Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A year of building and beheading

J. Denny Beaver's "beheading," Feb. 2011
While things are a little quieter around here, I decided to archive the ‘coming event’ news releases from 2011, and in the process reviewed events from the past year on campus.

As we go through our day to day activities it’s so easy to move from one “big thing” to the next without acknowledging the totality of what’s being accomplished. So here is a reminder of “big Bluffton stories” from 2011.

Disclaimer: the following is my opinion only and listed in no particular order.
Blended Voices: Music and Worship in the Gospel Tradition
The inaugural Blended Voices event set a high standard for the next workshop, tentatively set for 2013.
More than 200 'Blended Voices' to sing gospel
African-American sacred music in most music's lineage

Fulbright award
Dr. Perry Bush leaves next month to teach on the intersection of politics, economics, religion and culture in 20th-century America.
Fulbright award taking Bush to Ukraine

NCATE reaccreditation
Bluffton received the highest rating for modeling professional practices in teaching and service, and for its leadership and authority, facilities and resources, including technology.
Bluffton's teacher education program reaccredited

The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center 25th
Dr. Libby Hostetler had a vision of children learning about peace, justice, cultural understanding and nonviolent responses to conflict by interacting with literature and the arts.
Lima News feature - The Courier feature
Peacemaking: A labor of time, patience, creativity

Health and Fitness Education Center
Construction of a Health and Fitness Education Center is underway. This building is part of the Extending Our Reach campaign.
Bluffton breaks ground for Health and Fitness Education Center
Construction webcam

Chapter of excellence for service
Bluffton’s Ohio Collegiate Music Education Association is one of only three in the country honored as a chapter of excellence by The National Association for Music Education.
Bluffton's future music teachers give, serve

Public health major
A major in public health is now offered to help meet society’s increasing need for health care and social services professionals. Even though this was announced in 2010, it actually happened in 2011 so I’m including it here.
Bluffton adding public health to academic offerings

Women’s soccer
Several Bluffton athletics teams enjoyed success in 2011. But, a special shout out goes to the women’s soccer team that reached multiple milestones, including a first ever trip to the HCAC post-season tourney; most victories in a season; and a 523:31 shutout streak.
Bluffton takes down #1 seed Earlham in HCAC semifinals

Living with enough
The Civic Engagement Theme for 2010-11 focused on “Living with Enough: Responding to Global Poverty.” Among the speakers and events highlighting this topic was the author of “Dead Man Walking.”
‘Dead Man Walking' author learned from victims' families
Bluffton magazine: Living with Enough

U.S. News & World Report
Bluffton has been included in this ranking for 14 consecutive years.
Bluffton in top tier of Midwest 'Regional Colleges': U.S. News & World Report

Out of curiosity, I researched the top 10 visited news releases as reported by our web analytics system. (Sports stories were not included in this search.) Here are the news stories you have deemed the most interesting in 2011:

10. Disability awareness program coming to Bluffton
9. More than 200 ‘blended voices’ to sing gospel
8. Bluffton to stage 'The Castle of Otranto'
7. Put 'O.R.R.S' in 'Water of Humanity,' Bluffton graduates urged
6. Fulbright award taking Bush to Ukraine
5. Who's the Beaver? Bluffton mascot revealed
4. Second senior art exhibit to open at Bluffton
3. Play to premiere at Bluffton
2. May Day court named
1. Two standouts named Bluffton's top senior female athletes

While no year is without its challenges, 2011 has been a good year on campus. You have made all this possible with your gifts of time, talent and treasure. Thank you. And here's hoping we all have a happy and safe 2012.

FYI - New and increased gifts to the Bluffton Fund are now being doubled by the Trustees' Challenge.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Gotta love social media

Fall semester 2011 is officially complete. From the student’s viewpoint anyway, I just got off the phone with a professor who is “buried in blue books.”

As staff, I’ve often relived finals week through our student assistants’ eyes - the stress, cramming, projects, deadlines… This year I’ve enjoyed a new vantage point to observe student reactions to finals week.

Let’s just say I have a new appreciation for Twitter and HootSuite, although I do feel a bit like a stalker as the voice behind @blufftonAlumni.
Phonics is about to be a tough one

I found my mommy a Bluffton University Mom sweatshirt for Christmas :)

No internet at college! its like the 80s at bluffton university

Done! Clinical practice is officially over & I am ready 2 start Christmas break. Now 2 try & recover from last night.

One more final to give...then a whole lot of grading! #cantwait.


Bluffton University is already less bright :( @MizzBeliever has left to go home. I love you soo much sweetie! have a safe trip

Off to Cleveland I go peace btown

My mom told me to go back already love her

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas on campus…

Photo posted by Allison Trent on
J. Denny Beaver's Facebook page

Ever sit in a darkened room next to a newly-decorated Christmas tree, tiny lights twinkling, Christmas music playing softly, just being in the moment and letting your mind wonder where it may?

If you’re anything like me, your mind goes to Christmases past. For some reason this year I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmases on campus back in the ‘80s. Suspect student experiences haven’t changed all that much over the years.
  • There’s the party my roomie and I hosted the first day back from Thanksgiving break. It was envisioned to be a somewhat nicer event, hors devours, soft music. We just didn’t communicate well enough to our guests that this was a dress-up event. We still had fun, we in our nice clothes and the guys in t-shirts and jeans.
  • Then there was the four-foot artificial Christmas tree purchased for said party. That was actually a six-foot tree in a mismarked box.
  • Secret Santas
  • Roast beef carved by members of the President’s cabinet for the special Marbeck Christmas dinner.
  • Wrapping our door.
  • The Amy Grant Christmas tape blaring from our RAs room, and all of Third Addition singing along.
  • Christmas Formal.
  • The big Christmas tree in Marbeck Kiva.
 Ahhh. Good. Times.

As our students wrap up fall semester, here’s hoping they make a little time to enjoy the holidays with friends on campus. It’s the stuff of memories for years to come.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's about that time

Guest post by Jacqui Slinger
Director of academic development services

It’s hard to believe that final exams are only one week of classes, one Forum, one Chapel and one Handel’s Messiah away.

It is time now to kick it into “Beaver gear” by being hardworking and industrious while preparing for those exams.

The first step is to find the right place to study. For most students that means some place outside of your residence hall room, at least for part of the time. The library provides a quiet place to study—find your own nook to call your own.

The Learning Resource Center allows you to go someplace quiet with other people who have the same goal. Tutors are available to assist with most general education classes and study groups allow you to bounce ideas off of others who are taking the same course. The Technology Center is the place to go to complete assignments that require computer assistance. Visit the Writing Center for expertise in the writing process. Each of these places offers excellent service and specific knowledge.

Then for the next two weeks, carry study material with you wherever you go. You never know when you will have time to study. Create flashcards of key terms to flip through while waiting for a meeting to begin, turn textbook chapter headings into questions and quiz a classmate at lunch, record a complicated chapter of a textbook on tape and play it before you go to sleep at night, etc. (I’ve got a million more ideas from where these came from... )

Just as important is to make time to for stress relief. A favorite is the annual Finals Breakfast to be held this year on Dec. 13 beginning at 10 p.m. in Marbeck Commons.

A fun, festive atmosphere is created by Marbeck Center Board during which faculty and staff serve good food while wearing our silliest holiday sweaters. Contests, singing and more makes the night a good time to forget the stress for a short time and to let you, our students, know that you are cared for and that we wish you well both in your exams and during the holiday season.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In all things give thanks

“I’m thankful for the past, because the past is why I’m here today.”

Not exactly what I expected to be written when people were given the opportunity to anonymously express thanks on the PR conference room white board. Thanksgiving break, home cooking, family, health; these would not have surprised me. But “I’m thankful for the past?”

Maybe it wasn’t intended, but I read into that statement gratefulness for all the good and the bad; the heartbreak and the joy. It takes a very strong person to be thankful for all that is past, and to acknowledge its role in shaping who we are today as individuals, as families, as institutions and as a country.

And depending on the past, some may never get to this place. Acceptance – OK. But thankfulness? That can be a stretch.

So to whoever wrote this statement, for whatever past you are referring to, I’m thankful for the you that you are today. Consider yourself hugged.

I’m also thankful that the rest of the posts were, while for the most part thoughtful, a bit less deep.

We can all be thankful for the long weekend, for indoor plumbing (curious about the story behind that one!), for nice people and for all of our student workers, including Ariel Shuey.

From all of us at Bluffton, Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 14, 2011

On a sugar high

Every year the email comes around recruiting judges for the Fundamentals in Food Preparation cake contest. Every year I’m tempted. And most years - well every year until now - I’ve resisted.

Thinking it would be fun to write about in this blog, I volunteered. But while walking over to Berky Hall on cold, windy Thursday afternoon, I was already regretting the number of calories I was about to consume.

The task seemed simple enough. Six judges were divided into two groups. Group A tasted the cakes in group A, and nominated three semi-finalists. Group B judges did the same with the group B cakes. Then Academic Dean Sally Weaver Sommer and Associate Dean Lamar Nisly selected the winners.

The first task was to judge on appearance. We have very creative students, there was a pumpkin cake made to look like a pumpkin, complete with a green “stem”; a cake wrapped in fondant; a cake surrounded by KitKats and topped with M&Ms to look like a candy dish.

Now do they compete with the Food Network’s Ace of Cakes? Not so much, but for some of these students this was their first attempt at decorating a cake. They all looked good. But a judge judges, so I scored the group A cakes on appearance. There, that wasn’t too tough.

But then came the hard part. Judging on flavor and on palatability - or as the directions said “mouth-feel.” This is when I realized that I was such a newbie. Long-time judge Steve Rodabaugh is rolling the cake around in his mouth, analyzing, debating. Another long-time judge Darryl Nester has his own system, analyzing the tastes, jotting notes on the score sheet, very methodical.

Me? I went with first impressions. Can I justify the scores given? Does “that was yummy” count? I’d never make it as a judge on Chopped.
The Bluffton University Nutrition Association will serve cake at Friday night's "Fill the CUP" spaghetti dinner.
Katie the student photographer is taking photos, drooling over the cakes and looking over my shoulder. As I tally the scores, she whispers, that chocolate cake was made by a soccer player. Call me relieved that I had scored it in my personal top three! In the end it wasn’t chosen as a semi-finalist because of appearance. But heck it was probably the first cake he had ever decorated. Not a bad start.

Jealous yet? Hungry for cake?

You are in luck. The Bluffton University Nutrition Association will be serving cake at its annual Fill the CUP spaghetti dinner Friday night. Come to the Bluffton First Mennonite Church, 5-7 p.m., for a donation-only meal. You are invited to contribute cash or canned goods for the Lima-based Churches United Food Pantry.

And enjoy cake made by Bluffton’s students.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Health and Fitness Education Center entry level
Many people are watching the progress of the Health and Fitness Education Center with great interest. In the past month there have been more than 2,000 visitors to the live construction webcam (500 alone from on campus.)

“So, when I look at the live construction, what am I seeing?” Funny you should ask.

The steel support beams are along the north and west walls of the performance arena, i.e. the gym. The wall angling off the west arena wall is the north edge of the multi-purpose facilities; walkways, multi-purpose rooms, Hall of Fame area, concession area, rest rooms, etc.

The weights and fitness center, for use by all students, will be located on the Marbeck (south) side of the building.

According to Kevin Nickel, vice president for fiscal affairs, the project is on schedule. He also provided a few fun facts…

“There will be about 500,000 lbs of steel in the building. The vertical support columns are about 7,000 lbs each. The trusses are 25,000 lbs each. About 1,100 yards of concrete have been poured to form the walls. The elevator shaft now stands at 34 feet and will be completed once the third floor is poured.”
There are probably few groups watching the construction with greater anticipation than the men’s and women’s basketball coaches and student-athletes. From the beginning the hope has been that the building would be open for the 2012-13 basketball seasons.

MCB (Marbeck Center Board) will kick off the 2011-12 basketball season with their annual Midnight Madness festivities Sunday at 10 p.m. with contests, faculty/staff vs. students game, refreshments and, of course, an appearance by J. Denny Beaver.

Not that we’re looking past the final weekend of fall sports of course, as the football team travels to Defiance and cross-country competes in NCAA regionals at Oberlin.

Go Beavers!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Synergistic effect: the combining of two things which creates a new thing that is greater than the sum of its parts.

That is what I am expecting to experience next week when the music department and campus ministries join forces for Fall Spiritual Life Week (SLW), “Finding Your Voice,” and a music event “Blended Voices: Music and Worship in the Gospel Tradition.”

Speaker/vocalist and assistant professor of music Crystal Sellers will kick off SLW Sunday night, followed by a week’s worth of special events with special guest Dr. Raymond Wise.

By the weekend, SLW will morph into a music conference. Dr. Wise will continue as guest presenter for a day of workshops, concluding with a combined Gospel choir concert Saturday night. (6 p.m., Founders, free and open to the public. #shamelessPlug)

Because of this collaboration, there have been more people planning for the week. More people vested in its outcome. More people involved. It’s going to be great.

The guiding verse for SLW is Ephesians 5:19b-20:

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)
Maybe I can add to this synergy in some small way. While I expect SLW focus will be on “sing and make music” in the guiding verse, I’m drawn to “always giving thanks.”

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a blog post about a “100 Days of Gratitude” experiment where each day the author posted things for which he was thankful, knowing that we typically find that which we seek. "Simply put, the higher your level of gratitude the happier you are in life. The happier you are in life the more things you have to be grateful for. It’s a self-perpetuating energy." 

Knowing I could stand to better my attitude, I started my own 75 Days of Thankfulness. (At that point it was 75 days until New Years.) Earlier this week a high school classmate decided to make thankfulness posts through Thanksgiving. When I shared that with a student in my office, she decided to also express thanks via Facebook this month, and at least one of her friends is doing the same.

You are welcome to join us. Take some time to day to find your voice, blend your voice with those around you and give thanks.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Great Time to be a Beaver

Guest post by Katie Steenrod ‘14
 The cheering of fans and a broadcaster’s announcement (“TOUCHDOWN!”) drew me out of my somewhat productive homework session in Hirschy to the stands of the football game Saturday as our Bluffton Beavers handled the Rose Hulman Fightin’ Engineers.

The win marked the fourth straight for the Beavers, making them 4-2 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. With only two matches remaining, the Beavers are guaranteed to finish at least at .500, if not better. The last time our football team made such a finish was 2004.

But the football team isn’t the only team giving J. Denny something to cheer about. Beaver volleyball sits at 5-2 in the HCAC with only Defiance and Franklin left to play. They hope to make the conference tournament for the fourth straight year.

Seniors Courtney Zimmerman, Jenna Eshleman, and Nicole Wood have had celebratory seasons, especially Jenna and Nicole, who each celebrated 1,000 career kills. Jenna was twice named HCAC player of the week in September.

Arguably most exciting for the Bluffton community is the success of the women’s soccer team. (Although being a member of the team may make me biased!) Currently at 9-3-2 (4-2-1 HCAC), the team has guaranteed a winning record for the first time in Bluffton women’s soccer history. Goalkeeper Maggie Armstrong has posted eight shutout games, including 11 consecutive shutout halves, which is also a team record.

Currently, the team is in fourth place in the HCAC, but will likely have to win both of its remaining games to make the post-season tournament. A trip to the tournament would be the first by the women’s soccer team in school history. The team has also earned its first ever National Team Academic Award.

So while the seasons are winding down, we are both energized and exhausted. Relieved and disappointed. The end of a great fall season marks the end of the careers of our beloved seniors and the beginning of an offseason to prepare to once again compete at a high level next season.

What a great time to be a Bluffton Beaver!

Check out the latest in fall athletics action.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A single step…

Many people talk about wanting to “get healthy.” What exactly does it mean to “get healthy”? Gain strength? Lose weight? Increase energy? Decrease medications?

For many of us it’s yes, yes, yes and yes. So what steps are we willing to take to reach these goals; goals that may feel completely out of reach?

A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.
Chinese proverb

Senior accounting major Andy Chaffee is hoping to inspire those around him to take that initial step toward a healthier lifestyle. Last summer he met with alumni relations director Julia Szabo with a proposal. He signed up to compete in the 2012 Ironman Lake Placid and is hoping to inspire others to fitness and to philanthropy as he builds a support team for himself. As he told members of the President’s Society at their annual banquet…
"In all of my research, I have found that the most important thing I will need in order to complete the event is a support team. It can get fairly boring and monotonous just going out for runs, or bike rides or doing what seems like endless amounts of laps in the swimming pool by yourself. But knowing that you have a group of people invested in knowing how you are progressing through this process can completely make those feelings disappear."
So we decided on a two separate challenges. First, the greater Bluffton community has been challenged to Get Moving. During 36 weeks of intense training, Andy will cover at least 3,240 miles running, biking and swimming. As a group, the rest of us are challenged to increase our activity by 3,240 half-hour sessions. We’re getting a head start. Our increased activity counts now, Andy’s doesn’t start until Nov. 14.

And he’s starting to taunt us, tweeting last night “Only 4 weeks until training starts! Challengers better take advantage of the head start! #BlufftonTeamAndy #superpumped”

The second challenge looks to use cash as a motivator, not for Andy, but as gifts toward the Health and Fitness Education Center. We’re looking for at least 36 people to sponsor Andy for one week of his training, by donating $1 for every mile he trains for the week.

Are you ready to accept the throw down? Join either or both challenges, and check out progress at www.bluffton.edu/teamandy

To get through the hardest journey
we need take only one step at a time,
but we must keep on stepping.

Chinese proverb

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Indian Summer

This past stretch of weather has been absolutely beautiful. Shirt-sleeves, sunshine, cool breezes and mid-October. Don’t you just love Indian Summer?

Anybody who has been on Bluffton’s campus can attest to the beauty of this place in any season. But this autumn has been stellar. Some years the leaves just turn brown and fall, but this year we’ve had reds, golds, greens and every shade in between.

I’ve had photographers tell me in the past they struggle taking fall photos in Ohio because the sky “looks like mud.” Not this past week. For the most part the sky has been a brilliant, cloud-free blue.

We turned our student photographer Katie Steenrod loose Friday afternoon. She had one directive, “Go take fun, fall photos.” Not sure if she had more fun taking the creative shots, or donning the hard hat and taking close-up construction photos.

Walking across campus just now, I noticed the intramural staff has the Tennis Ball Golf stakes out. It is perfect weather for TBG. Expect that as students return from fall break tonight, people will have to watch out for flying tennis balls.

I passed a professor who wondered aloud, “What are we doing inside on a day like this?”

Which leaves me with one question. Is it possible to have spring fever in October?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Blending voices

Dr. Crystal Sellers
Guest post by
Dr. Crystal Sellers
assistant professor of music

Gospel music has always been a huge influence on my life path so it seems natural for me to always want to be involved in some way in performing or learning more about the style.

Growing up I sang with my father, brother and sister at our church and other events and it deeply influenced my desire to study music. During my undergraduate studies I sang in the gospel choir and it helped me create bonds with friends that I still have to this day.

So there was no apprehension for me to start the gospel choir when asked by members of the university administration as well as the music department. It was an opportunity for me to share a part of what makes me who I am, as well as provide students, faculty and staff the opportunity to connect in the same way that my undergrad gospel choir did for me. So with great pride I conduct the Bluffton University Gospel Choir in our weekly rehearsals and concerts each semester.

Due to the success of this new musical group and the profound support from the university and community, it is my pleasure to tell you about a new and exciting program that is coming to Bluffton University campus Nov. 6-12, 2011. The event, in conjunction with Spiritual Life Week, is Blended Voices: Music and Worship in the Gospel Tradition, a weeklong celebration of all things gospel music. It will feature Dr. Raymond Wise, prolific gospel historian, composer, clinician and minister, who will present in Forum as well as during the chapel service.

Dr. Wise will also work with a 200-voice choir that will perform at a concert on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. in Founders Hall. This choir is composed of university students, faculty and staff as well as community members from Findlay, Lima and Bluffton. The members of this choir are from churches that were invited to participate in this event. Each choir will perform on their own as well as with the larger group in hopes of “blending voices” together that have never been together and may never be again.

This week also provides an opportunity for people to participate just to learn more about gospel music. There are opportunities for all to attend workshops and even to participate in the choir. It is a great way to be introduced to singing in a style that so many love but may have not been able to perform in for various reasons. 

It is my hope that you will attend all or some part of this event. It will be a wonderful way to blend your voice with the voices of others to bless God’s universal kingdom!

More about the Blended Voices: Music and Worship in the Gospel Tradition >>>

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Get out and connect!

We’re fortunate enough to have a furnished kitchen in the PR House. With a fridge and microwave in the office, we don’t have to even leave the house for lunch. It’s great, as far as time and financial management goes. As far as connecting with “the other side of campus,” not so much.

Then a very terrible/fortunate thing happened. The microwave died.

While we have been going over to The Commons for lunch a couple times a month -this week however, we’ve made the trek more often. Luckily for us, it’s Homecoming week.

It’s been fun to watch Homecoming week student activities during lunch. The video game Rock Band was set up on the big screen on Monday. Today students were painting shirts in preparation for tonight’s Blacklight Dodgeball.

The J. Denny Beaver bobblehead figurine made its debut Tuesday noon, introduced with a special video by senior art major Todd Trotter. Judging by the number of bobblehead photos posted online, I’d say it’s a hit. A limited number of figurines are available for $10 each. It’ll be interesting to see if any are left to sell come game time on Saturday!

Speaking of Saturday. The latest weather report has the weekend as a beautiful, typical fall weekend; sunny, blue skies and highs in the upper 50s/lower 60s. Perfect. Not that all of Saturday’s events will be outside.

A series of special email invitations have been sent to alumni in the past couple weeks; invitations to the football brunch, the alumnae breakfast, softball and baseball reunion games. Additional events include The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center open house with special guest founder Libby Hostetler, an artist’s reception for alumnus Philip Sommer’s exhibition of architectural sculpture and a book signing by author Elizabeth Raid ’66.

Oh, and of course, there are home fall sports contests scheduled. The volleyball team will put their 10-7 record on the line as they take on Anderson Friday night and on Saturday the football team will play Earlham and the women’s tennis team will take on Franklin.

Just like lunch at Marbeck offers a prime opportunity for us to reconnect with colleagues, this weekend will be a great time to reconnect with classmates, teammates and others from your years at Bluffton.

Now if I could just make it out of The Commons without an ice cream cone, all would be good.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What a change two weeks makes

A little more than two weeks ago I was asked to take photos during first-year student move-in day - specifically photos of happy, smiling, excited students and their parents. Let me just say, that was not an easy assignment.

Now photos of anxious, nervous, overwhelmed, conflicted students and parents? That would have been an easy shot. Emily and her family did allow me to take a ‘before’ photo of her room on move in day. 

Let’s hear it for the good folks in student life who organize and energize Fall Welcome/Orientation activities. With picnics, floor meetings, silly games, welcome group sessions, trips to the “Whippy Dip,” line dancing on Main Street, Faculty & Staff Follies, and so much more, new students are encouraged to mingle, to get acclimated to their new surroundings, and to not hide in their rooms.

Don’t you just love the transformation in emotions shown in Emily's “before” photo and the “after” with her roommie? It doesn’t take long for Bluffton to become a “home-away-from-home.”

President Jim Harder spoke about student-led initiatives in his annual President’s Forum yesterday morning. He told about a Bluffton University Sustainability Commitment document presented by the 2010-11 Student Senate Sustainability Committee.

He said, “It is a comprehensive document, seeking to identify practical steps that we can take (and in some cases already are doing) to reduce, reuse and recycle material items. The sustainability commitment speaks to understanding the importance of reducing our energy consumption. It speaks to understanding the importance of reducing water usage, and of using recycled products. It asks Bluffton to work at making the long-term transition to cleaner energy… Today, I am announcing that I will sign this document, moving our existing campus commitment to environmental action to an even higher level. I want to thank our student leaders for their excellent work and for their challenge to become involved in environmental stewardship.”
(full President's Forum presentation text)

So Welcome New Students. Now that your room is situated and you’ve become comfortable making your way across campus, here is your challenge. Find your niche. Make a difference. Leave a positive mark on your new “home.”
Introducing new students to a Bluffton staple, The Whippy Dip!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First impressions

We all know that putting too much stock in a first impression is a mistake. Abe Lincoln is reported to have said “I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.”

I wonder what caused him to say “I don’t like that man?” Was it his dress, his hair? Too often good (and bad) first impressions are made by the way we present ourselves, by the clothes we choose to wear.

I get a kick out of watching fashion statements in the Commons at lunch: mostly jeans, sweatpants, tees, sweatshirts and flip flops year-round. It’s completely appropriate attire for a college student on campus, but not so much when venturing off campus for internships, clinical practice and field experiences.

Professional clothing drive

Support staff on campus, known as The Backbone, is organizing a professional clothing drive to help Bluffton students make a good first impression. Clothing will be collected Sept. 15-20 and then distributed at no charge to students who are in an internship, clinical practice or educational field experience.

What a great incentive to clean out closets! No longer worn office attire may be donated at Marbeck Information Desk, or during normal office hours to the Student Life Office in Riley Court. Faculty and staff were told that “It would be very helpful if clothing was clean and somewhat pressed.” Any clothing not chosen by the students will be donated to Et Cetera Shop.

It’s too bad all people are not like good ol’ Abe, willing to look past an unfavorable first impression. But the truth is: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Let’s do what we can to give Bluffton students what they need to make their first professional impression count.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What a beginning!

Ross Kauffman welcomes guest speaker Deo Niyizonkiza
 What a way to begin the academic year.

First, “Strength in What Remains” was assigned as required reading for all first-year students and student leaders. Then, the protagonist of the book, Deogratias Niyizonkiza - who escaped Burundi genocide with little more than his life, who landed in NYC knowing no English, who thanks to the kindness of strangers learned the language and earned degrees from Columbia and Harvard Universities, who returned to Burundi to serve his people - spoke during Opening Convocation.

He also spoke with first-year students during a Monday evening orientation event. Following which a student posted a link to the Village Health Center in Burundi on the university Facebook page with the comment:

“Thank you Deo for coming to talk to us!”
Founders Hall was filled for Opening Convocation. Along with faculty in academic regalia, first-year students, returning students and staff, many community members attended the presentation, including two couples from First Presbyterian church in Findlay. One of the men shared in the Faculty/Staff Lunch (paraphrased)
“We read ‘Strength in What Remains’ in Sunday School. We never imagined that we would have the opportunity to hear Deo speak in person. This has been an awesome experience."
The entire journey Deo shared was both horrifying and amazing, to see this soft-spoken individual say matter-of-factly “I have such a scar” after showing images of beaten and burnt survivors. He has and is now working with community members, governments and philanthropists to build a water tank, a health center, a community center and a road to provide access to all.

For too many of the examples he shared, an important “medical treatment” was to provide clean water to drink and nutritious food to eat. I cannot even get my mind around that concept.

Deb Simon-Heinfeld, aka @debBlufftonAGE, tweeted, “Vote for Deo (Bluffton University's Convocation Speaker) to win 10K for his work! GQ + The Gentlemen's Fund - Nominees http://t.co/4Br9dpk

This speaker appeared to touch hearts and minds in a special way to start off the new academic year. It’s going to be exciting to see what comes next.

News release

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

25 years of "Bibliotherapy"

Guest blog by Louise Matthews
Director, The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center of Bluffton University

I have always enjoyed children’s books, and even after my children were grown, I would visit the children’s sections of libraries and book stores. I didn’t want to miss any good books coming out for kids. When others would mention the good novels they were reading, I would mention the children’s books that I had recently discovered. It seems I never outgrew my love for picture books!

As director of The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center of Bluffton University, I am thrilled that my JOB includes reading and incorporating picture books into programs for audiences of all ages.

We are celebrating The Lion and Lamb’s
25th year of promoting peace.

Our collection at the center is constantly growing and currently includes more than 3,000 books that reflect peace and related themes of kindness and respect, cultural understanding, appreciating diversity, finding inner peace, care for environment, social issues, etc. The messages and application found in these books written for children are relevant for all of us.

I recently learned the word “bibliotherapy” which refers to the use of books and literature to address issues. This aptly describes an aspect of my work here at the center as I choose books to read during programs that lay a foundation for discussion and interaction on various topics. Though it is hard to limit my list of favorite books, the following titles are high on my list for programming:
  • bullying, Hey Little Ant by Phillip & Hannah Hoose
  • appreciating diversity, People by Peter Spiers
  • giving second chances, Chance to Shine by Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin
  • empathy, Don’t Laugh at Me by Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin
  • understanding grief and loss, Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen
  • value of everyone in spite of disabilities, Puppies for Sale by Dan Clark
For additional titles, visit the Directors Choice web page.

Visual art is another resource available here at The Lion and Lamb that reflects various themes of peace. We are in the process of creating a series of short video clips highlighting some of the artwork and sculptures found in the center and in the outdoor peace garden.

We will celebrate The Lion and Lamb’s 25th year of promoting peace during the 2011-12 school year.

Events scheduled include open house receptions on Sept. 21, World Peace Day, and Oct. 1 during Homecoming. Celebration of Peace: A Bridge Between Us, a children’s conference, is scheduled for Oct 21-22. On April 3, author Jane Kurtz will present the Forum address and several other sessions with children and students. The year will conclude with a 25th birthday party for The Lion and Lamb on May 5, 2012.

With the exception of the children's conference, these events are all free and open to the public. Come and celebrate with us. Or feel free to stop by The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center. Visitors are always welcome.


Thursday, August 18, 2011


Health and Fitness Education Center site preparation as of Aug. 18, 2011
Bluffton’s latest addition to the web has gained quite a following.

I’ve heard of people checking the progress on the Health and Fitness Education Center multiple times each day via the live webcam at www.bluffton.edu/hfec/. Others report watching the feed for a half hour at a time to determine how many truckloads of dirt are dumped every 30 minutes. Then there was the email filled with great anguish sent when the webcam link was moved off the home page.

It’s good to see that people are so excited about the new center that they are fascinated with dirt being moved. Kevin Nickel, VP for fiscal affairs, reports:
They are bringing in 18,000 cubic yards of fill dirt. That is about 1,300 truckloads. To date they have been working on site preparation. Local contractor, Don Snyder, has been doing the earthwork and site preparation work.
New water lines, electric lines and data lines have been extended to the new building site. Storm water lines are partially installed and should be completed in the next couple of weeks. The building pad is nearing the final elevation meaning the pouring of footers can begin in the next couple of weeks. New sidewalks have been poured between Marbeck and Founders/Burcky.
Currently we are ahead of schedule by a few days. That is subject to change depending on weather and any unexpected items that might arise.
It’s a good thing people are excited, because as with any major construction project there will be inconveniences, such as parking.

Parking is very limited in the three lots along Rosenberger Drive, between Elm Street and Burcky Gym. Signs are posted to guide you to the visitor parking when you visit campus. Just keep in mind, there will be more parking than before when the project is completed. It’s a short term inconvenience for a long term benefit.

Enjoy keeping tabs on the progress. The webcam now has its own tab at the lower left corner of Bluffton’s web, www.bluffton.edu/ or feel free to bookmark the actual page, www.bluffton.edu/hfec/

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Love those electives

Every year as I proof Bluffton’s course catalog I can’t help but to wax nostalgic. Reading over the course titles and descriptions my mind drifts back to when I sat in those classes, to the professors, to the classmates. I remember reading children’s books aloud in Oral Interp. Fond memories from Shakespeare, Statistics, Grammar, all come flooding back.

Focus. Must. Focus.

Then there are courses which are intriguing. Wouldn’t it be fun to take classes just for the pure joy of learning? No tests. No grades. Courses with no immediate purpose other than gaining knowledge - courses like Women’s History; Recreation & the Aging ProcessGender, Race and Communication; Ceramics, etc. etc.

Bluffton’s students are given the wonderful opportunity to take random classes not because they meet a gen ed or major requirement, but because they sound interesting. Love those electives. Electives can enrich your education, or might lead to your true calling. For instance I started out as a business major… but have enjoyed a career in communications for 25 years and counting.

For the last several years, the Institute for Learning in Retirement offered at Bluffton, has provided no test, no grade classes for senior citizens. For one low fee, seniors may take as many or as few classes each session as interests them. How cool is that? Classes range from art to nutrition, religion to history, and more.

Wouldn’t that be fun? But for now, I really must focus and get back to proofing the catalog!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Are you kidding me?

Fall orientation is just 31 days away. Basically one month until new students arrive. Student-athletes and residence life staff will be moving back onto campus before that. Really? What happened to the summer?

The cicadas started singing a couple weeks ago. Growing up we called them katydids and their song meant six weeks until frost. That’s just freaking ridiculous. Good thing no one is going to ask me to write a “what I did on my summer vacation” essay.

Now some of Bluffton’s students and recent graduates, they would have no trouble writing such an essay. Prestigious internships, Preparations for the 2012 IronMan, Weddings, and those are just the ones I know about.

Senior Meron Dibia was selected by the National Computational Science Institute as a Blue Waters Undergraduate Petascale intern. She spent two weeks training in high-performance computing at Illinois’ National Center for Supercomputing Applications then worked full-time this summer with Bluffton professor Steve Harnish on molecular dynamics simulations at the Ohio Supercomputer Center. She will continue her work in mathematical physics during the academic year, preparing a report to be published in the Journal of Computational Science Education in May 2012. Impressive.

Senior Andy Chaffee has competed in local triathlons this summer. Last weekend he and a few friends traveled to Lake Placid to the IronMan competition. Andy volunteered at an aid station during the race and was in line at 5 a.m. Sunday morning to sign up for next year’s race. One of Bluffton’s own will be competing in the 2012 IronMan in Lake Placid on July 22. Be watching for more about his adventure.

Speaking of adventure, four alumni from the PR student staff began the ultimate journey this summer with the words “I will.” Congratulations to newlyweds Drea (Ressler ‘09) and Chris Bauman ‘09, Sara (Richer ’10) and Corey Conn ‘09, Phil '09 and Shannon (Grieser ’11) Keeler, and Mike ’08 and Lindsey Koch.

So what have you done this summer?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Let'r Rip!

We really didn’t know what to expect. Would anybody come to a ground breaking celebration at 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morning in July?
It turns out that more than 200 people will stand in the mid-morning sun to celebrate the beginning of construction for Bluffton’s Health and Fitness Education Center.

Alumni traveled by foot, by car and by airplane; new faculty, emeritus faculty and current faculty made their way back to campus; summer student workers and staff took a break from their duties, all to be part of the celebration.
There was a definite buzz in the air as old friends and colleagues greeted one another. Balloons, music and water bottle give-aways all added to the festive atmosphere.
The excitement is justified. For just as Yoder Recital Hall, Centennial Hall and Neufeld Hall have brought Bluffton’s arts, academic and residential facilities in line with the best, this facility will do the same for fitness and athletics.

While this building will meet the needs for varsity athletes, all students have the opportunity to benefit from the 5,000 square foot fitness center with windows overlooking the Riley Creek plain. There will be separate areas for aerobic fitness and free weights, and a walking/jogging track.

Being built into the hillside next to the old softball field, the center will be the first building on campus to be LEED certified silver or better. It will be energy efficient and take advantage of natural lighting. A percentage of the construction material will be recycled and regionally produced, and construction waste will be recycled.

That's all well and good, but I’d guess the question on every student’s mind is “will I get to run/lift/play in the new Health and Fitness Education Center?”

Thomas & Marker Construction, the same company who built Yoder Hall, Centennial Hall and Bob’s Place, is ready to get started. Construction fences are up. Site preparation is underway. Now it depends on if/how the weather impacts construction. Ideally the center will be “under roof” this fall, allowing interior construction to continue throughout the winter months.

The hope is to open the Health and Fitness Education Center by late fall 2012. So juniors, cross your fingers that all goes as planned. Sophomores and first-year students, you should be golden.

As Tom Reichenbach, co-chair of the Extending Our Reach campaign which made this center possible told J. Denny Beaver right before the actual breaking of ground, “Here are the keys. There is the machine. Let’r Rip!”

Monday, June 27, 2011

Planning season

It is time to look ahead to the coming academic year. Graduation is long past. Graduation and dean’s list hometown releases have been sent. It typically feels like once we hit mid-July, we are on a slippery slope going into fall semester. Summer is pretty-much over.

Granted, it is only late June. We do have a couple weeks to prepare, to look up from our daily tasks to make sure we are headed in the right direction. As I began to think about this, the often used quote “Plan your work then work your plan” came to mind.

Wondering where this quote came from I turned to Google. (By the way, this quote is attributed to several different people.) While searching, I found many additional, appropriate quotes:

  • "Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan."
    Coach Tom Landry
  • "A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there."
    H. Stanley Judd
Those who know me know how frustrated I get by long drawn-out planning sessions; “discussing” ad nauseum minute details only to have the plan stuffed in a file cabinet not to see the light of day until it’s time to do the next year’s plan. I must remember:

  • "It's not the plan that is important, it's the planning."
    Graeme Edwards
That said, there are several new initiatives in the works that I’ve been privileged to be part of publicity planning this summer. Such as:
Thinking about a project is good. Writing down plans is even better. But working the plan- that, my friends, is best.

  • "Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”
    Peter F. Drucker
  • "No matter how carefully you plan your goals, they will never be more than pipe dreams unless you pursue them with gusto.”
    W. Clement Stone
  • "The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do."
    Sarah Ban Breathnach
I didn’t find a quote to support this final theory, but I will always embrace the concept of “Plan B.” When circumstances change, when the plan doesn’t work as expected, don’t be afraid to go another direction in order to meet the original goal. The goal is the most important part of the plan. The written action steps are just starting points.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Things we’ve learned from J. Denny Beaver

As you may have heard, J. Denny Beaver arrived on the Bluffton campus on June 23, 2010. In the past year we have learned much from our new mascot, such as…

Beavers live in lodges and build dams
It’s very important to know the difference.

One can be buff and lovable at the same time
'nough said.

Have an attitude of quiet confidence
Maybe it’s the muscles or the strut, but J. Denny definitely shows that he’s got it going on. But at the same time he’s everyone’s BFF.

Actions speak louder than words
Body language is the only language J. Denny has, yet he has no problems communicating what he’s feeling, whether that is excitement, friendship, curiosity, etc.

It’s hard to say no when everybody loves you
The response to J. Denny Beaver has been overwhelming. Everybody loves him. Everybody wants him at their event. We’ve created a J. Denny coloring page. There’s soon to be a J. Denny bobble-head (look for him at Homecoming on Oct. 1!)

It is both exhilarating and exhausting to be a Beaver
But the smiles and reactions of kids-of-all-ages make it worth it.

Say cheese!
J. Denny needs to plan extra time-a lot of extra time-when going anywhere because many people will stop him to give a high-five or take a photo.

It’s always a great day to be a Beaver
J. Denny Beaver has brought an excitement to campus that has been wonderful, albeit unexpected.

Thank you J. Denny Beaver, and have a Happy First Birthday!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Frustrated & irritable, touched & humbled

Guest blog by Kate Spike ’93, assistant professor of English
Kate served as the faculty advisor for the cross cultural experience to Botswana in May 2011

Our group, especially my daughter Molly, received an enthusiastic welcome from the village children upon our arrival in Pitseng.

It’s hard to believe that less than two weeks ago I was in Africa. In the days since my return, the shock of returning to what was always familiar has left me wondering if this adventure that consumed three weeks of May was just some kind of hyper-realistic dream.

Of course, physical reminders such as pottery from outside Gaborone, sand that refuses to be removed from my shoes, and 7 DVDs of collective pictures and videos assure me this was no fantasy. Likewise, intangible mementos --the Setswana songs still cycling through my head, the sense that the world is somehow smaller-- bear witness to the fact that this experience truly did take place and that I have been changed by what I have encountered.

Since our return on June 1, I have often been asked that impossible question: “What was it like?” I find my favorite response is to ask for an adjective and then tell them how it describes my time in Botswana. This trip is infinitely hard to describe and impossible to summarize in any meaningful way.

On the face of it, things are quite straightforward. I, along with the trip’s founder, Tim Lind, my soon-to-be-seven-year-old daughter, Molly, and 10 extraordinary Bluffton University students set off on May 10 bound for Pitseng, a Botswana village of about 1,000 people, to participate in a cultural and linguistic immersion that would last for two weeks. We were in home-stays for the duration of our time in the village, and while amenities such as electricity and indoor plumbing were in very short supply, none of us would lack for attention as our mere presence brought out our village families and neighbors -all eager to talk, shake hands or just exchange smiles with us.

Let me be clear, lest I over romanticize this experience: This was hard. Despite years abroad in various countries and contexts, these two weeks in the village asked things of me that I had not faced before. Most days were hot and the nights and mornings often very cold. The food was abundant but usually very different and not always appetizing (two words: sour porridge). Sleep was frequently punctuated by the sounds of donkeys, cows, and chickens.

Our morning class sessions provided us with enough language to start conversations that we had no means of finishing. We blundered along, making mistakes and miscommunicating, misunderstanding and being misunderstood. At times, each of us was frustrated, irritable, tired, confused and hungry.

And yet…we were also touched and humbled by the ways in which our host families opened their homes and hearts to us and by the way this tiny village has committed to partner with Bluffton University since 2007 to offer this very real window into the blessings and the challenges that make up their lives. Connecting with -laughing and singing and talking and working and serving and sharing with- the people of Pitseng is at the heart of what this richly rewarding cross-cultural experience is about.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Stand up and join the revolution

About a month ago I joined the campus-wide revolution; well actually it’s more like a mini movement.

Wasn’t sure how I’d really like it, so shortly after May Day I fashioned a temporary no-cost experiment. After a month I’m thinking the stand-up desk is going to become a permanent fixture in this office – sans the recycled shelving and stacked yearbooks. Although my roomie said the creative use of old Istas offered “a touch of whimsy and nostalgia.”

When I mentioned my experiment to Mom, whose day job used to require her to stand in one place all day long, she basically asked me if I was nuts.

I expect that we all have different reasons for at least partially ditching the office chair. For me, I was attracted by the idea of avoiding shoulder strain of being hunched over a keyboard all day. And as long as I make it a point to stand balanced on two feet, my back does feel much better at the end of the day.

The company selling stand-sit desks tells of the dangers of “sitting disease” on its web site - in graphic detail. So I looked it up on webMD. It’s true, increasing “non-exercise activity,” i.e. standing , is good for the heart. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity while encouraging movement, improving alertness and burning calories. (Do you have sitting disease – webMD.com)

Colleagues across campus have various forms of stand-up or stand-sit desks, and at least one has traded his office chair for an exercise ball. Josh Smith ’05 introduced campus to the stand-sit desk over a year ago. (read his blog) Now one person has a stand-sit desk that raises and lowers at the touch of a finger. Another has a $23 box store special just big enough to hold her keyboard with the monitor sitting on top of a filing cabinet, among other stand-up desk solutions.

This is just one more example of how making small changes can result in big differences. As we prepare for a year-long examination of public health on campus it will be curious to see if the stand-up desk does really become a campus-wide revolution.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It Is Easy being Green

"It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over'
Cause you're not standing out
Like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky"
(Relive your childhood: watch the video)

Being green has a much different connotation today than when Kermit the Frog promoted the color back in the '70’s.

Being green is now all the rage-and rightly so. Like the saying goes we do not inherit this earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children. So we’d better be taking care of it.

I’m proud to be affiliated with a university that has long been committed to sustainability practices. But not in ways that necessarily make a big splash. As Mustaq Ahmed, Bluffton’s director of buildings and grounds says, “We believe that the greenest electron is the one not generated.”

So Bluffton continually becomes more “green” by becoming more environmentally efficient.

Each year B&G takes steps to lessen Bluffton’s carbon footprint. Last year nearly 300 lighting fixtures were replaced and high efficiency lights and motion sensors installed in Musselman Library. The project was a cooperative venture between American Electric Power and Bluffton called GRIDSMART. The annual electric bill for lighting at the library dropped by $3,000 and energy consumption was reduced by about 35 percent.

The most visible “green” change in 2010-11 was that The Commons became a trayless facility, reducing food waste and water usage.

This year we are again participating in the GRIDSMART program in Sauder Visual Arts and Riley Court complex. Current lighting will be replaced with high efficiency light for an annual saving of approximately $6,000 a year.

Lamps that light our sidewalks on campus are being replaced in phases with LED lights that are brighter yet produce less light pollution and use 70 percent less energy than conventional bulbs.

In addition, the new Health and Fitness Education Center will be the first building on campus to be LEED certified silver or better.

As Kermit said,

"I am green, and it'll do fine
It's beautiful,
and I think it's what I want to be"

Monday, May 23, 2011

3-D glasses and Mozart

Over the years the Bluffton University Artist Series has brought memorable vocalists, instrumentalists, dancers and performers to Northwest Ohio. This season promises to build upon this tradition of excellence and variety.”

For years this paraphrased statement was included on the annual Artist Series brochure promoting the coming year’s attractions. Reality has lived up to this marketing and Northwest Ohio has taken notice. To the point where we no longer advertise individual performances in local media, because seats are typically sold out!

Before taking over web/social media responsibilities, I worked primarily with print projects. I always enjoyed working on the Artist Series brochure. We’d typically pick one of the performances to use as inspiration for the look of the brochure and program.

This year the inspiration would probably be The Four Freshmen of 1950’s fame, or maybe Mark Nizer 3D. Can you imagine a brochure with photo registration off just a bit, looking 3D-ish, with an image of cool cardboard glasses on the front? Wouldn’t that be fun?

The 2011-12 season will open in September with The Four Freshmen, a top vocal group from the ‘50’s with multiple hit singles. According to their website, The Four Freshmen “formed the bridge between '40s ensembles like Mel-Tones and harmony-based rock & roll bands such as the Beach Boys.” What a way to set the tone for 2011-12.

I’m impressed by the variety of artists typically attracted by this series. In addition to nostalgic and non-music performers, there are often performances with a cross-cultural/international feel (Chamber Orchestra Kremlin), piano, in conjunction with the Pearl Bogart Mann Memorial Piano Recital (Pridonoff Piano Duo) and a classic ensemble (Ohio State University Flute Troupe.)

You are invited to purchase your season tickets now! While in the past Artist Series tickets were not sold until late summer, this year season tickets are available early. Tickets for the individual performances will be available after Aug. 1.

Reserve your seats now while the best seats remain!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May Day, shepherding and the view from the long run

Guest blog by Steve Harnish, professor of mathematics

This year I ran the May Day 4-Mile Run with Sunny—our faithful family pet who is part German Shepherd. Her shepherding instincts really came through in the first three miles. I started near the back, not wanting to get in the way of other runners and planning to enjoy a leisurely jog. However, seeing all the ‘wayward sheep’ running ahead of us, Sunny sprinted to catch the next one, the next and the next…

Although she slowed some in the last mile, she resumed a fast clip in the final 100 yards, finishing just behind 2011 graduate and retiring Beaver soccer player, Brian Good. She eagerly lapped-up two bottled waters and wore with pride my second place medal for the 45-49 year olds.

This May Day run with Sunny helped me reflect on deeper meanings of that day and the shepherding motif behind much of what we do at Bluffton. No, the role of shepherd is not easy, and none of us do it perfectly. Still, as a professor there is no greater pride than to witness our students’ personal and academic growth over their four years at Bluffton.

I think of my two advisees graduating this year—Mary Good and Matt Weaver. Their leadership and mentoring skills make me proud (in a good, humble Mennonite kind of way) and thankful for the solid life-skills our students develop at Bluffton.

I think of them as shepherds in their local communities as evidenced by Mary’s teaching in the clinical practice classroom and volunteer tutoring at The Future Church in Lima, and Matt’s work as hall chaplain on campus and pastoral intern at his home congregation in Holmes County.

It’s tempting as faculty and staff to attribute that growth largely to our own guidance. Yet I know an important part of that learning and personal development comes from the students that we shepherd in turn becoming mentors to each other and to us faculty and staff. In working with a student on a research project, I love seeing how their own interests and learning can help steer the research into directions I could never have predicted. I definitely benefit from their input in the process.

Finally, this shepherding theme makes me think of other graduates I’ve seen in the past month—David Riddle ’10 and Ariel Kennell-Boehr ’06. I saw David on May Day. It was nice to catch-up on his experiences during his first year after graduation. I can tell that he enjoys his students at Grant County High School in Kentucky and that they are in good hands under his mentorship.

After several years teaching middle school mathematics in Leipsic, Ariel Kennell-Boehr is completing a two year master’s program in mathematics at Ohio University.

When Ariel returned to Bluffton to offer a guest lecture on bioinformatics at an April math seminar, her strong communication skills showed through. She stepped us through a lucid introduction to a very technical topic—the use of matrices to find matching gene sequences. Afterwards, Ariel and professor of biology Bob Antibus compared notes on the use of these algorithms in scientific research and Ariel made good connections with many of our upper-class math and biology majors who are considering research or graduate school after graduation.

I would venture that my neighbor Hans Houshower and his staff have one of the most rewarding jobs on campus. By interacting with alumni years after graduation, the big-picture view comes into better focus.

While at times each semester I can get bogged down by hundreds of homework assignments, quizzes, and tests to be marked and graded…the view from the long-run helps me remember what Bluffton is all about: Students, shepherded by caring and skilled staff and faculty, who in turn enrich our lives and “pay it forward” by becoming leaders in their professions and mentoring youth in their communities.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Standing Back

“You have to stand back in order to get close. it was only when my experience on this campus was put up against my post-Bluffton ‘life journey’ that I could really start to appreciate what I had learned here, what I had been given here, the people who cared about me here...”

Can I get an Amen?

Bluffton alumnus Dr. Robert Hewitt spoke these words in one of the most engaging commencement addresses in recent memory – in my humble opinion. (graduation news release)

He got an appreciative laugh from the graduates when he recalled his feelings upon his Bluffton graduation in 1969, “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty I’m free at last.”

How many of us can relate?

How ironic is it that 25 years ago I was so ready to leave Bluffton in the rear view, but six short years later I came back in a staff role? Not so sure that six years was enough time ‘standing back’ to allow me to ‘get close.’ To be honest, at the time it was more of a career decision.

From my experience, upon entering any new long-term “relationship” - whether it be marriage, a new job, going to college, whatever - at first we enjoy the blissful honeymoon stage. Sure, nobody or no place is perfect. But at first we choose to only see the good. And it is so good.

In time, the imperfections become visible. And sometimes we become so focused on those imperfections that we no longer see any good. We might even begin to question whether we made a terrible mistake.

But in Dr. Hewitt’s words, “You have to stand back in order to get close.” Don’t ask me for a defining moment, but in time I have come to a point where I can look at my years as a Bluffton student and acknowledge both the good and not-so-good, thus gaining a more complete appreciation for this institution.

It takes a day like May Day to bring that appreciation into focus. It’s strolling across campus while visiting with classmates, climbing to the top of College Hall while sharing stories about professors, talking about challenging courses which opened our minds to new ideas.

If you didn’t make it back to campus for May Day last weekend, there are several opportunities to gather with fellow alumni in the next few months. Get in touch with your friends and together renew your “relationship” with your alma mater.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Good times at Bluffton/Purple Day

So, did you wear your purple with pride last Thursday, the first Bluffton/Purple Day?

I was so thrilled to receive an email from Barbara Boutwell '68 Wednesday night with “Bluffton Day” in the subject line. She sent a photo with her Bluffton garb. Marcia Gallant, keeper of Marbeck Desk, later said she had told her sister, “I don’t care if you are in California. You must wear purple on Bluffton Day.” Ladies, you made my day!

It was also fun to sit in The Commons during the “picnic” which was moved inside due to cold/windy conditions. It was a sea of purple. Even faculty/staff got into the spirit; President Harder wore his purple tie, communications prof Dan Fultz was decked out in a purple shirt to go with his purple tie, then there was econ prof Gary Schiefer wearing a bright yellow shirt. What’s up with that?

You might be asking, “Why?” Why promote a day for all of the Bluffton community, those on- as well as off-campus, to wear purple?

All year, students have taken it upon themselves to organize a monthly “everyone wear (this color) day.” It just so happened that they saved purple for the last day of class. Meanwhile, PR director Robin Bowlus had shared her alma mater’s promotion of OUr Day, a day for alumni to wear green and share their Ohio University pride.

The two events morphed into one and the idea for Bluffton/Purple Day was formed as a way to encourage the campus community to come together with a common identifier, to remember our university, to share our love of Bluffton, in short, to generate “warm fuzzies.”

There was no down side to Bluffton/Purple Day. As originally planned, there was no expense. All off-campus promotion was electronic, via web, emails and social media. By tagging onto a student event that was already planned, we gained momentum and excitement.

Bluffton/Purple Day grew to include the premiere of the latest Bluffton video featuring alumni including motivational speaker and YouTube sensation Judson Laipply ’98, an on-campus picnic to celebrate the final full day of classes, a faculty/staff vs. student kickball game and the kick off of a text-to-give initiative supporting the Health and Fitness Education Center.

It was a good day. And even though there weren’t many photos posted of alumni decked out in purple, hopefully you dressed for the occasion, thought about your time at Bluffton and it brought a smile to your face. Next year, maybe more photos will be posted!

Don’t forget – May Day 2011 is this weekend. See you on campus!