Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Would I?

Sometimes I wonder what type of alumna I’d be if I didn’t work at Bluffton. One thing for sure – I would not have just called myself an alumna.

But would I be engaged? Would I be on the web site checking out the latest news, or would I only think about Bluffton when the magazine arrives in the mail? Would I then read the magazine cover to cover, or just skim alumnotes from “my years.” Would I “like” Bluffton University on Facebook? Would I come back to campus for May Day, Homecoming, etc.?

It’s really hard to tell. While memories of my days as a student on this campus are fairly positive, life goes on and I doubt Bluffton would be first and foremost in my mind as I went about my days – that is if I wasn’t also a Bluffton staff member.

I’m sure I’d notice and smile when seeing a Bluffton dam shirt on a waitress at Texas Roadhouse (as I did last Saturday night.) I might hear rumors about what’s happening on campus. But most likely I’d be disconnected.

Bluffton alumni relations office has started a program to reconnect with alumni where they are – in their hometown, in their place of business. It’s called “Bluffton on the Road” and there is no agenda other than to connect and to share information about what’s new at Bluffton.

Over the next year or so, Bluffton administrators, faculty and/or staff members plan to meet with small groups of alumni across the Midwest. The purpose is to answer questions… What’s happening at Bluffton now? I’ve heard… is that true? And to provide information about plans and hopes for Bluffton’s future.

It all started quietly last spring. Just a simple reception for Bluffton alumni who happen to be employees at Marathon headquarters in Findlay, Ohio. Those in attendance enjoyed light refreshments and conversation with Bluffton President Jim Harder.

Since then the Bluffton on the Road (gatherings for alumni living in a certain vicinity) and Bluffton @ Work (receptions for alumni working for a certain business) programs have gained momentum. Since April, nearly 150 people have gathered for Bluffton events. We’ve been to Lima, to eastern Pennsylvania, to Parma, Ohio (near Cleveland), to Archbold, Ohio. Plans are being made for gatherings in Lancaster, Pa., in Kansas and Florida, in Columbus and Pittsburgh, and more. 

Here is your chance to reconnect with your alma mater, to gather with fellow alumni. Be watching for Bluffton on the Road to be coming near you. Announcements will be on the bluffton.edu web, on Facebook; with invitations sent via email and US mail. And if you are interested in hosting an event, contact Julia Szabo, director of alumni relations.

If you happen to live near Hesston, Kan., your Bluffton on the Road event has morphed into a full Alumni Weekend in Kansas complete with an opportunity for you to sing with the Bluffton University Gospel Choir. Make reservations by Oct. 7 to purchase music.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Missed opportunities…

Forum is Bluffton University’s weekly gathering of students, faculty and staff for interdisciplinary discovery and conversation.

"These speakers sound great” said a student assistant while posting the fall semester Forum schedule online. “Too bad I’ve already taken all my Forums.” 

Not to worry – I did point out that one can attend Forum presentations even if you don’t “need to” for credit. (A few years ago, an “arts & lecture credit” was added, requiring  students to attend so many Forum and other cultural events on campus in order to graduate.)

So what is the remaining Forum line-up that caught this student’s interest?
  • Race and Ethnicity at Bluffton University
    Dr. Perry Bush
    Bluffton’s institutional historian explains the role of race and ethnicity in Bluffton’s history. (Oct. 1)

  • Keeney Peace Lecture
    On Poetry and History

    Natasha Trethewey, United States Poet Laureate
    Trethewey discusses poetry and reads from her volumes of poems, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Native Guard. (Oct. 15)

  • Who Said I’m an Indian?
    Guy Jones, Miami Valley Council for Native Americans
    The author of Lessons from Tutle Island, a Hunkpapa Lakota and full-blood member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, asks how we are defined by culture and race and by the names we give to God. (Oct. 22)

  • Four Perfect Pebbles – My Holocaust Story – A Message of Perseverance, Determination, Faith and Hope
    Marion Blumenthal Lazan
    The author of Four Perfect Pebbles recalls her family’s life during the Holcaust, from before Kristallnacht to imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps and eventually liberation. (Oct. 29)

  • Being Muslim in Post-9/11 America
    Julia Shearson, Cleveland Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – Ohio
    Shearson discusses her conversion from Catholicism to Islam and describes the challenging national climate faced by American Muslims. (Nov. 5)

  • Spiritual Life Week
    Proving God’s Will
    Justin Romine, Keystone Project Summer Internship
    Romine describes the conflict between being conformed to the world and being transformed by the renewing of the mind. (Nov. 12)

  • On Becoming an Insult Pacifist
    Dr. William Irvine, Wright State University
    Irvine reports on his experiments with “insult pacifism” – responding to insults with silence or self-deprecating humor. (Nov. 19)

  • Making Peace from Pandora to Palestine
    Sr. Paulette Schroeder, Sisters of St. Francis
    Schroeder, a Christian Peacemaker Teams reservist, describes her efforts to build a grassroots culture of peace in small Midwestern towns and in the West Bank city of Hebron. (Nov. 26)

  • Plus presentations by students reporting on their spring 2013 cross-cultural experiences (Sept. 24) and the music department Christmas Festival (Dec. 3).
Do you notice a theme in the topics? In recent years, there has been an attempt to bring Forum speakers on campus to support the year’s Civic Engagement Theme. This year’s theme is “Race and Ethnicity in America: Celebration, Struggle, Opportunity.” 

Speakers early in the academic year will help us name and celebrate progress in race relations. The middle of the year will highlight the continuing struggles, while the end of the year will challenge us to embrace the opportunities.

Join us for “interdisciplinary discovery.” Forum presentations are free, open to the public and typically held at 11 a.m. Tuesday mornings in Founders Hall. 

And you don't have to need academic credit to attend.

>>> campus events calendar

Monday, September 9, 2013

What did you learn today?

Imagine sitting at the supper table, when the question is asked “what did you learn today?”

Not what homework do you have to do? Or how did you do on that test/report/presentation? But ‘what did you learn?’

Interesting differentiation. How would our society, our schools, be different if we focused on learning rather than on to-do-lists and grades?

I recently read a first-person essay about a grandfather who would always ask everyone who joined him for the evening meal – “What did you learn today?” The family would then learn from each other and enjoy a lively discussion about a wide range of topics.

This year, Bluffton faculty is suspending the typical faculty governance work to focus as a group on Student Learning and Engagement. Rather than discussing curriculum changes, new majors and/or classes; faculty meetings will be a discussion of the common reading of “What the Best College Teachers Do.” 

Professors will then be challenged to select one class to incorporate some new/different techniques as a ‘lab.’ Changes could be as simple as required one-on-one office visits to discuss projects, or as dramatic as a different presentation style - all with the goal of increasing student learning and engagement.

What did you learn today? It will be a new way to look at education for many of us. Similar to the way counting blessings at the end of the day helps one be aware of the blessings which may otherwise go unnoticed.

I can just imagine sitting down with my family now and asking “what did you learn today?” Let’s just say crickets would be chirping. I also imagine if this was a family tradition, I could see my 12-year-old self being excited to share and discuss some new-to-me nugget of knowledge, or see my 40-some-year-old self being excited to hear and discuss some new-to-them nugget of knowledge with my nieces and nephew.

So… What did you learn today?