Archive for Forum

“My Road, Our History,” A forum presentation by Dr. Elizabeth Soto Albrecht

Dr. Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, moderator of Mennonite Church USA shared her story titled “Mi Camino, Nuestra Historia” which translates to “My Road, Our History.”  Dr. Soto started out her presentation by explaining that this is was not her story, but our story.  She explained her journey of traveling from Puerto Rico to Chicago at only 6 months old.  Though she does not remember that transition period, she does vividly remember her transition back to Puerto Rico from Chicago at the age of 16.  She quickly noticed how difficult it was to be uprooted from one country and language and placed into a culture where you have no control.  She had to develop many coping techniques to adjust to living in America.

A major point she made throughout her presentation was how important it is for Americans to be bilingual, or even trilingual.  The struggles that she faced throughout her time in America were completely horrifying to hear from someone who has experienced the racism and discrimination our country has firsthand.  The many languages she had to learn are not just the English language, but more so languages of resistance and non-violence.  As a child, and even today, immigrants are constantly non verbally told that they are not welcome here in America.  She encouraged the audience to “own our privilege but to also question our privilege.”

This “web of racism” that America has evolved over centuries has made living in America a big price for immigrants who have come here for a more prosperous and fulfilling life.  Dr. Soto gave many specific examples of the discrimination she experienced growing up as an immigrant in America during her childhood.  One example she used was because of social promotion, she moved from one grade to the next without being able to read or write.  While that may sound like a privilege, she viewed it as her education being stolen from her.  By the time she got to junior high and high school, she was constantly behind and struggled to keep up with her classmates who were given the proper attention and education during their childhood.  Another example was a very emotional story of the discrimination she has experienced here in America.  Because Dr. Soto could not read or write, her weekly spelling tests were extremely difficult for her and she always just scribbled through the words because she did not know how to write it.  However, one day when her teacher asked the class to spell “camel”, she figured it out and correctly wrote her very first word.  Unfortunately, when the teacher got the test back, the teacher had wrongfully assumed that Elizabeth had cheated and copied one of her classmates.  The teacher held a pencil up to Elizabeth, attempting to force her to admit she had cheated; but she had not.  So when Elizabeth insisted that she did not cheat, the teacher wrote on her forehead in front of the entire class to display that she was a liar and cheater.

Elizabeth concluded her presentation by explaining that there is no law that eliminates racism from people’s heart – that evil cannot be taken away unless we willingly give it away.  “The root of all isms is the abuse of power. Choose to use your power, do not chose to abuse it.  We are in this together…This is a story we are writing together; what will we leave behind for the next generation?”

Forum Tuesday November 12 Speaker Justin Romine Spoke About Transformation

For Spiritual Life Week at Bluffton University, Justin Romine came to talk about being transformed not conformed and preached about proving God’s will on Tuesday’s forum.


Romine works with college students from around the world to teach them how to follow Jesus and shows them how to be a transforming agent in the world around them. His mission is to prove that what God has in store for us is good no matter how bad the world around us is.


Romine asks how we see the world and if the way we perceive it is a good world and is it a good place to be. Or is this world that we live in filled with evil. The passage deals with not conforming to the patterns and things of this world or the world itself, but being transformed. “Be an agent of change, be an agent of transformation,” Romine said.

Story by: Lauren Volosin

Forum 10/29: Marion Blumenthal Lazan, Holocaust Survivor

No food, no toothbrush, no baths or showers, and nothing to keep you warm for long terrorizing months that felt like years. This is what Marion Blumenthal Lazan, survivor of the Holocaust, unbelievably lived through and was here to share with us her story. She says that this story should live on and people of our generation must carry it on because it is something that never should be forgotten.

Janruary 1944, her and her family were shipped out to the concentration camp in Bergen-Belsen. It was there, where her fear really began as guards with rifles and German-Shepard’s viciously greeted them. Women had to go to one side, men on the other, so she was separated from her father and brother. They were crammed into rooms and had to share uncomfortable straw matrices with only one blanket even in the winter.

The prisoners had to line up in a large field every morning and had to stay there until every single person was accounted for. This could mean they went some days all the way until night and would not get food. Which their food was not much, one slice of bread, but it was all they were given. During the winter, they would even get frostbit and the only cure Lazan said, was pee on the body part with their own urine.

“Malnutrition, dysentery and loss of the will to go on destroyed body and mind,” Lazan said. She said it was an everyday occurrence that people would die. The women, she said, were the ones who survived the most because of their mental will to live to take care of their children. Some people would die because they could no longer go on mentally. To avoid everything bad that was going on, Lazan would play with what she called “Four Perfect Pebbles,” to keep herself hopeful that all four of her family members were going to stay alive.

“Be kind, good and respectful to one another,” Lazan said. She said if there was one thing in life to make sure you do, it was to be kind to one another. That is one of the most important things that will keep this world sane.

Story by: Lauren Volosin

Constitution Day Forum with Judge Randall Basinger

Tuesday September 17th, Putnam County’s Common Pleas Court Judge Randall Basinger, was there to help better inform people about the “The U.S. Constitution and Current Issues before the Supreme Court.” He explained judicial philosophies that provide the constitutional basis for recent and pending Supreme Court decisions. These decisions are controversial issues such as gay rights, health care, immigration, affirmative action, gun rights and abortion.

Judge Randall Basinger reviewed Article 1 of the United States Constitution. He explained how the Article establishes the powers of and limitations on the Congress which has the Legislative Powers vested in a Congress of the United States, the House of Representatives and how there is a two year term with 435 members, and the Senate which must have two Senators from each state and a 6 year term by state. He also explained Article 2 of the United States Constitution, describing how it creates the executive branch of the government.

Judge Basinger went over the Bill of Rights as well, talking about the Right to Counsel, and Right to Privacy. The Bill of Rights includes speech and religion, search, self-incrimination, attorney, cruel and unusual, states rights, and incorporation. The Right to Counsel is when the Sixth Amendment right to an attorney originally applies to Federal Government but was extended to state courts and ultimately to any case where your right to liberty is at state. The Right to Privacy inherent rights such as liberty, happiness, speech, association, and the 14th Amendment. “ It’s the Right of Privacy that gives a women of gives a family, the decision making power available, that involve questions of abortion for example,” Basinger explains.

Judge Randall Basinger received his undergraduate degree from Bowling Green State University and his J.D. from Case Western Reserve University. His knowledge certainly showed throughout the forum. He then wrapped up his speech saying, “You have extraordinary privilege, with it, comes extraordinary responsibility.”

Story by Lauren Volosin

Forum Video: 2012 Presidential Leadership Lecture Introduction by President James Harder

Forum: 2012 Presidential Leadership Lecture, Murli Buluswar, Bluffton class of 1991

On Tuesday, February 5th, Bluffton University held its annual Presidential Leadership Lecture. This years speaker was Murli Buluswar, pictured here during his presentation.

On Tuesday February 5th Bluffton University held it annual Presidential Leadership Lecture. This years speaker was Murli Buluswar. Buluswar graduated from Bluffton in 1991 with a masters degree in Economics and currently works for AIG as Chief Scientific Officer. President Harder introduced Buluswar, and awarded him with an engraved crystal engraved with Bluffton Universities motto, Truth Makes Free. Buluswar then spoke about life lessons he has learned over the course of his career.

Buluswar had a power point presentation for his whole speech and shared his favorite quotes this way. He also Johari-Window-Model_JK-Web_Revisedexplained the Johari Window to the students using power point. The Johari Window is a way of explaining personality, what is known to you and not known to others, or know to others but not known to you and so on.

Buluswar said this is a way to peep into yourself. By learning theses traits we can learn more about ourselves. Buluswar also talked about confidence in yourself. He shared a quote from Henry Ford, “If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, your right.”

Resilience is important too, according to Buluswar. Neither success nor failure is permanent. He said to learn how to fail, but fail smarter each time. If you don’t fail you aren’t trying. Buluswar also said to measure success by effort not the outcome.

Buluswar said he taught himself not to let his failures affect his belief in himself. Instead of dwelling on the problem itself praise yourself for how thoughtful you are on figuring out the problem.

Several times Buluswar brought up Steve Jobs, a man most people would say was highly succussful.  Buluswar said Steve Jobs believed he could despite the fact he dropped out of college and was initially fired by Apple.

Buluswar suggestion to students was to imagine yourself where you will be in ten years time. Who is that person? Let this inspire you how to live your life now. Buluswar said to allow yourself to dream. Challenge your boundaries. What are you doing today that you weren’t doing yesterday?

Forum Photos: “Studying Off-campus: Students’ Reflections from their Semester in DC, Nashville and Belgium”

MLK Forum “Revisiting the Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,” by Dr. Dafina Lazarus Stewart

Dr. Dafina Lazarus Stewart speaks about Dr. King's legacy at forum on January 22, 2013.
Dr. Dafina Lazarus Stewart looks into the audience during her speech on Dr. King's Legacy at forum on January 22, 2013

Dr. Dafina Lazarus Stewart looks into the audience during her speech on Dr. King’s Legacy at forum on January 22, 2013

On Tuesday, January 22, 2013, Bluffton University held its annual Martin Luther King forum. This year’s speaker was Dr. Dafina Lazarus Stewart, speaking on the legacy of Dr. King. According to the Bluffton University website Dr. Dafina-Lazarus Stewart is an associate professor at Bowling Green State University.
Stewart looked back on Dr. King’s legacy by first talking about how we view Dr. King more than thirty years after his assassination. Stewart talked about Dr. King’s beliefs and compared them to how Malcolm X is viewed. Stewart asked the audience to listen to quotes that could be from either man and then share whom they thought the quotes were from. It turned out that even though some of the quotes were aggressive and inflammatory they were all by Dr. King (Stewart also recommended watching Spike Lee’s Malcolm X to learn more about him).
By showing the audience these inflammatory quotes Stewart was able to show
that Dr. King was not just a passive man, but instead a clash of many different aspects. Stewart said Dr. King was anti-Vietnam, a fact they may have lead to the cause of his assassination because he “dared to speak out.” Dr. King did not want a war that cost the lives of children. He also found it ironic that African-American and Hispanic men were asked to fight Americas war when they did not have equal rights in their own county.
Dr. Kings is also rarely associated with economic justice, Stewart said, and not known among many is the fact that the northern states, including Ohio, practiced segregation both in law and in practice.
Dr. King is recognized for his next steps, or “where do we go from here?” Dr. King was aware that, although legislation was being changed, nothing would change without thought patterns being changed. Dr. King knew that respect was required for people to change how they thought.
Stewart challenged the audience to see the full 360 degrees of Dr. King and embrace him as militant, regardless of his non-violence approach. Stewart asked the audience what militant implied. Aggressive, uncompromisable, and authoritative were all words called out from the audience. Stewart said all those descriptions are accurate of who Dr. King was. That doesn’t mean, though, that his pacifism was undermined, instead that gave Dr. King power.
According to Stewart Dr. King was not just interested in stopping segregation, but wanted to change the infrastructure that produced it, along with poverty, and other social issues. A quote used by Stewart was “True compassion is more than just flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs reconstructing (Dr. King, Riverside Church, April 4th, 1967).” Stewart ended by talking about some of Dr. Kings last words spoken in a speech before his death. He posed the question if he couldn’t help others what would happen to his fellow brothers and sisters. Stewart said to “Take a stand,” because that is the legacy Dr. King left.

Solar Stews and Digital Funerals- Forum Recap

Khanjan Mehta of Penn State University discussed social entrepreneurial ventures and how technology has impacted Africa during Forum on Tuesday, Dec. 4. Mehta’s presentation, “Solar Stews and Digital Funerals: Stories from East Africa,” was not only insight on the ways in which other countries live, but gave off a strong message “presentations don’t solve problems, solutions solve problems”. Mehta is director of the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship program at Penn State, where he earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering. In Kenya, Tanzania and other countries, he has led social ventures ranging from telemedicine systems to low-cost greenhouses, windmills, solar dryers, cell phone-based social networking systems, innovative science education programs and knowledge-sharing platforms for self-employed women.

Mehta talked of four aspects or sustainability in other countries: Technology appropriate, environmentally benign, culturally acceptable, and economically sustainable. He mentioned that donations from across seas actually hurt small businesses in those countries and rather than using crops grown in their own country, these countries are using our imports. Mehta also brought up the point of technology in these countries, just because they are poverty stricken, they do not see themselves that way and actually technology is available to them. Cell phones are made available and not only are they an asset; they are a way of life. Cell phones are used as a way of communication, but also their access to the internet. Cell phones provide an identity to these people, and a quote from one man is now the title of Mehta’s presentation “… you can’t have a funeral without a cell phone”. As Mehta explained, these people often times spend 10x their yearly income of $800 on a funeral and it is made possible through calling friends and pulling funds together. Khanjan left the Bluffton University audience with a couple of thoughts, “The world runs on entrepreneurship… things would not get done without entrepreneurs” he stressed and with one thought that might of left the Bluffton faculty cringing “I don’t care about your GPA, I want passion in my students”.

Forum 10/23: Humanities Division


Forum was presented quite differently this past week, as it took place in sections around campus at 11a.m. on Tuesday, October 23.  Students and faculty from the Humanities division gathered in the Mussleman Library Reading Room for a special panel discussion.  “Welcome to this atypical forum,” said Jeff Gundy, professor of English, as he introduced the speakers.  Three former Bluffton students were invited to talk about their careers and experience after graduation.  The first speaker graduated as an English major, but was undecided until her junior year.  She asked a rhetorical question, what can you do with an English major?  Her answer? “You can do lots.”  She had little feedback from newspapers, and first worked as a hotel desk clerk.  Her second opportunity was work with people who have disabilities.  She spent 11 years in this location, gained skills in middle management, and earned a Master’s degree in Organizational Management.  She then worked for a software company, and now works for her church.  She’s the Christian education coordinator, and part-time treasures.  “Employers are looking for…versatile employees,” she said.  She even suggested that working for our own Bluffton Connection might be appealing to employers.

The next speaker was a Spanish education major, but when that major was dropped, he focused on Spanish classes and TESOL.  He had a passion for linguistics and phonetics, worked at Tu Pueblo, and learned a second language.  “I learned the importance of networking,” he said as he talked about making international connections at Bluffton.  After Bluffton, he earned a Master’s degree in TESOL, went to India for a wedding and interned as an accent tutor, taught in South Korea, and was given a job at Ohio Northern University.  He also revealed to us that he has been given a teaching position in Costa Rica.  “Use your connections, use your knowledge, and in the field,” he said, “grow.”

The final speaker was a Bluffton student when the events of September 11, 2001 took place.  He said it was a “worldview shake-up,” and he wrestled with the idea of peace and non-violence.  This wrestling gave him opportunities to engage with new ideas, and led him to desire joining the Mennonite church.  He became an associate pastor in Archbold, Ohio. He earned a Master’s degree, is currently enrolled in a doctorate program, and will be teaching a religion class at Bluffton University this spring.  His advice was that we should “explore this changing world view.”

After the panelists finished speaking, the floor was open to students.  They questioned the speakers, who gave one last, overall suggestion:  Do not turn down every opportunity.  Do not accept every opportunity.  But consider them all.