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.

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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.