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!