Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Making student-alumni connections

Chris Wagler, alumni relations student assistant and phonathon caller
Guest blog by Chris Wagler '16

As college students prepare for the real world, connecting with alumni in your field is crucial. Not every college student gets that chance and those who do benefit significantly. I have been given that opportunity as a phonathon caller. I first thought “Oh you just ask people for money.” I could have not been anymore wrong about that. What I learned from just one year of working the phonathon will stay with me forever.

I spoke with an alumnae last year who guided me through her journey to becoming a CPA. We talked about what classes she took and how much studying she did. This experience helped me plan out my classes. It was great to hear a story from a recent graduate who knew the material and it helped reduce my stress level.

The phonathon gives you a chance to connect with alumni and thank them for the annual charitable gifts they send to our university. Without them, I would not be here and many other students would not either. Most of the people I speak with are pleased that we call them.

The calling software allows the student-callers to see what the alumni's major and extracurricular activities were when they were students, so we can find some common ground for our brief conversation. I was able to talk with one alumnus about the soccer program and how far we have come. Another alumnus talked about grad school and what path he took. I had a couple questions about grad school and he had some valuable advice for me.

I have also been able to learn more about the history of my school and alumni are always interested to hear about the improvements in curriculum and facilities.

Bluffton is truly a community and talking to past alums helps reinforce that idea. Alumni have stories that can change your life. Many talk about how different school was back then compared to today. Some had to work two jobs and that makes you appreciate what you have now. One alum had no idea what career he wanted to pursue and talked about how worried he was. He assured me that by the time graduation comes; you know what you want to do with your life. To think that a person can get all this and get paid is wonderful. Who doesn't want a job like this?

I truly look forward to working the phonathon when I can learn more about Bluffton’s past and how it can influence my future.

by Chris Wagler
Student Alumni Association vice president, Bluffton University Business Leaders treasurer,
Alumni office student assistant and accounting tutor

Editor's note: Students from Bluffton will be calling alumni in early February for the annual winter Phonathon. This is your chance to learn about Bluffton today from current students, share experiences and advice and, yes, support your alma mater. 

To make it more exciting, an anonymous alumni couple will match new and increased gifts to Bluffton, given Feb. 1 - March 2, 2014, up to a total of $30,000. So when the phone rings, say “Hello” and accept the challenge to help raise $30K in 30days.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What is a mentor?

Ron Geiser
I didn’t call him a mentor. Didn’t see him as one who “took me under his wing,” providing guidance and direction leading to professional success in my chosen career.

He was my boss. He gave me jobs that needed done so he could focus on other projects.

Looking back, he was also a mentor.

As a student back in the 80’s, I worked as a writer for Ron Geiser in the Bluffton communications department. My beat was academic affairs and the music department. It was my responsibility make my way to College Hall and Mosiman Hall each week, gather information for future events and write news releases about them. I also wrote feature stories, a few of which appeared in the magazine.

I can still remember him shaking his head as he watched me write out a release longhand - with paper and pen - and then type the finished piece. He “encouraged” me to compose articles directly on the typewriter. What a time-saver and important skill for a future journalist/communications professional to learn.

Ron brought me back to Bluffton in a staff role in the 90’s. Again I didn’t see him as a mentor as he gave me the assignment to “desktop publish” posters and brochures using WordPerfect, an assignment which directly lead to other roles I would eventually serve in at Bluffton.

Ron also served as Bluffton’s sports information director for many years. It is for this role that he’s being inducted into the Bluffton Athletics Hall of Fame tomorrow night, along with athletes Becky (Reineke ’98) Boblitt and Bill Lape ’62. I’m really excited for him to be given this recognition.

A student once asked me to be her mentor.  I’m sure I gave her a “deer in the headlights” look while thinking “If I’m your mentor and you don’t succeed professionally, does that mean I’ve failed you?” That’s more responsibility than I want to take on.

But I will gladly be a supervisor and give assignments, and suggestions on how to do them well, so I can focus on other projects. Do them well and I’ll give you more challenging assignments. Then maybe, someday, you’ll look back and call me a mentor. And I’m OK with that.

That’s just one more thing I learned from Ron.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Adapt and Overcome

The rescheduled video shoot in the temporary admissions Welcome Center.

Let’s just say it’s been an interesting beginning to the semester on Bluffton’s campus. And that might be an understatement.

First came the “Polar Vortex” which delayed the beginning of spring semester for only the second time in recent memory. So instead of starting classes on Tuesday, classes began on Thursday.

I could whine about having to reschedule a full-day video shoot originally set for Wednesday. But that inconvenience is minor compared to the campus aftermath of the cold snap. A busted water line in one section of Riley Court resulted in waterlogged faculty and admissions counselor’s offices.

It’s no secret that “adapt and overcome” is my mantra. Our friends in Riley Court have embraced this concept and made it their own.

While disaster recovery professionals work to rehab the area, the admissions welcome center is now set up in the Marbeck Center Gallery Lounge. A little harder for visitors to find, but what an authentic first impression of what it’s like to be a Bluffton student.

Offices that were affected are scattered across campus for the time being. It’s definitely not the ideal situation. Hall meetings – those wonderful impromptu gatherings between departmental colleagues which often lead to creative ideas – will be harder to come by. However, hall meetings with colleagues from other areas will be more likely to happen – perhaps leading to new levels of understanding.

While it’s not an ideal beginning to the semester, what an example of Bluffton’s core values – Discovery, Community, Respect and Service.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Getting around on campus

As I sat at my kitchen table wearing multiple layers and warm fuzzy slippers earlier this week, choosing to stay inside rather than brave the sub-zero temps and even more dangerous negative wind chill, my appreciation grew for those willing to face the elements.

The following was written back in the relative warmth of November.
A note from Kevin Nickel, vice president for fiscal affairs… 
Many weather sources, including the Farmer’s Almanac, are forecasting a colder than average winter with higher than average snowfall. Hopefully the weather ends up being better than forecasted but no matter what happens, Buildings and Grounds is prepared to handle it. Ice melt, road salt and sand have already been purchased and are being stored on campus for use this winter. Machinery has been prepared to use for removing snow from our nearly four miles of sidewalks.

B&G staff has also reviewed a comprehensive plan for snow removal on campus. The first area of concern is removing snow from the 84 building entrance areas, a job that needs to be done by hand. Priority is given to areas around residence halls and classroom buildings and, once those are clean, sidewalks and areas around office entrances are cleaned. Cleaning the entrance areas and sidewalks takes six people about 2.5 hours. Once snow is removed, ice melt or salt is applied. During heavier snowfalls, an outside contractor cleans the campus roadways and parking lots, beginning from the center of campus and working out.

In order to keep the sidewalks around Sommer Center from pitting and flaking, only sand will be used in that area. After this winter, the concrete will be fully cured and we can begin using ice melt and salt.
From the warm inside looking out it can be easy to second guess the good folks in B&G, "How about a little salt," "why didn't they get an earlier start," etc, etc.

Consider this: four miles of sidewalks, 84 building entrances, six people. That is impressive.

Thank you B&G for all the work you do, in every season.