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 –

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"