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!