Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Going Green-Staying Green

Going green is big business.

Wind turbines are sprouting up all around. I’ve heard that farmers are being approached to lease corners of their land for a wind farm near Arcadia, and last weekend I noticed that a solar field is being installed near Upper Sandusky.

Going green is very visual – or is it?

Bluffton is going green, but you’ll not see wind turbines out by the Emery Sears Athletic Complex, nor will you see solar panels attached to Neufeld Residence Hall. We’re changing light bulbs. Seriously.

Mustaq Ahmed ‘77, director of buildings and grounds, wrote in a note to all faculty/staff, “This project is part of our ongoing effort to be environmentally responsible at Bluffton University. We have taken a slightly different approach to joining the going green movement. We are slowly and methodically moving forward with our established objective of making simple, inexpensive adjustments that have big payoffs in the long run.”

A total of 83 fixtures and 166 lamps in Musselman Library have been replaced to provide more efficient and brighter lighting. It is estimated that this change alone will reduce energy consumption for lighting at the library by 40 percent, for an estimated annual savings of $3,200 a year.

Now that is impressive.

Then there is the ever-popular “Trayless Tuesdays” where there are no trays in Marbeck Center. This saves both on water and soap to wash used trays, and reduces food waste as people only take what they can carry. I’ve eaten in Marbeck on Trayless Tuesday. While it is a challenge to balance a plate, salad bowl, beverage and utensils, the concept is a good one. There are some universities who have removed trays completely.

And that isn’t all, B&G has, or is planning to, install
  • Low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators
  • Motion-sensor light switches
  • Thermostatic radiator valves, which keep rooms from overheating by regulating the heat coming out of radiators
  • Energy efficient windows
  • Small high efficiency boilers for heating
  • Insulation on exposed pipes
  • Using carpeting and flooring material with high recycled content

Bluffton has gone green. For in Mustaq’s words, “At B&G we believe the greenest energy is one that is not produced.”

Monday, May 17, 2010

Finding solutions

Guest blog by Rory Stauber

I serve as the community liaison for Bluffton’s community mediation program. A few years ago, Bluffton began offering 20-hour mediation training to interested individuals. We now provide mediation services to community organizations, juvenile courts and on-campus and have seen some dramatic results.

I recall a truancy mediation in which a middle-school boy had missed virtually the entire semester. The parents were not much help. The authorities were ready to send him to juvenile lock up.

During mediation with family members and his teacher, we traced the problem to a broken bicycle preventing him from making the distant bus stop on time. One family member volunteered to buy a replacement part; another said he could install the part; an aunt agreed to donate a lock for the bike; the teacher offered incentives for the student to attend class. The boy did not miss another day the rest of the semester. Hey, Mediation Works!

In fact, Mediation Works! is the name we have given to the public education component of our program. If you are the parents of more than one child, or you grew up with one or more siblings, you have already participated in mediation. What parent hasn’t mediated a dispute between siblings that begins with something like, “It isn’t fair that Sally gets to…..”?

We practice a type of mediation called “restorative” which is concerned with the needs and responsibilities of both victims and offenders, seeks to put right wrongs, and as much as is possible, to restore relationships.

Juvenile courts in Putnam and Allen counties are referring cases to our community mediation program, and we conduct mediations on campus and in the community including church and neighborhood disputes.

The community mediation program has conducted workshops and training for organizations including Lima Memorial Hospital, Lima Metropolitan Housing Agency and the Institute for Learning in Retirement at Bluffton University. If you are part of an organization that may be interested in a workshop in conflict and communication skills, let me know!

We lead low- and no-cost workshops for all kinds of groups, businesses and agencies considering the possibility of mediation. We also offer 20-hour mediation training for students, staff and community members.

For more information on trainings and workshops visit www.bluffton.edu/mediationworks or contact me at stauber@bluffton.edu.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Seeing the world in a whole new way

So the flurry of activity that surrounds graduation has come and gone. And as with most highly-anticipated events, it’s over in a blink of an eye then summer officially begins. Students move off campus, e-mail and phones become much quieter (leading to some withdrawal symptoms – “Hello, tap, tap, tap… it this thing working.”)

While offices may be quiet, May can be a very exciting time of self-discovery for Bluffton students. Three-week-long cross-cultural experiences are typically scheduled during May Term.

Guatemala homestay, 2009Way early this morning my husband and I took the group traveling to Guatemala to the airport. The first two weeks in Guatemala they will take Spanish language classes in the mornings and tour culturally-significant locations in the afternoons. The final week of their time there will be spent in home-stays.

It was fun listening to the group in my van chatter about their upcoming adventures, practicing their Spanish, some even trying to sing in Spanish. According to Twitter post by a student’s fiancĂ©, they safely arrived in Guatemala City Wednesday morning.

Israel experience, 2009The group traveling to Israel/Palestine didn’t have as a smooth a ride. We learned via Facebook posts that the group had a longer than expected layover in New York and Madrid thanks to volcanic ash, but they did eventually make it to their destination.

Other groups are scattering to New York City, England/Wales, Chicago, Columbia and Arizona for their cross-cultural experiences. Other short-term experiences in previous years have included New Orleans, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Appalachian Kentucky, Trinidad, Botswana, China and others.

What an amazing opportunity – to be "strongly encouraged" to leave your comfort zone, to see and acknowledge others’ situations and viewpoints. Many students come back with a renewed appreciation for home and a new lens with which to view the world.

Back in the ‘80s Dale Dickey took a group for a quarter touring “Shakespeare’s England,” visiting the Globe Theatre, etc., but I chose not to participate. In my opinion, a cross-cultural requirement which can be fulfilled by either a cross-cultural experience or by taking foreign language classes is a good thing. It removes the decision, should I leave my friends on campus for three weeks or take this journey of a lifetime?

So let me live vicariously through those of you who have taken a cross-cultural experience: what do you remember most? How did it change your view of the world?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Leaving Bluffton a better place

I remember meeting Jim Satterwhite, professor of history, for the first time. I was a reporter for the Courier at the time, sent to interview him for a story. His office had books piled floor to ceiling, making it seem more like a book-lined corridor with a paper-covered desk at one end, than an office.

I don’t recall as vividly meeting Willis Sommer, vice president for fiscal affairs, for the first time. I’m sure it was in class, as he taught accounting at the time and I started out as a business major.

Both Jim and Willis are officially retiring this year.

Jim was granted emeritus status at the 2010 Academic Awards Forum. He had taught at Bluffton from 1984 until health issues led him out of the classroom a few years back. His strength of putting his words into actions, such as spending his summers serving as a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron, Poland and other locations, endeared him to many.

The first annual Jim Satterwhite Award in Peace Scholarship and Activism was presented in 2009 by the Peace and Conflict Studies program to a graduating senior with a demonstrated commitment to peace scholarship and peace activism. (Kristen Shelly is the 2010 recipient.)

Willis joined the faculty in 1979. It’s been interesting getting to know Willis outside of the classroom - the “woohoo” when he announces a positive year-end balance; the random all-campus email drawing our attention to a beautiful tree in full bloom or an update to a construction or renovation project; the care and deliberateness he puts into financial decisions which he knows will effect fellow faculty and staff across campus.

In recent years, Willis has overseen many construction and renovation projects. In a piece written for the internal Community Connection newsletter, he reflected on the various projects:

When I am involved in new construction projects, I often personally rank them in relation to past projects. Since the three planned projects will be my last I offer the following list as project highlights during my tenure.

Most campus changing project-Centennial Hall: I still remember the excitement of moving faculty into their offices in July 2000. Can anyone now imagine our academic program without this building?

Most useful short-term project-North Complex: For four years, 1996-2000, this modular building provided four large classrooms and offices for EBA faculty and BCOMP staff.

Better than anticipated project-2003 Marbeck Addition and renovation of the former Barn area: I generally can visualize the final result when the first sketch is made, but not with the addition. The result was far nicer than I imagined.

Most meaningful project-Baseball memorial and field enhancements: I found it very meaningful to be part of the planning process for the memorial and to draw the first sketch for the baseball field improvements.

Most beneficial renovation-College Hall disability access addition: Besides providing accessibility, the addition will make College Hall more inviting and aesthetically pleasing.”

Willis will be recognized during a "Celebration of Service" banquet on May Day.
Willis and Jim, we are grateful for your steady and calm demeanors, for your laughter and for your undeniable positive influence on Bluffton University.