Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Meeting the world's great needs

Bluffton students are encouraged to find their calling - that place where their great joy meets the world’s great needs. And the world has a great number of needs.

Bluffton is making it easier for adult students to meet at least a couple of these great needs and be prepared for careers in growing fields with a MBA with a health care management concentration and evening undergraduate social work classes designed for working adults.

On the car ride to the Allen County Chamber of Commerce press conference to announce the two new initiatives, the story was told of a physician in private practice who was frustrated by the business side of the practice. “I can perform surgery and fix a heart, why can’t I run my business?”

Dr. George Lehman, director of the graduate programs in business, has a background in health care administration. He shared that often good nurses and lab technicians with clinical training are placed in supervisorial roles without additional management training. In both instances these are talented health care professionals, who are good at their job, who just need additional training in management to truly excel in their new roles.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of National Statistics:
  • Ten of the 20 fastest growing occupations are healthcare related.
  • Healthcare will generate 3.2 million new wage and salary jobs between 2008 and 2018, more than any other industry, largely in response to rapid growth in the elderly population. (
  • Employment of medical and health services managers is expected to grow 16 percent from 2008 to 2018, faster than the average for all occupations.
  • The healthcare industry will continue to expand and diversify, requiring managers to help ensure smooth business operations. (
Also announced at the press conference was the addition of evening social work undergraduate classes. These classes will address the needs of working professionals with a two year degree and those with a bachelor’s degree who desire a new career path.

In the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to consult with a social worker through a doctor’s office. What an amazing resource! I’d always put social workers in a box with troubled situations such as juvenile delinquents, neglected children and the like. I was so wrong – they are professionals who know where to go to access resources and are able to give direction when the situation feels totally overwhelming.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of National Statistics:
  • Employment for social workers is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2018.
  • Job prospects are expected to be favorable, particularly for social workers who specialize in the aging population or work in rural areas. (

It’s great to be a part of an institution that sees and responds to the needs of the community around it, helping to meet the world’s great needs. Want more information? Visit

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Enjoy student-led family fun

Looking for some family fun for Saturday? Have I got just the thing for you. While not official alumni events, there are a lot of things happening on campus and you and your family are invited!

Saturday will be the annual student-organized Riley Creek Festival with inflatables, carnival games, music and the ever popular Duck Race on the Riley. And, as if that were not enough, both the softball and baseball teams are at home. And, it just keeps getting better, it’s Strike-Out Cancer day for the softball team.

Last year I invited my parents, nieces and nephew to the Riley Creek Festival, specifically for the duck race. Unfortunately we got here too late to purchase a duck. The kids still had fun watching the yellow duckies bobbing down the creek. (Dad is the guy in the yellow shirt, next to Mom and the three kids to the left.)

There are large inflatables for the big kids – one year it was a joust, this year a mechanical bull - and inflatables for the smaller kids, face painting and so much more. Check out photos from last year to get an idea.

While it was fun, I do recommend getting there early to give the youngsters time to play games and jump on the inflatables (all free!), “buy” a duck (benefits the American Red Cross) and enjoy a picnic lunch ($6 for adults, and $3 for children.)

Students in SOUL (Students Organizations United in Leadership) plan the Riley Creek Festival annually as a campus and community-wide celebration of spring.

As an extra bonus, softball’s Strike-Out Cancer game, complete with pink bases and pinstriping, begins at 1 p.m. vs. Anderson at the new field near next to the baseball diamond. All are invited to donate $25 to the American Cancer Society to sponsor a player. The player with the most money given in her name will receive a sweatshirt.

Coach Bruder reports that in the past eight years an average of $1,350 has been raised each year by this event.

And the baseball team will take on Hanover, also at 1 p.m. I wonder if there might be a strategic location between the softball and baseball fields where you could keep an eye on both contests at the same time.

According to a check of, Saturday is supposed to be in the upper 60s degrees with a 40 percent chance of rain. Not a bad day to kick about on campus.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Each one help one - part II

Venturing into life outside of the “Bluffton Bubble” can be a bit unnerving. Do you remember that day, sitting with friends and classmates in hot, black robes, listening to someone give inspiring and motivational words and all you can think is “Oh crap! I’m not a college student anymore. Now what?”

Those of us who have adapted to life after Bluffton have the opportunity to ease the transition for others through by mentoring through the College Central Network offered by Bluffton’s Career Development Center.

What qualifications does one need to be a mentor? I’ve heard mentors be described as “not an expert – but somebody willing to share the journey.” What a great definition. Share the journey. That I can do. Just please don’t look to me as someone who has all the answers.

Mentors can be older – sharing what they are looking for in an employee, a colleague, how to network, etc. Mentors can be fresh out of college – sharing how they started over, made new friends, found a job, selected a graduate school, etc.

What’s nice about the Mentoring Network is that you say how involved you want to be. You can post “words of wisdom” for others to read or make yourself available to allow someone to job shadow, provide networking contacts, agree to visit with Bluffton students or even serve as an internship host… If you don’t feel comfortable with any of the options, you just don’t select it. Mentors share only as much information about themselves as they are comfortable sharing.

There will even be an option for Program H.O.M.E, the second part of the student-of-color mentoring program mentioned earlier in this blog. Juniors and seniors who serve as mentors to incoming first-year students will themselves be mentored by alumni of color.

Kathy Dickson, director of the Career Development Center, is excited about the possibilities of the Mentoring Network. Interested students can search the mentors by career interest or location, and make connections based on what the mentors are willing to do. “It will basically run itself. It has amazing potential.”

Professors, parents, staff can all give students suggestions when they start their job search. “But to hear it from someone in the field,” said Kathy. “That’s priceless.”

Interested in signing up for the Mentoring Network? Contact Kathy Dickson at to receive the password.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why are buzzards circling Centennial?

Guest post by Dr. Bob Antibus, professor of biology

Growing up in northeastern Ohio I came to associate the start of spring with the arrival of buzzards back to rocky ledges near the small town of Hinckley. Folks around Hinckley celebrate their annual return with “Buzzard Day” - the first Sunday after the birds return on March 15. This event is celebrated with plenty of pancakes, maple syrup and music.

In recent years I have been asked often about the apparent rise in frequency of buzzards in trees along the Little Riley Creek and on the rotunda of Centennial Hall. In point of fact the birds of interest are not buzzards but turkey vultures. Turkey vultures (Carthartes aura) get their common name from the featherless reddish head and neck which resemble true turkeys.

One of the fascinating aspects of turkey vulture biology is their roosting behavior. Nonbreeding birds assemble in “roosts” or social gatherings. During the winter in southern states these roosts may consist of thousands of birds, but during summer months in the north they typically host a dozen to a few hundred birds. They prefer to roost in trees along streams or in high places like rocky ledges in places with a mix of forest and open fields.

One can see why when Centennial Hall was built it became an ideal spot.

A recent study in Iowa suggests roosts might provide several advantages including: allowing birds to better control body temperature, protection from predators or social communication for food location. If you watch a roost you will sometimes see birds standing awkwardly with spread wings. Biologists think the birds are drying their wings or warming up and call this a “horaltic pose.”

Surviving in nature is all about conserving energy (a lesson humans could learn). Turkey vultures do this by letting their bodies cool down at night. But to fly they must warm up. This explains why they often perch in high places that face east. They catch the early morning sun, again think about this when you see them basking on Centennial Hall.

My favorite aspect of turkey vultures is their flying or more precisely their gliding skills. Being large heavy birds they like to glide into flight rather than lift off. If you have ever seen a turkey vulture fly up from a road kill you know they are clumsy on the ground, especially if they have just eaten a heavy meal.

Hence these birds use their large wings to soar long distances on air currents. I try to get students in my climate change class to observe these birds in the early fall. In fall and spring when we have cool nights the rising morning sun quickly heats open fields and parking lots. This heating leads to columns of surfaced-warmed air rising. Airplane pilots know about these so- called thermals and so do turkey vultures.

They launch from high places in the morning, locate thermals and slowly circle up to much higher elevations. From such high vantage points they spread out in search of food, mostly dead animals. Contrary to my favorite movie westerns, vultures don’t circle dying animals.

In general it appears that turkey vulture populations are on the rise in North America, however some other species in this family are endangered in other parts of the world. If you wish to learn more about these interesting birds I suggest the website of the nature writer Marcia Bonta.