Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Creating community

Guest post by Robin Bowlus
director of public relations

I have heard our campus student life professionals talk about creating "community" for many years. On the surface it seems pretty simple and it makes sense. Students who live, learn and work together are more successful in college and in life. The reality is that creating community is not done by a single person or a committee.

During the summer I enjoyed reading Gerald’s book on going to church. It made a real impact on my family’s perception of “church”. The book also reminded me that the key to going to church, means we had to “go” to church. And not just on Sunday. Going and being part of congregation life is what makes church fulfilling.

Going. Doing. Being part of something that is for you and about more than you. That is how you create community. That is how you will feel fulfilled. But each of us needs to make the effort to show up.

Last week was the dia-BEAT-this Walk-A-Thon for diabetes awareness in the Sommer Center. The idea came from my student worker, Jena Diller, a junior marketing major who has done a lot of work with the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. Jena’s family is affected by the disease. 
Jena Diller, working in the PR office

We were not sure what the turn-out would be for Bluffton’s walk. Jena’s goal was to have 250 people participate and walk at least 100 miles. She has other groups across the country walking during November for National Diabetes Awareness month. Jena’s ultimate goal is to accumulate 1,000 miles in 14 days.  

From 6 a.m. – 3 p.m. and then again from 7 – 10 p.m. on Nov. 7, more than 363 students, faculty and staff walked 7,164 laps or almost 600 miles. The baseball team came as a group and walked 942 laps. Their catcher, Tim Webb, didn’t stop. For the day he walked 120 laps and 75 of those were consecutively. But the winner for the day was Perry Andre, a student from Wauseon who walked 166 laps; approximately 15 miles.

But beyond the laps and miles, Jena and I got to watch community happen on our campus. Students showed up to walk during the day and then came back to walk more at night. Faculty brought their classes to walk. Coaches brought teams. Faculty and staff offices walked. Faculty and staff spouses walked. The dietetics interns walked. Residence halls walked. Students walked in small groups while studying for a test. 

And everyone talked, socialized, skipped, ran, and some event took a break and shot some hoops. We learned how people who have diabetes themselves or have someone in their family with diabetes live with the realities of monitoring their blood sugar and insulin.

In the end, people showed up. And that is what made community happen. 

Note: As the 2011-12 National American Miss Teen, Jena has chosen juvenile diabetes awareness as her platform. Visit Team JDRF for more information, or to support the Jena’s personal campaign.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Creative juices and the uphill battle

“The Arts at Bluffton” was featured at Forum this week. Bluffton professors created and shared visual art, music, theatre and the written word to a standing-room-only crowd in Yoder Recital Hall.

Visual artists Gregg Luginbuhl, Phil Sugden and Andi Baumgartner created pottery, drawings and a poster while musicians Lucia Unrau and Crystal Sellers Battle performed, authors Jeff Gundy and Susan Carpenter gave readings and the student cast from “The Real Inspector Hound” performed a scene from this weekend’s performance.

While all was well done and the shared creative talents impressive; two in particular grabbed my interest. Personally, I could watch Gregg Luginbuhl throw pots for hours. It’s mesmerizing to watch someone take a hunk of ‘mud’ and within just a few minutes – in the right hands – it’s a bowl, a vase…

Susan’s reading was based on the story of the Greek god Sisyphus who was sentenced to forever push a boulder up a mountain just to have it roll back to the bottom, requiring that he start the process all over. (Sound familiar? Can you say laundry, landscaping, homework, fill-in-the-blank with any annoying, repetitive, boring task.)

Her thesis was that as Sisyphus made his way back to the bottom of the mountain, he was free of his labor. Free to enjoy the beauty around him, if only for a while.

I’m looking forward to getting a copy of this essay in order to read it slowly, reflectively. What I took from her reading is that every day, every moment, we are either going up or down the mountain. Curling up with a cup of tea – down the mountain; the screech for MOM from the next room – up the mountain.

Learning to throw pots; music lessons as a young child – up the mountain. The first piece of pottery that actually looks like a vase; flawlessly performing a difficult piece – down the mountain.

One cannot truly enjoy the trip down the mountain, unless you have struggled up the mountain.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What’s new on campus?

Well, for one, the new Sommer Center for Health and Fitness Education is expected to open soon.

But did you know that the Extending Our Reach comprehensive campaign, which reached its successful conclusion last summer, raised funds for so much more than just a building? It’s so easy to get caught up in the visual, the obvious, the “big” project, and forget about all the other things. Call me guilty as charged.

It wasn't until we brainstormed for a campaign thank you video that I grasped the full breadth of this campaign. While you enjoy this video created by PR student assistant Joe Grant, realize that there could have been many more thank yous provided by many more persons for many more new opportunities provided by the campaign.

From all of us at Bluffton University, we sincerely say – thank you!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Be connected

Nothing like a little Internet outage to refocus one’s energies.

It never fails to amaze me how quickly we can revert from the relatively-laid-back summer mode to a full-out crazy, stress-filled, gotta-get-it-done-yesterday attitude.

Then comes a cut fiber optic cable. Suddenly it’s like we’re back in the dark ages. What, no emails from off campus? But we have ongoing projects, on deadline, with companies on both the east and west coasts!

So here we sit in Common Grounds, wireless laptops and smart phones in hand, but still feeling somewhat – OK very much – unconnected.

It’s ironic to me to hear all the angst about teens and their need to be connected. A new Ohio law makes it a first-degree moving violation if you’re a teen and on your phone while driving a car, but a secondary offense if you’re an ‘adult’ and on the phone, while driving a car. Like distracted driving is any less dangerous if you are older. Like older adults are any less guilty of wanting to instantaneously keep in touch with friends and family, of reaching for the phone when bored.

Tuesday’s Forum was a panel discussion about how to be a good audience in a technical world. It led to interesting conversation over lunch – how do we make priorities with our time and attention with so many potential technical interruptions? Is there such a thing as technological etiquette?

Is it rude for Robin and I to be sitting four feet apart, both with our noses alternating between laptops and cell phones, occasionally commenting on each other’s university Facebook and Twitter postings? It may be weird, but not rude. After all, this is a work day and we’re both trying to get something accomplished.

Now if this was a Friday evening at the same place, same table, that would be a different story.

A study was mentioned Tuesday that technology is making us lonelier. I’ll buy that. BC (before cell phones) if one was standing in a line, or waiting with a crowd of people, it would not be unusual for people to strike up a conversation. "Where you from?" "Have you seen this band  before?" Now that just seems weird and maybe a little creepy. As we wait, we reach out to others through our phones, oblivious to all the potential connections around us.

I think J. Denny Beaver has the right idea. In his Facebook post he suggested

“Make it a great day to get to know your neighbor! Make a new friend in person, then you can be friends on Facebook tomorrow (hopefully).

Do. Work. Do Good Work. That's what Beavers do!"

Monday, August 27, 2012

Making beds

It must be a mom thing.

I have this vivid memory of NEEDING to make my son’s bed as we moved him into his first college dorm room. It was more than just making sure he had sheets to sleep on and a warm blanket to keep him warm. It was a nurturing thing, like if I tucked the sheets in tight enough he would continue to feel my love long after we’ve left campus.

So last Friday I’m wondering across campus trying to capture the emotions of move-in day. And what do I find, but mothers, all across campus, making their son’s and daughter’s beds. And fathers, all across campus, constructing things, lofts and shelving units.

Mothers making beds does not make for very good video, especially when the bed is against the wall. There is no heart-felt eye-lock with this child who – wasn’t it just last week went off to kindergarten?

By the time the bed is made, the loft is built, clothes are in the closet, the fridge is stocked, posters hung, roommates have met. It’s nearly the last thing done before, well, before it’s time to leave. Students are anxious to have freedom to get to know these people who will become life-long friends. And parents, well, we’re hoping to hang on just one more minute.

And so we make the bed. And we tuck it tight.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Busy Little Beavers

There has been only five posts to the university blog since May Day, and one was a guest post. I’ve been such a slacker this summer. And here we are just four weeks away from new students moving on campus.

Not like there hasn’t been anything else going on.

Two weeks ago, which would have been one year since the groundbreaking for what is now known as the Sommer Center, I had planned to write a post celebrating the progress made in just one short year. Didn’t happen. Obviously.

But mark your calendar for Oct. 13 for a dedication ceremony during Homecoming. While the new health and fitness education center will probably not be open to the public by then, it is currently on pace to be open for the 2012-13 basketball season.

The Extending Our Reach capital campaign came to a successful conclusion on June 30. Plans are being made to properly celebrate during the President’s Society dinner on Oct. 13.

By early August, the new admissions “interactive viewbook” will be online, and the supporting, coordinated print pieces delivered by late August. This has been an intense collaboration with PR, admissions and Creosote Affects, an East Coast higher education marketing firm. Be watching for your opportunity to check it out.

By early fall, the admissions web ‘zone’ will have a new look, feel and be MOBILE FRIENDLY! Eventually all pages will be built with responsive design, meaning regardless of what device you view our web site on, it will adjust its width and design for your viewing pleasure. We’re doing this in phases. Admissions first. The general web second. Sports third. Stay tuned!

As if that weren’t enough, there are five new academic programs being introduced this fall - graphic design major (building on the existing graphic design minor); public relations major (building on the current PR concentration); strength & conditioning and sport & recreation leadership in the health, fitness and sport science department; and lastly, a health care management degree completion program set to begin in January 2013.

RAs and fall athletes will be back on campus within three weeks. Think things will slow down once the students return?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

May there be peace within

Not sure where this prayer came from, but it’s been taped to the base of my computer monitor for quite a while.

Some days it’s just there, part of the background like the sounds coming from down the hall or out of my speakers. Other days it catches my eye, almost forcing me to read it. Slowly. Carefully. Deliberately.

St. Theresa's Prayer
May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.

May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given you.

May you be content knowing you are a child of God.

Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

Amen. And Amen

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pocketknives, Icebergs and other things beneath the surface

Guest post by
"Tig" Intagliata, campus pastor

 Sometimes we really have to probe deep beneath the surface in order to see all there is to see. And sometimes we are surprised at what we discover.

I was reminded of this truth last month when I went through the airport security on my way to Colombia with a group of Bluffton students. The TSA agent motioned me aside and said he needed to hand search my blue backpack.

“The screening device detected a metal object that resembled a knife”, he told me.

“Sir, I don’t believe there is a knife in my backpack, but here you go”, and I handed it over to him, confident that it was my phone charger or large pen that set off the scanner.

The agent searched the backpack and couldn’t find the suspected knife. I reached to retrieve my knapsack, but he said “I’m sorry, but I want to run this through the machine again”.

The scenario repeated itself, again with the same result. Perplexed, the agent admitted “Sir, I can’t find anything, but I need to pass it through one more time because it keeps showing up on the x-ray.”

A third time my backpack complied with the orders and submitted itself to the scrutiny of the metal detector and then to the agent’s examination table. His gloved hands dug deep into my backpack, removing every item in all three zippered compartments, placing them all on the table. Still no knife in sight.

Then the frustrated agent turned the backpack upside down and shook it like it was on fire.

A bright blue pocketknife dropped out of the deepest part of the backpack and landed with a noticeable “thump” on the table.

My jaw dropped noticeably as well.

The agent’s facial expression spelled a “we finally got to the bottom of this” kind of satisfaction and relief. The culprit had been exposed and was promptly confiscated.

A little explanation about the knife is in order…

I remember packing the knife when I went on a weekend trip—by car—a couple of months earlier. I forgot about it when I was packing for Colombia; in fact, I thought I had emptied everything out of the backpack before I started to pack for that trip—but obviously I hadn’t dug deep enough or shaken hard enough!

My pocketknife story is a reminder to me of all those things that reside deep inside of me of which I am not always aware. Things like hidden agendas. Suppressed feelings. Buried hopes and dreams. Unconscious prejudices and stereotypes.

Last year I attended an anti-racism workshop that was sponsored by Bluffton’s Damascus Road team, of which I am a member. The workshop uses the image of an iceberg to illustrate how most of racism takes place below the surface, embedded in our own attitudes and values, as well as in the structures and institutions of our society.

Exposing the racism within us takes careful, honest and sometimes painful examination. But only when we name it and take ownership of it can we begin to work at dismantling it with the hopes of becoming a more just society where people can live without prejudice and where power is shared equally, regardless of the color of one’s skin.

This August, the Bluffton University Damascus Road team will be hosting another anti-racism training event. We would love to have you join us. Details and registration form.

According to Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” As you go through life, I invite you to take time for self-examination. Set aside time regularly to reflect on what’s going on deep inside of you, below the surface. Then I encourage you to have the courage to identify the attitudes, feelings and agendas that may be having an unhealthy effect on you and on those around you, and find ways to turn them into something positive. It’s not easy work, but it’s worth the effort.

I am now in the market for another pocketknife. In the future, however, I will make sure that it is not in my backpack when I head to the airport.

Stephen “Tig” Intagliata
Campus pastor

Friday, June 1, 2012

Quintessentially Mid-American

I’m spoiled. I’ll admit it. My office on the south-east edge of campus is graced with a 15-foot bank of windows overlooking Spring Street. On beautiful days like today, I can open the window and enjoy the sounds of birds singing, leaves rustling, children playing, an occasional car or lawn mower.

It quickly became obvious when we moved into the PR house that I needed to arrange my desk so that it was not facing the window. Even so, on occasion, I do catch myself staring out the window while planning, brainstorming or searching for the perfect word.

Nearly on a daily basis, I’ll see professors Darryl Nester ‘88 (mathematics) riding his bike to the office or home for lunch; and Zachary Walton ‘02 (communication) walking to the office or walking his little daschund pup with his black leather coat billowing during the winter months.

On occasion, Walt Paquin (social work) will walk by with his two standard poodles or Amanda Sensenig (psychology) will take her little one and her boxer for a stroll. In the past week Don and Romaine Pannabecker (emeritus dean) have been riding by on their tandem bike.

Then there is the normal everyday stuff that happens on a small street in Bluffton, Ohio. Mom rides her bike with a little one in a trailer, followed by a preschooler on a trike; squirrels with a death wish jump from tree limb to tree limb; birds wash themselves in puddles left from a late afternoon shower; the high school band marches by preparing for parade season; neighbors visit. These are visions we tend to take for granted, that we consider “normal.”

Last year, Bluffton partnered with Creosote Affects, a Maryland communications firm, to update our admissions print and online materials. The first thing they needed to do is learn more about us. So they talked with Bluffton students, faculty/staff, alumni and community members. They spent time on our campus all the while working to identify Bluffton’s “core strengths.”

One of the five core strengths identified is our location in a “quintessentially Mid-American small town.” The other four strengths listed were not surprising - small size, Christian environment, cross-cultural program, preparing students for life - but this was a new strength identified for us. It is a strength we probably would not have seen from our vantage point in Bluffton.

So it’s been helpful to see Bluffton through an East-coast lens. Be watching this fall for updated admissions materials to see how these strengths are presented to a new generation of Bluffton students.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why should students have all the fun?

As I compose this blog more than 130 Bluffton students are scattered across the globe on their cross cultural experiences – in Iceland, Israel/Palestine, Guatemala, Columbia and closer to home in Chicago inner city, the Gulf Coast, Appalachian Kentucky and New York City.

Not to be outdone, the music department has decided to pull together an Alumni Choir Tour to Italy in June 2013. While the student's three-week long experiences focus on service and cross-cultural experiences in homestays, the alumni 10-day tour is being organized through a travel agent with hotel accommodations. So it's really not quite the same thing, but it would be interesting none-the-less.

One of the PR student assistants, an art major, went to Italy for her cross-cultural experience a few years back and brought back wonderful photos. (Photo credit to Cara Rufenaucht Delphia '07)

The alumni tour includes stops in Venice, Florence, Orvieto and Rome. Plans are for the alumni to present a cappella performances at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and San Marco Cathedral in Venice. Are you imagining yourself there yet?

After posting about this trip on Bluffton’s Facebook page yesterday and sending out an email to select alumni and students today, there has been quite a bit of chatter about this opportunity on social media.

Unfortunately, most of the chatter I’ve seen is by recent grads for whom a trip to Italy isn’t quite in the budget. Don’t despair, while alumni trips are not organized on a regular basis, opportunities to travel with fellow Beavers do come along on occasion. So start saving your pennies now and you’ll be ready for the next trip!

To learn more about the Alumni Choir Tour to Italy, visit the Bluffton web site for detailed information and a registration form. Deadline to express interest, and to let director Mark Suderman know what voice part you sing, is June 15, 2012. Contact him directly at for more information.

2007 Cross cultural students in Italy

Friday, May 4, 2012

BBF - Bluffton Beavers Forever

So it’s Friday before graduation. Classes are complete. Finals turned in. There’s nothing to do but to pack up and make memories before Graduation Sunday.

Four years. Four years of living, eating, studying, praying and playing together comes down to this one last weekend. Then you’ll move on to the next stage in your life. If you are like I was, there are many emotions swirling right now: happy, sad, scared, nervous, excited, thankful…

I remember standing in Klassen Court after my commencement in a sea of black. Where are my friends? My professors? Who do I want to give one final thank you, good bye, love you hug? All I see is black robes and my parents standing off to the side waiting to give a congratulations, proud of you, love you hug.

The people at Bluffton who have grown to be important to you, those who have encouraged you, challenged you, supported you – they will always be with you. Sure they may no longer be right down the hall, you will probably not see them or even talk with them daily – but they will always be part of you.

In the words of Jon Geuy ’85, "Although we maybe took it for granted while there & we don't always stay in close contact now, being a Beaver is something special.”

So enjoy this weekend! Then go make a difference in the world! But be sure to come back to campus for Homecoming and/or May Day because being a Beaver really is something special.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Carpe Diem

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the end-of-the-year communications department banquet. Professor Melissa Friesen assured me that the students would be interested in knowing how I ended up working in PR at Bluffton University, and why have I stayed here for 20+ years.

Not sure what the students gained from my walk down memory lane, but it was interesting for me to acknowledge the closed doors, opened windows, seized and missed opportunities that brought me to this place.

When I graduated from Bluffton in 1986, I did not aspire to be a web communication manager who works with social media. That job description did not – obviously – even exist. I suspect that many Bluffton alumni can relate. Thank goodness for our liberal arts education that gave us a wide base of knowledge and preparation for life.

I’m so thankful for the opportunities offered through the Learn and Earn program. My campus job working as a writer for the communications office (a.k.a. public relations) provided a bridge between academic and professional. More than just padding the resume, my time as editor for The Witmarsum student newspaper and as a Bluffton News intern provided leadership and networking opportunities.

Bluffton students continue to embrace these opportunities. Seniors were invited to tell about their internship experiences. One communication student interned at WTLW Lima Christian television gaining experience in filming and editing. Another received a broad experience at Findlay Publishing Company, working for a time in radio, print and promotions, even providing voice for commercials “when they needed a 10-year-old girl.” Not an internship, but another student worked in the fall with the WTLW sports crew.

These are such wonderful experiences to mesh real-world knowledge with academic learning to support the relatively new broadcast and journalism major offered through the communication department.

It’s something for us all to remember, regardless of whether we’re starting our career or nearing the end, always embrace opportunities offered by the open windows.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Feeling frazzled?

You know the feeling… too much to do, too little time to do it in, and you’d rather be doing something (anything) else. With two weeks of classes remaining before finals, our students are feeling a bit frazzled. Not like you have to be a college student to identify.

Are they (we) stressed because we procrastinate, because we’re disorganized or both?

Last night at the university-related Bluffton Center for Entrepreneurs business planning meeting I met a lady who is starting a home-based business helping people get organized. How many times have I grumbled to myself “I have got to get organized” as I step into the office, kitchen...? If the price is right, I just may be her first client!

Jerry Kennell, former Bluffton VP for advancement, used a system using slotted pages and small notecards in a three-ring binder. During meetings he would move cards from one slot to another as topics were discussed. My luck I’d drop the notebook, the cards would fall out and I’d be in a mess.

Odd for a web manager to say, but my current system is hard copy calendars and multiple to-do-lists. From the students I interact with, I’d say it’s pretty even whether they keep their life organized on a physical calendar or on their phone. Maybe I’m not so old-school after all.

We did add a small white board in the office to keep pressing projects top of mind and a shared excel worksheet to track web updates. It’s a start.

Big projects are coming for Bluffton and the PR house this summer. Just wait for it. It’s going to be epic. To prepare I Really Must Organize, combine to-do-lists, prioritize… so when a student unexpectedly stops by to ask if there’s anything she can do for me, I have an answer!
I typically re-organize after May Day/Graduation, the unofficial end to the academic year. But I'm feeling the need to clean and start fresh NOW.

Which means, for today anyway, the door is shut, the computer off, music cranked... Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Making memories

Wild West Riley Creek Festival
 Ah… the last month of classes. Remember the push to finish preparations for senior recitals, art shows, the musical, final papers and projects… and the pull of friends and a beautiful campus to procrastinate by squeezing in as many memories as possible?

Indeed Bluffton students are living in the midst of this tension. Eric Fulcomer, dean of students, commented a couple weeks ago, “I wish it was cold and rainy.” I.e. the pull of tennis ball golf and other distractions would not be as strong if the weather wasn’t so nice. I’m guessing many faculty members are thinking the same.

Last night I drove through campus. It was fun to see all the students out and about. Some were apparently walking to a study group, night class or the library, others – it looked like teammates – were hanging out behind Founders after practice, others were lining up shots with their one golf club and a tennis ball. Brought back memories.

There are several opportunities in the next month for alumni and prospective students to enjoy time on campus and rub shoulders with current students.
  • The informal annual Pops Concert is 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 13, in Founders. Was it last year or the year before that Jodi Diller “played” cell phone ring tones in a Concert Band piece?
  • Saturday, April 14, is the Riley Creek Festival, annually planned by SOUL (Student Organizations United in Leadership.) As in the past, there will be inflatables for children and college students, a picnic, concert and the Rubber Duck Race in the Riley.

    “Purchase” a rubber duckie for $1. Proceeds of the Duck Race will benefit the Ada United Methodist Church, which burnt earlier this spring.
  • The annual Strike-Out Cancer softball game has been expanded this year to include a home baseball game and picnic on Tuesday, April 17. Softball vs. Anderson game time is 3:30 p.m. Baseball takes on Defiance at 4:15 p.m. Proceeds from the concession stand and balloon sales support cancer research.
  • May Day is always a fun day to visit with friends and classmates, and formally welcome the graduating class as alumni. Special events planned for the day include the May Day Run, Alumni Choir Sing, ministry teams reunion, musical and, this year, a final celebration of The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center 25th year and more.
Connect with your buds and make arrangements to connect on campus. You’ll be glad you did.

Check out the online events calendar for more info.


Friday, March 23, 2012

The Zombie Apocalypse

I am intrigued by the plans made for next Wednesday, March 28, the daylong celebration of this year’s Civic Engagement Theme - “Public Health: Promoting Wellness for Self and Community.”

Maybe it’s because I have a personal interest in health/wellness, but it’s been exciting to see this year’s theme develop with Team Andy, the dietetic internship program, and guest speakers such as Deo Niyizonkiza, Martin Chaffee, and Dr. Shelly Weaverdyck ’77. What a great year.

This theme seems to have caught students’ interest as well as there are more than 40 presentations representing 13 academic majors scheduled throughout Civic Engagement Day. Normal class sessions are suspended for the day with students expected to participate in the day’s activities. Like a conference, there are multiple sessions from which to choose from during each hour. Check out the scheduled presentations.

Your day could begin with ’88 grad Darryl Nester’s presentation of “The Zombie Apocalypse and Other Epidemics” (the spread of infectious disease.) Wouldn’t mind attending that one for the title alone!

Other topics include the effect of overuse/misuse of antibiotics in livestock, health care in the U.S., art therapy, stress, diet, video showing of “Supersize Me” which explores the effect of eating fast food three meals a day for a month, and “America the Beautiful” which explores our obsession with “physical perfection,” and more. Presentations will be made by individual students, student panels, faculty and guest speakers.

The day will conclude with a keynote address by three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ambassador Tony Hall. The former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture will address the pressing issues encountered by anti-hunger activists.

This is the fifth annual Civic Engagement Theme/Day. Five years ago faculty members followed the lead set by Student Senate’s Go Green initiative and explored the theme “Environmental Stewardship: Living in the Natural World” in 2007-08.

Recycling receptacles across campus and paper recycling boxes near Marbeck Desk and in Centennial Hall are visible remainders of this focused study. Other “green” initiatives continue - such as the steps being taken to ensure that the new Health and Fitness Education Center is LEED certified silver or better.

It will be interesting to see in five years how this year-long focus on public health and wellness shapes the Bluffton campus. (No pun intended.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Our calling... Christian community

Guest post by Gerald J. Mast, professor of communication

I have always been intrigued by the question of how God calls people. As a child I remember being jealous of the boy Samuel, who heard God calling him in the night. Would I ever hear such a call? Would I be brave enough to answer?

Other Bible stories offer similarly dramatic accounts of God speaking and people responding: Moses and the burning bush, Hannah in the temple, Isaiah and the seraphim, Mary at the annunciation, and Saul on the road to Damascus. These were women and men God called to challenging and world-changing tasks: leading God’s people out of Egypt, calling God’s people to repentance, bearing the Messiah, taking the mission of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.

God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit to grow as communities of grace, joy and peace.

During my college years, I struggled with my friends to listen to the voice of God as we faced big decisions, from choice of a major field of study, to dating relationships, to post-graduation plans. Those big decisions and the desire to hear God speak continued throughout my life, particularly at moments when I faced disappointment and failure.

A few years ago, a sabbatical leave provided me with the opportunity to study more carefully the question of how Christians understand their call from God, particularly from the perspective of Bluffton’s Anabaptist heritage. What I discovered during my research was both simpler and more exciting than I had expected.

I came to realize that God’s call is not a big mystery. God has already called us and most everyone who reads this blog will have already heard the call. The call is the same call that Abraham heard, that Moses heard, that Hannah heard, that Mary heard: Give yourself in faith to the life and mission of God’s people, flawed and broken though they be. Carry this mission into every corner of your life, no matter what station. As a member of God’s people, bring the good news of freedom and reconciliation and salvation to everyone in every place of life and work.

What this means in twenty-first century North America is encapsulated in the title of the book I wrote based on my sabbatical research: Go to Church, Change the World.

This account of God’s call may seem out of touch in a culture of declining church attendance and disillusionment with the failures and faithlessness of the church all around us. No doubt Isaiah and Jeremiah felt similarly disillusioned with God’s people, when they were called to speak up and remind God’s people of their mission.

Like these biblical characters, we have also heard God’s call, whether in church or in a Bluffton University classroom, whether through the counsel of a friend or by the speech of the heavens.  I see the call every morning on a sign displayed by a church located between my house and my office: “God is still speaking; no matter who you are, no matter where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

My own denomination puts it this way in its vision statement: “God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit to grow as communities of grace, joy, and peace, so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.”  Amen.

Just published: Gerald J. Mast, Go to Church, Change the World: Christian Community as Calling. Herald Press, 2012. For more information:

Friday, March 2, 2012

In the words of others

Words are escaping me.

So today I’m going to let others tell the story of this week. In their words. With thanks for their talent, their understanding, their compassion.

The two events of this week - Basebald and the 5-year remembrance of the baseball bus accident - were totally separate events. However with them happening just two days apart, they seem to be somehow connected.

Bluffton baseball offers shear support to kids with cancer
More than 12,000 children and teenagers are diagnosed with cancer every year. About 45 Bluffton University baseball players and coaches symbolically showed they care. (as of 3 p.m. Friday, March 2, the total raised for St. Baldrick’s Foundation was $7,886.60)
more >>>
Bluffton public relations

Hair was flying
A stage was set up in The Commons during lunch so all could see. The Curling Iron in Bluffton closed up shop so the hairdressers could volunteer to shave heads.
The Courier Online video

Two childhood cancer survivors oversee
Five-year-old Austin Gallagher has a full head of hair now, but that wasn't always the case. In 2007, his mother Krissy says he was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer, which only affects about 20 children each year nationwide. Austin and his family were present for the Basebald shaving.
WLIO news cast
Jax Schneider, a Lima-area youngster told the Marbeck crowd "I kicked cancer's..."

Mom’s blog
It was all very sweet and I think that seeing Austin there had a definite impact on the young men shaving. … hearing a tiny bit of Austin’s story and seeing him there in the flesh, looking so normal, looking like they may have looked fifteen years ago, made it all the more meaningful.
Krissy Dietrich Gallagher's blog about life, luck, love, parenting, writing, and, of course, cancer

Bluffton baseball moving forward
There was no mistaking the camaraderie as Bluffton University baseball players lined up to have their heads shaved in front of an enthusiastic lunch crowd at the campus student center.
more >>>
Toledo Blade

Berta's story inspirational, touching lives
Tim Berta, a senior student coach, was nearly among the dead. “They told me I would never walk, never drive, never graduate, never learn anything new,” he said. “They thought I was done then.’
more >>>
Lima News

Five years later, Bluffton remembers tragedy
Kathy Dickson led a responsive reading with Estee Arend, Zachary’s sister and a current junior at Bluffton. Among the biblical verses they quoted were three that were also among Scripture readings by Coach James Grandey and alumnus Tim Berta—Hebrews 13:5 (“Again, we hear God say, ‘Never will I leave you or forsake you’”); Isaiah 41:10 (“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God”); and Psalm 46:10 (“Be still and know that I am God.”)
more >>>
Bluffton public relations


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Meeting the need for dietetic professionals

Deb Myers, RD, LD, Ed.D.
Guest blog by Deb Myers, dietetics program director

Bluffton University will be opening its own dietetic internship beginning in August 2012, and I’m really excited about it. It’s been a dream we’ve had for a long time!

A dietetics internship is an accredited post-baccalaureate certificate program required for a student to become a registered and licensed dietitian. Our program will operate under the department of nutrition & dietetics.

All internships have an emphasis area in addition to meeting guidelines to train in the areas of clinical dietetics, public health nutrition and food management. When senior dietetics students apply for an internship they look for those which match their primary areas of interest.

Bluffton’s program will have a strong public health nutrition emphasis, which is great because nationwide job growth in that area is predicted to expand a lot by 2020!

Recent graduates in internships include Caitlin Heiss ‘11 who wanted to work with persons with developmental disabilities. She’s at the University of South Dakota’s dietetic internship, which has a specialty in that area. Plus, she has been able to intern at a Native American hospital.

Lydia Litwiller ‘11 wanted an internship with a strong emphasis on clinical nutrition and critical care. She was accepted at the University of Michigan’s Hospital dietetic internship; a top-ranked U.S. medical facility.

An internship is a time of working and learning; where the student puts the final pieces together to become a professional. It’s challenging because it requires a 40 hour per week commitment plus additional study and projects. 

Currently, there just aren’t enough internship openings across the United States to meet the need, so getting into an internship is very competitive. We will be offering a much needed service to eight carefully chosen interns. Ours will be a nine-month program that will be open to dietetics graduates from across the nation, including students from our own undergraduate program at Bluffton.

A tremendous amount of personal and professional growth takes place in an internship year. It will be exciting to see our interns grow in preparation for getting that first professional job.

Additional info: In order to become a registered and licensed dietitian, students must complete a baccalaureate degree in an accredited dietetics curriculum, complete an accredited internship program and pass the national registration examination. Even before Bluffton’s own internship begins:
  • 98% of our graduates have been placed in Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly ADA) internship positions within a year of graduation. 
  • 93% of our graduates have passed the registration examination on their first attempt (100% on second attempt).
Bluffton’s new program has already received national exposure through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetics Association.)

For more information about Bluffton’s dietetic internship, contact Deb Myers, associate professor of dietetics.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Strengthening body, mind and spirit

Andy Chaffee and Brandon Fullenkamp
Guest post by Brandon Fullenkamp ‘11

I’ve always been a competitive person. Whether it’s been inter- or intra-personal, the drive to meet a challenge almost never escapes me. I’ve also always been there for my friends, and try to support them in everything they do, especially when it’s for a good cause or it could better them somehow.

Amusingly enough, being a part of the Team Andy project allows me to combine both of those parts of my life into something great! As soon as I read what the premise of the project was, I knew I was going to have to push myself harder than I had before, not only to strengthen my own body, but also my mind and spirit as well.

Ever since I started here at Ohio University (as a grad student), and had a giant fitness complex and pool at my daily disposal, I’ve realized the phenomenal advantage having those things is on one’s life. Not only does the fitness building offer beautiful views from the treadmills and elliptical machines out the gigantic windows, but there is also an indoor track, group fitness classes, personal trainers and a weight room, as well as racquetball and basketball courts and a rock climbing wall.

Having all those resources available can be a little daunting at first, but soon one can find their niche and start their workout regimen. I, for example like to wake up early (6:30 a.m.) and be in the pool around 7 a.m. doing laps. It’s a great way to start the day and gives my metabolism a great boost. Then, in the evening, I love doing a group fitness class like Zumba (Latin dance class), boot camp (combination of cardio, strength training and plyometrics), or even yoga (great way to center the mind and de-stress after a difficult week of classes).

The things I’ve gained already from this experience are far greater than I could’ve ever hoped for in the beginning. I am not only physically stronger, but more importantly, I have gained mental discipline. That discipline that I use to wake up every morning much earlier than other students has started to present itself in other facets of life. I can now harness that discipline into my academics (can you say procrastination?).

Another great benefit I’ve noticed is that my energy levels are much higher and more consistent throughout the day. And, anybody that knows me will probably get a chuckle out of that, because they know that my energy levels before were already pretty ridiculous at times.

All in all, this has been such a beneficial experience for me, but also I think for the Bluffton community. It really shows how we can all band together, and though we may not be able to see each other, we will always feel the support from each other and be able to accomplish great things, through each other.

Grace and peace,
Brandon Fullenkamp
Class of ‘11

Bluffton's own Ironman-in-Training Andy Chaffee and his dad will present "Couch to May Day: Where Running Can Take You" on Feb. 24. Marty Chaffee, a leadership consultant, will present an eight-step program for positive change from personal expeience. Andy will debut a Couch to May Day Run 10-week training program. This presentation is free and open to the public.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It must be good to be J. Denny

Last night did not disappoint. Well maybe the last-second 3-pointer by the opponents wasn’t so good, but the long-anticipated “beheading” of the 2011-12 J. Denny Beavers at halftime was golden.

It was fun to watch the anticipation grow on campus this past week. With each passing day the speculation became more intense.

In the past two years, J. Denny has become an important part of campus culture. He welcomes first-year students at special recruiting events. It’s not a MCB party unless J. Denny is there. Of course he supports our athletics teams. He was a hit at the 2011 Mennonite Conference. And he’ll be making a special appearance at the Ohio Music Educator Association conference alumni breakfast later this month.

After the beheading, former and current J. Dennys and their mentors gathered on the Founders stage for photos and an afterglow. What a great fraternity. There were hugs, laughter, more hugs, glowing faces.

Now the search begins for next year’s J. Denny Beaver. Who will answer the call? There is no “type” of student who excels as the mascot, music major, honor student, athlete. Although, obviously, these “types” of students are not mutually exclusive at Bluffton!
You could be J. Denny…

It must be such a rush to be J. Denny Beaver; to be part of this tight group, with shared secrets, unwaving support, understanding and common experiences. I’m honored to be just on the edge of this fraternity, trusted on a “need to know basis.” I've helped in emergencies, turned my office into craft central as the big black reveal boxes were decorated.

As Robin Bowlus, J. Denny Beaver’s “handler,” posted on Facebook earlier this week: “Best ‘other duties as assigned’ job." Ever.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Making a difference

Serving in Atlanta, spring break 2011
Of Bluffton’s four Enduring Values – Discovery, Community, Respect and Service – service has always been the hardest one to capture in a story.

Not this winter however. There are a multitude of projects in the works for February, many of which are student-initiated and will make for good photographs, which combined make for good stories!

For instance (in the order in which they will happen)
  • The FIA (Fashion and Interiors Association) is sponsoring “Sewing for Change” this weekend. The idea is that people can drop off their mending/alternations to FIA students during meal times today, tomorrow and Friday, Feb. 1-3. The students will fix whatever needs fixed and return the items on Monday, Feb. 6.

    A small fee will be charged for the work, starting at 25 cents for fixing a button, with the hope that additional donations will be made. All proceeds will go to the Gweimen Centre, a self-sufficiency centre for widows and orphans of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, founded by the mother of Bluffton student Deborah Kadangs.
  • The student organization SERVE (formerly known as Diakonia) is planning a three-day “bike-a-thon” to raise funds supporting its spring break service trip to Chicago through Mennonite Mission Networks DOOR program. Last year, students spent spring break in Atlanta working through the urban initiative Mission Year.

    Students will take turns riding an exercise bike in Marbeck Kiva from 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Feb. 14-16, during Spring Spiritual Life Week. Donations will be accepted during the event with a friendly competition between riders to raise the most during their time on the bike. Guest bikers will include President Harder, J. Denny Beaver, Tig Intagliata and others.
  • On Feb. 29, baseball team members are putting their locks on the line to raise money for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven charity that funds childhood cancer research grants. You read right, at this point,  22 student athletes and coaches are accepting pledges to shave their heads on Feb. 29, a week before they head south for spring training.
Add to this list the graduate students’ Jamiii Project, the MLK Jr. Day of Service and Team Andy... What an active, involved and passionate student body we have. We can all be proud of our students who are doing their part to make this a better world.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Teach the world to sing

Funny thing happened last year in the PR house as we were brainstorming for the 2011 Christmas video. We knew we wanted a candle involved and started thinking about the CocaCola “I’d like to teach the world to sing” commercial. 

One of our student assistants was pulled into the conversation. “Do you remember…” “Um. No. I wasn’t born in the 70s.” Ugh. As the conversation continued it came to light that she was born the year I returned to Bluffton as a staff member, the year my son turned 3. Oh my achin’ head.

Funny I don’t feel like I could be our students’ mom. I like to think of myself as an older sister; or maybe the cool aunt. Yea, that’s it, the cool aunt who you can be real with and who shares advice based on life experiences without being a bore. That sounds better.

I’ve been enjoying the comments posted on the employee photos on Facebook. And I know the faculty/staff have appreciated them as well.

Keep them coming. Better yet, “buy a Coke” for someone who made a difference in your life “and keep ‘em company.” There is no doubt that you will make their day.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Call me!

Friends reconnect at R&R for Women 2011.

I walked into work the other day and received one of those “other duties as assigned” projects – to work on text for the R&R for Women  brochure.

Now I’m familiar with the annual R&R event, an alumnae reunion, which was introduced in 2010. Originally known as Reconnecting and Reaching Out, it was an afternoon of reminiscing, programming and entertainment planned especially for Bluffton University women.

This year’s event has been expanded to a full day of sessions of interest to women and presented by alumnae, Bluffton professors and students. I am fortunate to have worked on the brochure text because I may have skimmed over the day’s agenda had I not.

It’s going to be an interesting day with pertinent topics and knowledgeable speakers, at least in my opinion. Maybe it’s just where I am in life right now, but gaining tips to organize and secure important documents (including passwords), insurance needs, self-care, nutrition, relating to “crazy kids and grumpy grandmas,” it all sounds really helpful.

And what women’s conference would be complete without ample time to visit and shopping opportunities – can anybody say new Bluffton University sweatshirt?

So, who wants to go with me? We get a group discount if three of us to sign up together!

More about the R&R for Women conference on March 24, 2012, including online registration.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Back to the Future

Just like the life change created when George McFly stood up to the bully in the classic 1980s flick, the choices we make now definitely shape our future.

Yesterday’s Forum speaker, Tom Hafer, physical therapist and ordained pastor, started his presentation by complimenting current student-supported sustainability initiatives. He then went on to compare sustainability with wellness. Both efforts are in effect taking steps today to be better prepared for the future. His stated topic was “Fitness as a Spiritual Discipline.”

“We all know what we need to do,” he said. Very true. How often do we talk about eating better? eating less? exercising more? “reducing our carbon footprint?” recycling? reusing? We have the head knowledge. What we need is the motivation to actually put that knowledge into action. And by we, I mean I.

Instead of “getting in shape” for self-centered reasons, to feel better, to look good in a pair of jeans, Hafer challenged the full Founders Hall crowd to take steps to be healthy in order to better care for those around us.

I’ve often heard how important it is to care for yourself so that you can care for others. Just like directions given by airline stewardesses to put your own oxygen mask on before helping those around you in an emergency. (If you pass out for lack of oxygen, who are you going to help then?)

Consider a torn rotator cuff which often requires surgery and physical therapy. Hafer said there are four muscles that support the shoulder. If those four muscles are strong it is less likely that you will have a torn rotator cuff. The same is true for knee and hip problems. OK, you’ve got my attention.

It’s never too late to start caring for yourself, for showing by your actions that you believe the body to be the Temple of God, for seeing fitness as a spiritual discipline. By staying strong and healthy in order to care for others, we are in effect expressing gratitude to God for the body and the abilities He gave us.

Now that is motivation.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Together we can

We are four days into the New Year. Are your New Year’s Resolutions still intact? I have no sound scientific research to back this up, but I suspect “get healthy (lose weight)” is among the top three resolutions, right next to “get organized” and “get out of debt.”

Isn’t it curious that what these three goals have in common is the need for self-discipline, will-power, stick-to-itness. Hmmm. I’ll leave that to the social scientists to contemplate.

Several events are scheduled in the next couple months to support our quest for health and/or wellness and to uphold this year’s Civic Engagement Theme of Health: Promoting Wellness for Self and Community.

We start out with “Fitness as a Spiritual Discipline” as the first Forum of the new year. The concept of pulling together physical and spiritual fitness? OK you’ve got my attention. And I’ve got my calendar marked for Tuesday, Jan. 10, Yoder Recital Hall.

A few weeks later Shelly Weaverdyck Ph.D., 1977 Bluffton alumnae and director of EMU/HW Alzheimer’s Research Program, will talk about “Wellness in Aging.” None of us are getting any younger, so guess I’d better plan to attend that one too – Tuesday, Feb. 7, Yoder Recital Hall. Wellness at any age is a good thing.

“Prelude to a New Program: The Bluffton Dietetic Internship” will be presented Friday, Feb. 10, in Stutzman Lecture Hall by Bluffton professor Deb Myers. Much work has been going on behind the scenes to establish a post-baccalaureate dietetic internship program at Bluffton which will begin fall 2012. An internship after graduation is a requirement for dietetics majors to become registered and licensed dietitians.

Finally, the Women’s Council has expanded the annual R&R for Women event to include multiple presentations around the theme of “Balancing your World; Caring for Yourself.” Alumnae are invited to spend a day on campus reconnecting with friends old and new, and gaining tips for security, financial preparedness, nutrition and self-care, and being pampered (massages will be offered). March 21 is the registration deadline for the event which takes place Saturday, March 24. Call a couple friends and register as a group to enjoy a $15 per person discount on the registration fee.

Need more hands-on motivation? Team Andy continues through July. You’re invited to sign up and report every 30-minute session of activity in a quest for the Bluffton community to get to the finish line before Bluffton’s Ironman-in-training. You’ll be supporting Andy while he motivates you to get active.

It’s no secret that trying to reach a seemingly unreachable goal by yourself is very difficult. So turn to Bluffton to gain motivation to achieve wellness in 2012.

Together. We. Can. Do. This.