Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Making time to relax & reconnect

So what is it that draws alumni back to campus – for Homecoming, May Day, Athletics Hall of Fame or team alumni games?

That’s an easy one – it’s the chance to visit with friends you haven’t seen for a while. The planned activities – the luncheons, picnics, banquets, exhibits and presentations – are just to make sure a critical mass of alumni gather at the same time and place to provide the opportunity to reconnect.

With this in mind, the Women’s Council has scheduled lots of free time in the inaugural R&R (Reconnecting & Reaching Out) alumnae event on March 6.

Women will gather in Ropp Hall to pick up a box lunch, meet up with friends and go wherever they’d like to eat, visit, laugh, reconnect, for the majority of the event. For those who want something “to do,” there will be campus tours, shopping in the Bookstore and a presentation on Bluffton’s Web site and social media.

This presentation is where I come in. Carrie (Holcomb '99) Phillips and I will be joining forces for this presentation. Have to admit that I’m struggling with the request to “show us how to use Bluffton’s Web site.” A good Web site should be intuitive. Something is wrong if one needs to be shown “how to use it.”

So, I’m planning to highlight features of interest to alumni, but then use this session as a type of focus group. What is it that this group is interested in, but cannot intuitively ‘find?’ I’m looking forward to hearing their ideas (and yours - comments are always welcome!) Carrie will address what social media is and how professional women can use it to their benefit.

The day will conclude with a benefit concert by pianist Dr. Lucia Unrau, professor of music and music department chairperson. Women’s Council is providing Professional Enrichment Grants to support female Bluffton students attending professional conferences. A free-will offering will be accepted at the concert to support these grants.

No matter the amount of preparation that goes these presentations, I realize that the highlight of the day will be visiting with friends. And I’m totally OK with that.

So make a few phone calls, encourage your friends to gather for a day of relaxation on Bluffton’s campus. Can there be a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The places we learn

Evan Miller and President Jim HarderBy now you should have received the winter 2010 issue of the Bluffton magazine. According to research, there’s a pretty good chance that you glanced at the feature stories, flipped to the back to read alumnotes from your era, possibly skimmed the alumni features, then set it aside with good intentions of reading it closer at a later date.

If you haven’t yet got back to it, I encourage you to pull it out to read the features (or read them online here.)

With the theme “The places we learn,” it is appropriate that this magazine became a learning experience for one of our students. Evan Miller, a senior English major from Wooster, Ohio, and student writer in the PR office, wrote the features stories for this issue. What an amazing experience, not to mention a fabulous piece for his portfolio.

In thinking back to my time as a student writer for what was then the Bluffton communications office, I learned so much through that experience. I appreciated the classes I had with Wesley Richard, Gene Caskey and Dale Dickey. They pushed me into unfamiliar territories, taught me to learn, to ask questions, to be curious.

But it was in my Learn & Earn position supervised by Ron Geiser that prepared me for a career in communications. He taught me to compose at the typewriter rather than writing stories out longhand then typing. (Yes, I really am that old.) From him I learned editing symbols, beat reporting… In a word, the experience was priceless.

Lessons were also taught through The Witmarsum. As co-editor and later editor, we were given the freedom to fill the newspaper each week however we saw fit. But each week the editors met with a board of faculty and staff to respond to questions and concerns about the content. While extremely stressful, that too was a good experience.

It is truly a strength of Bluffton University, that whether through the Learn & Earn program, extracurricular activities or internships, students continue to be given the opportunity to expand the places they learn beyond the classroom.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Each one help one, part I

There is an awesome painting hung in an alcove in Marbeck. It is easily my favorite painting on this entire campus. A simple work, it shows just two arms, one reaching down over a ledge toward another arm. It shows such grace, strength, pride. Other than the fact that one arm is reaching down and the other is reaching up, the arms are identical – both well-formed, both capable.

To me it represents the responsibility of those who have “made it” to offer support to others. It also represents the responsibility of those working to achieve to be strong, to be ready to take advantage of opportunities when presented. Like the Habitat for Humanity slogan – the arm reaching up represents those looking for a hand up not a hand out.

Dr. Crystal Sellers joined the Bluffton music department this fall, coming from The Ohio State University where she worked as a graduate assistant in the office of minority affairs as a retention counselor for students of color. For many years OSU has had a program pairing first-year and sophomore students of color with juniors and seniors in mentoring relationships. A similar program had been considered at Bluffton to increase retention. With Crystal’s experience, she became the spark to make it happen.

Bluffton’s version of this mentoring program for students of color was introduced in early February. Current students will soon be able to apply to be a mentor or mentee.

The goal is to help the underclassmen with their transition to college, to answer questions such as “where do I get my hair cut or purchase black hair care products” and “help me find a church.” According to Crystal and Theresa Henry, director of multicultural affairs, oftentimes students of color feel “like an island” when they arrive on campus. The juniors and seniors have been there, have worked through these issues and have knowledge to share.

In addition to providing support and accountability for the underclassmen, the mentors will be part of the Leadership Development Program, the student life division led program developed to provide leadership training for residence life student staff and other campus leaders.

While voluntary this spring, next year’s first-year students of color will be required to participate in this program.

What a great concept. First-year students will have another person they can turn to with questions and have someone watching out for them who can relate to being in the minority, and upperclassmen gain experience as a leader, with the responsibility to guide another to success.

That’s what I call offering a helpful hand up.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I had to smile at the following post on Facebook (shared with Tim’s permission)

Tim Pannabecker knows it's all a matter of perspective. Each morning I prod Seth along so we can get out the door on time. This morning we had this exchange: Me: Seth, stop messing around and get ready. Seth: I'm not messing around. I'm watching the garbage truck.

Don’t you just love kids?

But don’t we often do the same thing as adults? What seems so obvious to me, you might see in a totally different way. Oftentimes both of us are convinced that we are right – meaning that the other must be completely wrong.

Could it be that there is some truth in both viewpoints? Like my hubby is known to say, there are always three sides to every situation – your side, my side and the truth.

It takes honest communication with open hearts and open minds to discern the truth. That’s where it gets hard. And sometimes the best we can do is to agree to disagree.

On March 19-21, Bluffton will bring together scholars, church leaders and immigrants for a conference on immigration to facilitate some of this hard but necessary discussion. There are so many facets to this issue. What is right? What is ethical? How can we be faithful to Jesus' call to "Welcome the stranger"?

More than 25 workshops will be offered along with keynote addresses by M. Daniel Carroll Rodas and Baldemar Valesquez. More information and a registration form are available on the Bluffton Web site.

This conference is being offered as part of the university’s 2009-10 Civic Engagement Theme “Beyond Borders: The Role of Immigration in a Global Community.”

It never hurts to step back and view an issue from another’s perspective. You still might not agree in the end – but at least you’ll both have a new understanding.

And as we all know “The Truth Makes Free.”