala they will take Spanish language classes in the mornings and tour culturally-significant locations in the afternoons. The final week of their time there will be spent in home-stays.

It was fun listening to the group in my van chatter about their upcoming adventures, practicing their Spanish, some even trying to sing in Spanish. According to Twitter post by a student’s fiancé, they safely arrived in Guatemala City Wednesday morning.

Israel experience, 2009The group traveling to Israel/Palestine didn’t have as a smooth a ride. We learned via Facebook posts that the group had a longer than expected layover in New York and Madrid thanks to volcanic ash, but they did eventually make it to their destination.

Other groups are scattering to New York City, England/Wales, Chicago, Columbia and Arizona for their cross-cultural experiences. Other short-term experiences in previous years have included New Orleans, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Appalachian Kentucky, Trinidad, Botswana, China and others.

What an amazing opportunity – to be "strongly encouraged" to leave your comfort zone, to see and acknowledge others’ situations and viewpoints. Many students come back with a renewed appreciation for home and a new lens with which to view the world.

Back in the ‘80s Dale Dickey took a group for a quarter touring “Shakespeare’s England,” visiting the Globe Theatre, etc., but I chose not to participate. In my opinion, a cross-cultural requirement which can be fulfilled by either a cross-cultural experience or by taking foreign language classes is a good thing. It removes the decision, should I leave my friends on campus for three weeks or take this journey of a lifetime?

So let me live vicariously through those of you who have taken a cross-cultural experience: what do you remember most? How did it change your view of the world?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Leaving Bluffton a better place

I remember meeting Jim Satterwhite, professor of history, for the first time. I was a reporter for the Courier at the time, sent to interview him for a story. His office had books piled floor to ceiling, making it seem more like a book-lined corridor with a paper-covered desk at one end, than an office.

I don’t recall as vividly meeting Willis Sommer, vice president for fiscal affairs, for the first time. I’m sure it was in class, as he taught accounting at the time and I started out as a business major.

Both Jim and Willis are officially retiring this year.

Jim was granted emeritus status at the 2010 Academic Awards Forum. He had taught at Bluffton from 1984 until health issues led him out of the classroom a few years back. His strength of putting his words into actions, such as spending his summers serving as a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron, Poland and other locations, endeared him to many.

The first annual Jim Satterwhite Award in Peace Scholarship and Activism was presented in 2009 by the Peace and Conflict Studies program to a graduating senior with a demonstrated commitment to peace scholarship and peace activism. (Kristen Shelly is the 2010 recipient.)

Willis joined the faculty in 1979. It’s been interesting getting to know Willis outside of the classroom - the “woohoo” when he announces a positive year-end balance; the random all-campus email drawing our attention to a beautiful tree in full bloom or an update to a construction or renovation project; the care and deliberateness he puts into financial decisions which he knows will effect fellow faculty and staff across campus.

In recent years, Willis has overseen many construction and renovation projects. In a piece written for the internal Community Connection newsletter, he reflected on the various projects:

When I am involved in new construction projects, I often personally rank them in relation to past projects. Since the three planned projects will be my last I offer the following list as project highlights during my tenure.

Most campus changing project-Centennial Hall: I still remember the excitement of moving faculty into their offices in July 2000. Can anyone now imagine our academic program without this building?

Most useful short-term project-North Complex: For four years, 1996-2000, this modular building provided four large classrooms and offices for EBA faculty and BCOMP staff.

Better than anticipated project-2003 Marbeck Addition and renovation of the former Barn area: I generally can visualize the final result when the first sketch is made, but not with the addition. The result was far nicer than I imagined.

Most meaningful project-Baseball memorial and field enhancements: I found it very meaningful to be part of the planning process for the memorial and to draw the first sketch for the baseball field improvements.

Most beneficial renovation-College Hall disability access addition: Besides providing accessibility, the addition will make College Hall more inviting and aesthetically pleasing.”

Willis will be recognized during a "Celebration of Service" banquet on May Day.
Willis and Jim, we are grateful for your steady and calm demeanors, for your laughter and for your undeniable positive influence on Bluffton University.