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!