Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Counting our blessings

2010 Bluffton University public relations team
It may be a bit cliché, but in this time of year when the to-do-list explodes way past manageable, nerves fray and time becomes a precious commodity, this year I’m going to make a conscious effort to keep the holidays in perspective. My first step will be to count my blessings.

In that vein, I’ve asked my colleagues to name their blessings, resulting in the following.

Top 10 Things We in the PR House are Thankful For

10. To have our offices in a comfortable, warm house with windows letting in the beautiful sunshine. (Scott Borgelt, writer)

9. The excitement, school spirit and good will J. Denny Beaver has created, leading to his opportunity to be in Bluffton’s Blaze of Lights Parade on Saturday. (Robin Bowlus, PR director)

8. All of our Facebook, Twitter and blog friends. You have no idea how good it makes me when you “like” my posts, and when you make a comment… oh happy day. (me)

7. My friends! They're always there when I need them and know how to put a smile on my face when I need it the most. (Megan DeNoi, student assistant)

6. We're thankful for a fun staff that works well together! :) (Stephanie Finn, student writer)

5. Coworkers and supervisors who embrace my less-than-perfect self while challenging me to excel. (Julie Hadding, communication coordinator, although I think we can all relate to that)

4. A family-friendly work environment. Whether you are torn between work and toddler issues, aging parent issues or something in-between, there is flexibility, support and understanding.

3. Meaningful work. We’re not just making wigits. We’re sharing exciting news about a great place in order to attract prospective students and keep our alumni connected to their alma mater.

2. Our student workers – Maria Langenkamp, Megan Yoder, Megan DeNoi, Cody Litwiller, Ariel Shuey, Stephanie Finn, Brittany Fry and Jordan Childress. We could not do what we do without you.

1. Cookies. Last week we received a giant decorated cookie from the mom of one of “our” students. She just wanted to say thanks for taking care of her kid. What an unexpected blessing. But really, thank you. Thank you for sharing your students with us. We are so honored to be part of their life, to watch them grow from unsure first-year students to capable, confident young adults.

Now it is your turn to create your very own Top 10 Blessings list. You’ll be surprised how this exercise helps start the holidays on a positive note.

So from our house to yours, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Exploring poverty

Zeke Tracy works on his drawing project
Guest post by Phil Sugden, assistant professor of art

This year, the committee promoting the civic engagement theme will use select digital technology avenues to encourage discussion around the topic of “Living With Enough: Responding to Global Poverty.” Two of these venues are a Facebook page and a Twitter account.
Our hope is to engage the community on Bluffton’s campus and the extended campus community, including alumni, parents, friends and others, as we all struggle with this question of global poverty.

Feel free to join these conversations and visit the university civic engagement site for more news.

We are also working closely with departments to encourage students to more deeply explore this issue through class assignments. For instance, the art department is getting a little more creative with its final drawing and painting assignments. The final project for the Drawing 204 class will be “The Landscape of Poverty: A Conceptual Drawing.” In a conceptual drawing, the idea of the work takes precedence over the actual design of the piece. These drawings will question and explore poverty, the nature of poverty or the cause of poverty from a personal point of view.

Completed works will be hung in Marbeck Center in April and then will be on exhibit in Findlay’s Coffee Amici next summer.

You too can get involved! Submissions for “The Landscape of Poverty” art show in Marbeck and Coffee Amici are open to the public. For more information, contact professor Phil Sugden on Facebook, Twitter or via email at

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Living with Enough

What does it mean to live with enough? How much is enough?

The Bluffton campus community is exploring the issue of poverty through the fourth annual Civic Engagement Theme. Guest speakers, class discussions and assignments, and student life activities planned throughout the academic year encourage us to wrestle with various important civic questions.

This year’s theme is “Living with Enough: Responding to Global Poverty.” Topics chosen for previous themes have been environmental stewardship, security and immigration.

Yesterday Scott Sundberg, Mennonite Disaster Service director of communications, spoke at Forum about how disasters impact people on the margins more so than those in the ‘center.’ He spoke primarily about those affected by Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans/Gulf region.

While his presentation was thought provoking, one idea in particular grabbed me – he spoke of the “desperation of people in the margins” and then defined people in the margins as the poor, the marginalized, the minority, the sick, the elderly. The elderly? Desperate?

When you think about it, that explains so much about the actions and decisions of our loved ones as they age. At one time they were in the ‘center’- active, productive, self-sufficient, leaders in the community, church and family, doers not receivers. Then, through no fault of their own, they find themselves on the margins; unable to care for themselves due to mental or physical limitations, no longer helping others but needing help themselves. That transition is bound to create a sense of desperation.

While Scott’s focus was more on supporting the poor and disenfranchised, what he had to say is so relevant for the elderly. The ‘center’ must reach out in love and respect, not with a sense of obligation or duty. We must listen. Take time to understand. Make time. Serve in love. Love.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Making memories in Ramseyer

Have you ever been in a place and wondered if the walls could talk what memories they would share?

For me, Ramseyer Auditorium is such a place. On a typical day it is a quiet, classic, dimly-lit place. In the weeks leading up to performance, it’s a place of much activity, music and laughter.

Some may remember this space just inside the College Hall east doors as Ramseyer Chapel. For others it is Ramseyer Theatre. Somewhere along the way it was renamed Ramseyer Auditorium. Several years ago it was renovated with the organ removed and new seats and lighting installed.

Just think of the many performances from this stage over the years…the comedies, dramas, tragedies, one-acts. Think of the audiences who were challenged to view life in a different way or perhaps given a respite from life’s challenges by these performances. Think of the many performers who stretched themselves to take on the roles of villains, heroes, senior citizens, children, dogs (as in Snoopy); those who stepped out of their comfort zone by just appearing on stage and others who experienced the first-time thrill of directing.

An actress I’m not. But my roommate was. This means I helped with several theatre productions. I appeared on stage twice – both times as part of a crowd. I may have had two lines in my entire collegiate theatre experience. Suffice it to say I did not find my calling in Ramseyer Theatre, but many good times were had while building set and serving as a stage hand.

Stepping into Ramseyer Auditorium this morning, the set has been transformed once again into a living room, complete with a “brick” exterior wall, a sofa, chair and a table decorated with glass figurines.

Ramseyer is ready for opening night of Tennessee Williams’ classic “The Glass Menagerie.” Tonight is the final dress rehearsal. While I don’t personally know of the memories created while building this set, reading through this script, blocking and rehearsing, I’m sure if the walls could talk, it would have stories to tell.