Archive for Campus News

My Civic Engagement Day experience


by: Justin Mattix

Civic Engagement Day is an opportunity for all of Bluffton University students to engage in a wide range of issues. The day is filled with many sessions that encompass one theme. This year’s theme: Education.

Many speakers gathered around the idea of speaking about something that they are very passionate about. During a session held in the Kreider room, four students and a recent graduate from Bluffton University gathered to speak about learning that doesn’t take place within the classroom. They titled their discussion, “Learning without a Syllabus”.

The participants who led this discussion talked about many experiences they have had. Their focus was to promote internship opportunities. These students have experience more by doing, rather than by learning in the classroom.

Becca Lapp, a Spanish and TESOL major, describes learning outside of the classroom as an “opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture of learning”. She goes on to explain that when students immerse themselves in a learning community outside of the classroom, they expand on horizons that only deepen relationships and the ability to experience problems that will never occur in a restricted classroom. Becca has experienced many of these difficulties in her own experiences in other countries such as: Honduras, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, as well as Guatemala.

Experiences trump all learning through worksheets. Emotional stimulation isn’t something that can be simulated in the classroom. Rachel Keske, a Math Education major, describes that serving in college is an opportunity that should be experienced by all students on campus. “They must broaden their views on surrounding environments while they have the chance”, she said.

Eric Wilfer, a recent graduate of Bluffton University, backed Rachel up on her claims. He promotes learning by doing as one of the best suitable techniques for all those attempting to learn something new. Internships for him, propelled him towards getting a job straight out of college as a sales representative at Fastenal.

One last leading determiner for learning is passion. According to Appiah Adubafour, “passion equates learning”. When one attempts to learn, they must pursue it with all out desire for growth. He also urges students, as well as any other students of life to find mentors to walk along with for a communal learning experience. Mentors offer encouragement when things aren’t looking fruitful.

Griffin Kuras, a student and attendee of the discussion, left the session inspired. “A lot of the things that we heard seem to promote opportunities for deeper, stimulating learning.” He has already accepted an internship opportunity for the summer.

Daniel Piero, a Math and Physics double major, describes similar uses of mentors. He urges all students to find a professor on campus to help them in their learning. “Professors know a lot- they also know a lot about opportunities for worthy students.” This is an important aspect for Daniel Piero’s success. One of his mentors, Steve Harnish, presented him an opportunity to becoming an intern at Blue Waters working with the concept of Parallel Computing. His passion and pride for learning has pushed him to succeed in fields of Physics.

He ended the discussion with a powerful message to life-long learners. “Everyone can learn a lot, but it takes a special person to be interested in one topic.”

Civic Engagement Day keynote speaker: Larry Starr

by: Dyson Bowman

Yoder Recital hall was filled with students on the night of March 25, 2015 as Bluffton University’s Civic Engagement Day brought in former athletic trainer Larry Starr. Starr was first introduced to athletic training back in 1960, in the summer before his freshman year of high school, when his brother was doing lessons from the Cramer Correspondence book on athletic training.dhte

He eventually went on to attend Ohio University, where he decided that athletic training was the career for him, while learning the ways of Al Hart. While Starr was a junior at Ohio University, Hart offered him a job as assistant athletic trainer. He could not take that title due to not having his degree yet so they settled on Star being the assistant to the athletic trainer.

At the age of 23, Hart called Starr asking if he wanted to interview for a Major League Baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds. During the interview Starr was told that they loved him but were concerned with his lack of height, or in his words “vertically challenged,” and youthful appearance. A week later he was asked to come in for another interview where the same things were said about his appearance. He was hired anyway based on an impressive reference.

An orthopedic physician in Columbus, Ohio, told them that Starr “stands tall above all men,” when asked about his height. Starr second guessed his decision, wondering whether or not he should take the job. Starr’s brother persuaded him to take the job, as it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

1974, after being with the reds for a few years, Starr noticed that the players weren’t as fit as they should be. Asking for money and permission, Starr was able to start a strength program for the team. Much of the staff/coaches believed that a strength program wasn’t smart for baseball players, and to their surprise Starr’s program led the Reds to a World Series in 1975.

“No matter what kind of player they are, there is always something good in that player,” said Starr, “You have to understand the people you work with.”
Starr believes that athletics teach individuals great things. According to him, athletics teach players to develop a great work ethic, how to overcome adversity, mentorship, and the importance of family. Being in athletics involves being away from family, as well as causing many obstacles that athletes have to overcome. You must remember where you came from, and who has helped you out along the way.

Starr concluded by saying, “It doesn’t matter how much I know, if the athlete doesn’t trust me, I am of no help to them.”

Technology geeks wanted


by: Kristina Ciminillo

To your Geek on in BU Tech Center. They are looking for friendly, experienced personnel to work between 6 and 10 hours per week.

Think you can handle it?

Talk to Sam Stucky at ASAP for an app

Students to speak out on peace and violence

by: Caitlin Nearhood

The annual C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest will occur Wednesday, March 25 at 6 p.m. in Yoder Recital Hall as part of Bluffton’s yearly Civic Engagement Day activities.

Six students will speak on topics of peace in various contexts and include:

• Emily Huxman, “Reducing Global Violence Against Women Through Education.”
• Rebecca Lapp, “Love Like Jesus: A Lesson in Immigration.”
• Charles Miller, “One Size Does Not Fit All: Embodying Peace in Education.”
• Venessa Owsley, “Making Bluffton a Safe Space.”
• Chay Reigle, “The Fourth Estate of Peacemaking.”
• Shannon Thiebeau, “Teaching Gender Roles in Youth Ministry: Why it Needs to Stop.”

The event will also have a reception for the winning speaker and refreshments for everyone. Arts and Lecture credit will also be available.

Welcoming women writers


by: Kristina Ciminillo

Last week Susan Carpenter’s Writing Seminar class hosted Spoken Word Poet Kyla Lacey and inundated her with questions she more than obligingly answered.

Spoken word is a type of poetry popular on YouTube these days. You may have enjoyed some yourself. This is performance of poetry that is emotionally charged and focuses on word play and spiritual or psychological insights the author wants to impress upon the audience.

Lacey told us “I write to convey a story.” She is “Into how words work and interconnect and how they are literally made. She was a French and German major and in High School studied Latin.

One poem she talked to us about was “Letter to Ronald Regan” which is about his not wanting MLK to have a holiday. She said “Going back to change certain words comes from having a rich vocabulary…meaningfulness and connection come before being clever.” Lacey discussed “Delta mode” which she explained is a “different wavelength like when driving or first laying down in bed, or the middle of the day when I’m completely alone and have been for several hours.” She claimed “Cats are always in this mode of heightened perception.”

Lacey talked about the common ABAB rhyme scheme which is more rigid and limiting than internal rhyme scheme. She confessed that she wished she “were more imaginative and less narcissistic.” When asked if there is a difference between poems that could be performed Lacey said “I do write a lot of poems just for me. There are some that look better just on the page.”

When asked about her favorite books she replied with The Great Gatsby, Toni Morrison “who is visceral and paints a scent for you, and Memoirs of a Geisha. She said she even liked the movie version of the latter.

Her favorite quote is her mentor’s, Anne Lamott’s, empowering advice to “Tell your stories, you own them. If people wanted you to write nicely about them they would have treated you better.”

Lacey is currently working on a book which she explained is similar to Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me (and Other Concerns I Have). She told us she tries “…to be as honest as I can. Psychologists say lying successfully takes higher intelligence. I try to be 95% more honest.” And “Poetry is therapy. There needs to be the statement “Wow! There’s a lot of rape.” instead of “Wow! There’s a lot of rape poems.””

Lacey resided in Chicago until age nine, the Florida suburbs, in “Seminole County-Where Trayvone Martin was killed”, until July of 2014. She now lives just 30 minutes outside of Atlanta, Georgia where she moved “for performance opportunities.” She asked herself the question “But what are you doing in your own backyard: Are you doing anything to facilitate change or just writing a poem about a social issue for influence and power?”

Jesse Roth and Fault Lines win big in Fort Wayne

by: Alex Parker

While some students were heading off to warmer locations during that first weekend of spring break, Jesse Roth and a few of Fault Lines dancers traveled to Fort Wayne to win a huge competition.

Roth, a senior majoring in writing and business administration, choreographed four dances for the Fort Wayne Dance for All Choreography Exhibition, a line dance competition. The Dance for All celebrated its 20th anniversary and remains the biggest line dance convention in the United States. This meant a tough competition for Roth and her dancers.

The competition was split into three divisions; Newcomer/Novice, Intermediate, and Phrased. The top three dances in each division placed and a final prize awarded to the overall winner. Roth had entered one dance in the Newcomer/Novice division, one in the Intermediate division, and two in the Phrased division. Each division had a total of seventeen dances competing for the right to be called the best. “I thought a third place finish would be good,” said Roth considering the competitors.

The competition got underway and all the dances were performed in front of a few select judges as well as a large audience. Roth felt good dancing despite losing her name tag in the beginning of her dance. “I was more comfortable knowing [Fault Lines] was with me, and that’s the biggest number I’ve competed with.”

The award ceremony began and the choreographers were lined up so that prizes could be dealt out. Roth took third in the Newcomer/Novice division, first place only escaping by a mere 5 points. She then took first in the Intermediate division by a few points. Finally she dominated the competition in the Phrased division, taking first by a whopping 17 points.

The final listings showed that her winning streak wasn’t quite over. Jesse had received a total score 607 points, putting her 27 points ahead of second place which shocked her. She said “I figured someone was going to run onto the floor shouting they had miscalculated and someone else was the winner.” She then accepted the $250 dollar grand prize for being the best overall choreographer.

With the competition over Jesse and the other dancers enjoyed the rest of their break knowing that moving to those warmer locations wouldn’t have had the same results.

clusterFlunk raises $1 million in new funding from Lightbank, launches nationwide

default_gigantic_avatarclusterFlunk, an app that allows students to get better grades by asking questions and uploading/downloading files, has come out of a private beta and made the entire app available to all university students.

Students join the app/website, and get help from students studying similar subjects, courses, or even the same professor. From there they can post questions, and upload/download files to get the help they need instantly. Best of all, clusterFlunk is completely free.

The app that gets students better grades will use their latest round of funding to help every student in the U.S.

They have recently closed a $1 million seed round. Lightbank led the round and was joined by Built by Iowa, an Iowa-focused early stage fund. This investment was primarily for their national launch, as they were in a closed beta at the University of Iowa, after seeing massive success.

While in beta 15 thousand of the 21 thousand undergraduates were using clusterFlunk at Iowa.

“As students, we were frustrated by the lack of access to classmates in our large lecture courses, and we wanted to create a way for more collaboration outside of the classroom,” said clusterFlunk co-founder AJ Nelson. “clusterFlunk provides students with instant help, allowing them to ask questions and upload/download any kind of file (study guides, past exams, lecture notes), for free.”

clusterFlunk launched at the University of Iowa in January 2013, and more than two-thirds of the students on campus have joined the platform. Additionally, three-fourths of clusterFlunk’s users visit the site at least monthly to share notes, ask questions, and collaborate on assignments.

After seeing that success the company has decided to make the app/ website available nationally.

“Students have a lack of resources to connect in an easy way online. Current options such as Facebook don’t offer the tools necessary to share files and truly engage with classmates,” said Paul Lee, partner at Lightbank. “clusterFlunk is changing the way students study, interact and plan on campus. The metrics from their initial launch are impressive, and we’re excited to see the platform expand to other campuses across the U.S.”

More than 65 percent of clusterFlunk’s users said their grades enhanced as a result of the platform, and 38 percent said they made at least one new friend after using the social network.

To learn more about clusterFlunk, visit, or download the app in apple’s iOS store.

Tyler Oberly visits Bluffton

w9IJlUFyOn the afternoon of Thursday, January 22 Bluffton University hosted a mathematics seminar unlike any you’ve ever been to. Tyler Oberly, Manager of Analytics for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, addressed an eager audience with a speech titled “Sports Analytics: Diving into the math behind athletics.”

The seminar, which was open to all, focused on the emerging industry of sports analytics, and Oberly’s journey to his current position.

Analytics, without going into much detail, is the process of collecting and analyzing data, the ultimate goal being recognition of trends to improve performance. With so many teams searching for a more reliable way to measure and predict player performance, the sports analytics industry is rapidly expanding across all the major professional and collegiate leagues.

Oberly is a graduate of Bluffton High School (2006) and the University of Toledo where he majored in electrical engineering. He is married to Erin (Neal) Oberly, the daughter of Guy and Diane Neal.

He said that while he was happy creating business and risk analysis reports in the industrial world, he knew it wasn’t what he really wanted to be doing. Growing up playing football, basketball and running track, Oberly has always had a passion for sports, and knew he could turn that into a career. He just didn’t know how yet.

“I could not fall asleep after watching that movie,” said Oberly about Moneyball. “It was my eureka moment when I realized I could do this. I was already doing it, just not in a sports context.”

In his time at Toledo Oberly had begun to develop his own model for evaluating National Football League rosters and salary caps, called the Elitics PER (Player Efficiency Rating) Model. The Elitics PER Model is designed to provide one metric in reviewing all players from all positions throughout the NFL.

As one of seven finalists in the 2014 MIT Sloan Business School’s Evolution of Sport conference, Oberly was able to present his work to an audience of sports professionals looking for the next big thing that could change the face of sport.

Obviously Oberly impressed at least one person in that crowd because he was shortly thereafter hired by the Buccaneers to head up their new analytics department. He now works closely with Head Coach Lovie Smith and General Manager Jason Licht, as well as other front office personnel.

For more on Oberly and his innovative work follow him on Twitter: @tyleroberly, or check out some of his writing from his time at The Sideline View.

Dr. Friesen’s trip to Italy

Dr. Melissa Friesen spent two weeks of the holiday break in Italy participating in the directors’ symposium, “Theatre-makers: Theatre for Social Change and Community Engagement,” put on by La MaMa Umbria.

In the beautifully scenic hills of rural Umbria, near the small city of Spoleto, Dr. Friesen and 14 others immersed themselves in the culture while expanding their theater teaching techniques.

Dr. Friesen said the most enriching part of the symposium was the hands-on exercises she was able to take back home. The new warm-up rituals and focus games she performed were important for her she said because of the awareness she now has concerning their actual effectiveness. Psychodrama as drama therapy opened her mind to the personal change that can occur when fully engaging in these practices.

Though she’s had fun and found usefulness in all the workshops she’s attended over the years (including trips to California and Broadway), it sounded as though her adventure in Italy was her favorite. The relevance to the Theatre for Social Change course that she’s developed and is now teaching for the second time is no doubt a big reason why she enjoyed the experience so much.

After an intense two weeks of mentally exhausting work and play, Dr. Friesen said she’s inspired and ready to apply what she’s learned in all the different aspects within her job.

If you’re curious to know more about Dr. Friesen’s trip ask her about it yourself. She’s always friendly and willing to talk to students during her office hours or when you spot her around campus.

College athletes: rate your coach

Locker Room Talk® ( is a rating and review website for college coaches which compiles information in an easy-to-search format so that high school athletes undergoing the varsity recruiting process can make educated decisions.

Through a short, anonymous online survey, Locker Room Talk gives college players the unique ability to easily rate and review their coaches.  The website is a positive platform for college student-athletes to express their views so that high school athletes can better evaluate the programs they are considering.

“We need current and recently graduated college athletes to fill out our simple, fast, anonymous online survey to provide information about your experiences with your coach. By sharing your honest opinions, you will be helping high school athletes make the best choices for their futures,” said Oliver Loutsenko, co-founder of Locker Room Talk.

Created by former varsity college athletes as a “force for good,” Locker Room Talk® is an invaluable resource for high school athletes and their families as they prepare to make one of the most important choices of their lives.  It covers both men’s and women’s teams in sports such as football, baseball, basketball, tennis, soccer, lacrosse, hockey, skiing, swimming and more.

For more information, call 203-556-5839, visit, Facebook, Instagram (@lockerroomtalk) or Twitter (@LRTsports).

Click here to take the quick survey!