Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pure luck?

"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
- Thomas Jefferson

In just nine short days new students will be moving onto campus. Along with vans and U-Hauls of possessions, they will arrive with hopes and dreams.

At Bluffton, they will find many opportunities; opportunities to discover, to serve, to grow, to experience, to prepare for life and vocation. And the “lucky” ones will have amazing experiences outside of the classroom that will build their professional resumes.

Four such “lucky” music students will have the opportunity to make their debut in Steinway Hall in New York City on Oct. 21. (news story)

Did the music faculty put all their students’ name in a hat and draw our four random students for this experience? Of course not. These students made their own luck through a combination of natural talent and hard work.

Alumni are invited to Meet us in NY to show our appreciation to these students. The alumni relations office is planning a tour of the Steinway Factory to see a frame being bent for a grand piano. President Harder and his wife Karen will host a meal at Sardi’s. Plus there will be plenty of free time to take in a Broadway play or visit a NY gallery where a Bluffton art professor’s drawings are displayed.

Of course music students are not the only ones to make their own "luck.” Several students have taken advantage of this summer’s Ministry Inquiry Program to assist a pastor, others received a Summer Discovery Grant to carry out an individualized research experience, and still others have gained professional experience through summer internships.

During the school year, there are opportunities to serve as research assistants, tutors, office assistants. Granted, many of these jobs are filing, data entry… not overly exciting. However, the assistants who show ability, trustworthiness, initiative, may be "lucky" enough to receive more interesting projects.

So a word of advice to new students - get involved, work hard, be prepared to take advantage of opportunities if/when they are made available to you. In a nutshell - make your own "luck." And remember: Hard work beats talent when talent won’t work hard.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Encouraging excellence

When Yoder Recital Hall was being built in the mid 1990s it was my job to take construction photos. So every week I’d take my trusty camera and hard hat – yes my very own hard hat in order to enter construction zones – and make my way to the west side of campus to take photos of what was new.

One day when it was nearing its completion, I remember walking in and catching my breath. It was so elegant- so simply, beautifully, classically elegant. Stunning.

In the nine years since its opening, Yoder Recital Hall continues to be well used. It is the site for student recitals, faculty performances, chapel services, May Day performances and, several times a year, the venue for professional artists brought to campus through the Artist Series.

Regional, national and internationally-known soloists, ensembles, dance and theatre troupes and others have performed through the Bluffton Artist Series for more than 80 years. The goal is to bring a wide variety of world-class performers to campus each year and to provide something of interest to everyone.

This year’s Artist Series is no different; there’s an award-winning piano soloist, brass ensemble, percussion group, boys choir and the Massenkoff Russian Folk Festival which combines a vocal soloist, an ensemble of Russian folk instruments and Russian folk ballet. Intriguing.

I think it’s appropriate that before the professionals take to the stage, the 2010-11 music schedule begins with a senior recital. After all, it’s all about the students, preparing them for life, encouraging them to stretch their wings, giving them a glimpse of what might be.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Several years ago Bluffton received a grant from the Lilly Endowment to promote the “theological exploration of vocation” or to put it in other words, to help students consider their vocational decisions as callings.

Typically when we think of callings, we think about the path into the ministry. Pathways helped us consider that some are called to vocations in education, in wellness professions, in the sciences, fine arts, mathematics, etc… Students, faculty and staff were encouraged to discover that place where “our great love meets the world’s great needs.” (Palmer)

Several programs were introduced and/or strengthened through Bluffton’s “Pathways to Mission and Vocation” also known as simply as Pathways. We celebrate the opportunities provided and seek stories of how the program helped students and graduates look at vocational decisions in a new way.

Students were given the chance to apply for grants to explore vocation during the summer. Several students received Summer Dreaming Grants to experience new vocational possibilities. This program will continue as Summer Discovery Grants with funds from the Karl V. Schultz Endowment.

For students considering a pastoral call to ministry, Pathways supported the Pathways to Ministry Scholars program which provided social support and scholarships. Several students, faculty, staff and community members received 20-hour mediation training and Bluffton formed the first student Damascus Road committee.

Pathways monies were used to bring national figures to campus as special Forum speakers including Jim Wallis, Sojourners magazine editor-in-chief; Robin Wright, former Washington Post foreign correspondent; Cornell West, civil rights activist; and Alan Page, state supreme court judge and former NFL great.

Special guest speakers were brought onto campus as Pathways Scholars-in-Residence and as guests for specific departments. The Civic Engagement Themes of the past three years were supported by Pathways as were three major conferences planned and held on campus (Women in Ministry, Mennonite Writers and Beyond Borders.)

These opportunities and many more were provided by Pathways. Now the question is – how did Pathways help you discover your call? That’s where you come in. We are looking for feedback from you. What did you experience? How did it shape your future? Would you recommend the experience to others?