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.