New Faces, New Perspectives
Each year, Bluffton begins anew. New students arrive on campus ready to begin their college careers. Upperclassmen return ready to build upon the year prior. New faculty and staff join the Bluffton campus, ready to be part of a new community, each bringing with them experiences, insights and a desire to shape minds. Here, you'll meet three new faces on Bluffton's campus this fall and read about what motivates and excites them. Each has a different specialty—restorative justice, social work, and football—with an underlying commonality: a passion for making a difference in the lives of Bluffton students.
Assistant professor of restorative justice
Rudi Kauffman joins the Bluffton community as assistant professor of restorative justice. Prior to Bluffton, he taught at the University of Cincinnati while finishing a doctorate in international relations. He holds a bachelor's degree with majors in history and social science; justice, peace and conflict studies; and sociology, from Eastern Mennonite University, as well as a master's degree in teaching from Earlham College.
JD: How did you become interested in international relations?
RK: From the very beginning, I was interested in mediation. My family spent time in Haiti, returning to the same town each year. Dad was a family doctor, who practiced in a small village outside of Port-au-Prince. It was frustrating watching how international bodies dealt with situations. We also had people living in our house from Central and South America in the 1980s, which was a very messy time for foreign policy. I thought we could certainly be doing things better. We had to do things better.
JD: Tell me about your research.
RK: I'm working on an analysis of "just war" in the 1990s and seeing if the "justness" of war increases the humanitarian outcomes or if Just War Theory leads to failure of humanitarian actions.
JD: Meaning what?
RK: Just War Theory deals with the "how" and "why" wars are fought. The justification can be either theoretical or historical. The theoretical aspect is concerned with ethically justifying war and forms of warfare. The historical aspect deals with the body of rules or agreements applied in various wars across the ages. I am not a pacifist in the strictest sense that "peace is the best thing" or that "no one can ever be hurt." I think love is the best thing. My research comes out of exploring the boundaries of "loving" and "not loving."
JD: So, how do you define "restorative justice?"
RK: Instead of saying an individual must suffer equal to the suffering he or she caused, restorative justice is about bringing the situation and victim back from the pain that was caused. It's more of a "you must make the pain right" versus "you must suffer the pain yourself " view.
JD: What brings you to Bluffton?
RK: Bluffton is the one place I said I would go if I could get a position. There's a wonderful balance of being Mennonite and being open. I'm here to teach and learn new things. Teaching and learning are not separate in my mind. I get excited about what excites my students, whether it's exploring gender roles or issues of justice in sociology, or discussing the political views of countries around the world. I very much look forward to the interaction of ideas.
Kauffman will teach courses in criminal justice, political science and sociology. He and his wife, Ravonn, reside in Bluffton with their daughters Greta and Sophia.
Heather Koontz, LISW-S
Assistant professor of social work
A 1997 Bluffton graduate, Heather Koontz returns to Bluffton as assistant professor of social work. She spent the past four years as director of emergency services at Lutheran Social Services in Lima, Ohio, and was an integral part of creating the We Care Regional Crisis Center, a crisis intervention program that services Allen, Auglaize and Hardin counties. She holds a master's degree in social work from The Ohio State University, in addition to her bachelor's degree in social work.
JD: You weren't initially headed into social work as a student, were you?
HK: Actually, I was going for psychology because that's the background everyone thinks you need to be a counselor. But, with a psychology degree, I couldn't be licensed without a doctorate. I had conversations with social work majors that really sparked my interest. On a personal level, I knew that different things that had happened in my life and struggles my family had gone through had prepared me to help others with their struggles.
JD: What went into the creation of We Care Regional Crisis Center?
HK: The crisis intervention services in the area had switched hands between the community mental health board and hospital many times. I had worked on both sides. I was asked, along with another social worker, to develop what we thought was the "Cadillac" for crisis intervention, because there was great need for a stable program in our community. So, we did. It was decided that the program would be offered by the community mental health services, but located within the hospital. The center really is a collaborative effort of the community mental health board and hospital, and that's innovative because the two usually do not collaborate because of differences in funding.
JD: What makes you passionate about crisis intervention?
HK: In crisis work, when a person's defenses are lowered because he or she doesn't know what else to do, when there are no other coping mechanisms to grasp onto, that's when individuals come to us. These people don't know us. They've never met us. They open up their lives to us, and we have an opportunity in those moments to improve their quality of life. It's very rewarding work.
JD: Why the transition from a professional role to teaching?
HK: At We Care, I watched my staff and student interns grow, and I loved that. I didn't realize how rewarding teaching could be until I taught Abnormal Psychology as an adjunct here last year. Students grow and change throughout the learning process. I was able to see how the information I was teaching them would help them go on to be good social workers. We can reach more people by each of our students touching others.
Koontz acknowledges that she's right back where she started. On her application to Bluffton's social work program, she wrote: "I think social work is where I'm supposed to be." Koontz and her husband, Dana, reside in Lima with their three children: Whitney, Kadin and Kenzie Jo.
Head football coach
Tyson Veidt joins Bluffton as head football coach after spending two years as defensive coordinator at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. He has held a variety of coaching roles at Muskingum College, Indiana University and West Virginia University (WVU). He has a bachelor's degree in pre-physical therapy from Muskingum and a master's degree in athletic coaching education from WVU.
JD: Did you come from a family active in athletics?
TV: My dad's dad was a high school teacher and coach. My two older brothers and I were multiple-sport athletes in high school and college athletes. Looking back, I'm not sure I had a choice. Everyone went to college and played. It was understood that I would too.
JD: What position(s) did you play in football?
TV: In high school, I worked both the offensive and defensive lines. At Muskingum, I started as a defensive lineman and moved to the offensive line to finish out my playing career.
JD: You've coached Divisions I and III football. Have you noted any differences?
TV: As far as coaching styles, philosophies, the time you put into coaching and recruiting, there is no difference between the levels. Knowledge and experience is not necessarily different. A Division I coach doesn't necessarily know more than a Division III coach. Division I has a lot of support personnel. In Division III, we are the support personnel.
JD: What are some of the challenges of walking into another school's program?
TV: Getting to know the student-athletes and having them understand that you have their best interests at heart—not just right now with football, but impacting what they do 20 years down the road—takes time. Student-athletes want to work hard and do well, but they won't necessarily do that for just anyone. You have to build rapport, trust and consistency. A new coach comes with a long-term plan that has to be started immediately. For the student-athletes, it may be very different from what they've ever done before. As a coach, you work through that, and the athletes begin to understand why you're doing what you're doing. That challenge is at every level, whether it's me walking into the program here at Bluffton or Rich Rodriguez walking into the program at the University of Michigan. Different coaches do things different ways.
JD: What are your first-year goals?
TV: Our initial goal is to daily improve each athlete as an individual and as a team. Obviously, our goal is to win games. That's everyone's goal. But, we have to build a foundation for the future of this program. We have a number of young players. We want to build consistency, depth and competition.
JD: At the end of a Bluffton football player's career here, what do you want him to take away from the field?
TV: Hopefully, playing here gives these athletes greatmemories of college. We're teaching life lessons here, not just football. My hope is that when any of my athletes find themselves in tough situations with tough decisions down the road—job, marriage, children—that they'll be able to make the best decisions because of what they learned here.
Veidt was a part of WVU's 2006 Sugar Bowl championship team and 2004 and 2005 Big East championship teams, as well as a 2005 Gator Bowl appearance. He and his wife, Mandy, reside in Bluffton.