Marathana Prothro speaks at the Civic Engagement Day forum

When Talking is Tough

In an era when divisiveness and negative rhetoric seems to not only be encouraged but even admired, Marathana Prothro is instead encouraging understanding.

Civic Engagement Day

Civic Engagement Day is the culmination of year-long exploration of the civic engagement theme, an opportunity for members of the campus community to share and experience the broad learning that is taking place at the university. The entire campus community is encouraged to participate in events throughout the day.

The Civic Engagement theme for 2019-20 year is “Living Our Best Lives.”

Dr. Jackie Wyse-Rhodes2019-20 Lecturer

“Deserving Happiness:
A Wisdom Conversation”

11 a.m. Tuesday, March 24
Yoder Recital Hall

Dr. Jackie Wyse-Rhodes

“The question of how to live a good and meaningful life in the face of human mortality, political instability, and theological doubt is an old question, and a global one. For a community like Bluffton University, who is invested in ecumenical conversations while rooted in an Anabaptist perspective, the sages of early Judaism make particularly good interlocutors. Early Jewish wisdom literature speaks to questions of purpose––how our daily decisions can be motivated by seeking divine presence and even divine will; to questions of community––how the web of relationships we build can offer us the strength, humor, and accountability we need to persevere; to questions of finances––how our relationship with money can serve as a diagnostic tool to better understand our persistent anxieties; and to questions of what it means to live as embodied creatures––how we might look to our own bodies and natural world and find wisdom there. . . . In the end, I will argue that biblical wisdom traditions offer a particularly apt model for Bluffton University as we seek to create space for inclusive and incisive dialogue about meaningful living.”

March 25, 2020

Consider sharing your experience and expertise for presentations during the 2020 Civic Engagement Day. 

Submit your program by Friday, Feb. 28.


Presentations from 2019 Civic Engagement Day

8 a.m.

Centennial 113
Politics, Faith & Climate: Artistic and mathematical perspectives on a major "Elephant in the Room"
Led by Steve Harnish 
Politics, faith and climate change are each “Elephants in the Room” that people often find difficult to discuss. We’ll explore ideas from art and math that could help foster more active listening and productive planning in conversations on the scientific, political and faith aspects of climate change.
--Joined by several students attending the March conference with Katharine Hayhoe, “Christians, Climate, and Culture: Relationships, Tensions, and Resolutions”

Stutzman Lecture Hall 
Can We /Should We Make use of Research Results from Grossly Unethical Practices?
Led by George Lehman
I have long been both morbidly fascinated and appalled at scientific research done on unsuspecting subjects that often created great harm to the subjects. What do we do with the information gained from these projects? Should we ignore it?  Should we use it in an attempt to get some benefit from bad behavior? Does using it only encourage more of the same thing. The presentation will give a number of illustrations of actual unethical research and how the researchers have been accepted or rejected by the public. 

9 a.m.

Stutzman Lecture Hall
Why do We Want False Things to be True?
Led by Darryl Nester
On the (far-too-frequent) occasions that I see or hear someone sharing misinformation—on social media or in "real life"—it can be very difficult to point out the inaccuracy without getting significant pushback, or even hostility. And to be sure, I have had that same reaction when I learned that (e.g.) my initial understanding of some news story was completely wrong. It is very easy to fall victim to "confirmation bias"—accepting stories that fit our beliefs, and discounting those that do not. How can we fight this tendency in ourselves? How can we engage in sensitive and constructive dialogue with others when we disagree?

Centennial 113
Dare to Disagree
Led by Stephanie Fox, Abbi McCormick and Tori Bowen
The goal of our presentation is to challenge our audience to work with people they disagree with in the future. We want them to not be afraid to share their opinion and ideas with people who have different opinions than them. Change often occurs when someone dares to be different. Usually there are others who probably agree with you who are too afraid to stick out and speak up. Other times when you speak out about something you have discovered your idea may be challenged by others who do not necessarily agree with you. We want our participants to think of times in their personal lives when they have not stood up for something that they believed in and wished they would have. We also want our participants to think of times when they were not afraid to speak out and did stand up for what they believed in. How did that situation go? We want our participants to brainstorm ways that they could dare to disagree in the future. 

Centennial 209
Media vs Reality on Police Arrest
Led by Sienna Sullivan, Mikey Fimiani and Doc Campagna
We will discuss rights of citizens and laws surrounding police interaction during arrest. We will show videos of police arrest and discuss the police side and the legal side and compare those to what the media actually portrays and the details they share.

Kreider Room
Theater for Social Change: Child Abuse
Led by Melissa Friesens’ Theater for Social Change Class
Students from the Theatre for Social Change class will hold an interactive workshop that addresses the issue of child abuse and neglect. This topic will be explored through interactive games and activities, leading to a reflection/discussion of the topic, and may be particularly relevant for education majors, social work majors, and others interested in working with children and young adults.

10 a.m.

Stutzman Lecture Hall
Tough Talk in Sports
Led by Kevin White
This Q&A session will deal with the way Coaches, Parents, Players and Referees communicate with each other, and how that has changed over time. 

Centennial 113
How to Disagree Constructively
Led by Jonathan Andreas
Why do people disagree?  When should we not engage with people who disagree?  What benefits are there in engaging with them? How can we engage constructively?

Centennial 209
Conversations About Deep Topics
Led by Jayden Groppi, Zach Dalton, Connor Gulick, Jon Jones
The goal of our presentation is going to be to create a safe space where we can not just talk about our opinions but try and understand the other sides opinions. We want to start out the presentation by laying down the ground rules like we were starting a mediation. Things like being respectful of peoples opinions, no hate speech and actually listening to the other side. Our first topic is going to be an easy one that gets the room comfortable being together. We will give time for people to move around the room based on their opinions and talk with people that feel similar to what they do. After a couple of minutes we will start a conversation about why each group feels the way that they do. Our goal is to start with the PED conversation and progressively get deeper. Our next discussion point will be the question “Is America still a deeply racist nation?” 

Centennial 211
Child Abuse Awareness Month: Tough Topics When Dealing With Child Abuse
Led by the Social Work Club
Speakers from the Allen County Children Services unit will talk about the tough situations they see and have to deal with when dealing with child abuse. April is also Child Abuse Month so we are wanting to bring awareness to this topic.

11 a.m.

Stutzman Lecture Hall
Learning to Let Yourself Be Vulnerable: A Conversation
Led by Berlin Fuqua
This presentation is about how I have navigated life as a individual/artist while being transgender and how I coped with it over almost a decade. In the presentation, I will go through a series of artwork/self portraits from 2011 to present day. While I do that, I will talk about my own personal identity and how I went from someone who was internally transphobic, self hating, secretive and hateful to others who asked, to how I became comfortable about my own identity, being able to talk about my identity and show how I think it has possibly translated through my artwork over the years. Then I would give people the opportunity to ask questions about what I spoke about in the presentation, my life, my identity/community, etc.

Centennial 113
Firearm Violence in Schools, Mandatory Spanish and Standardized Testing
Led by Caylin Morstadt, Bri Digby and Brantley Curnutte
Students Bri Digby, Brantley Curnutte and Caylin Morstadt discuss three controversial issues in education in the US: Firearm violence in schools, Mandatory Spanish Education in Elementary Schools and the debate over standardized testing.

Centennial 209
Policing in Today’s Society
Led by Josh Stahl, Tyler Showalter, Kais Chiles, Darian Greely, Jimmy Smith and Ronnie James
For our proposal we want to keep it more criminal justice related. We were thinking we could show a TED talk followed by a discussion. Michael Barrett and Bluffton police officers will talk to us about their experience as police officers, about interactions and see how they would handle some students' interactions that they have had with police that didn’t go well.

We were also thinking about asking a Bluffton police officer to come in and talk about the experiences they have had from here in Bluffton and we could compare the differences between a small-town police officer to a police officer who has worked in a bigger city. They could talk about their worst experiences they have had as a police officer and what they did to solve the problem. We could also get the students more involved by having them ask the both any question they want to know.

Centennial 211
Jamie's Got a Gun - Considered Responses to the Plight of the Battered Woman
Led by the CRJ 320 Class
Using the backdrop of Aerosmith's Jamie's Got a Gun, students will discuss possible responses to Intimate Partner Violence.

12 noon

Burcky Gym
Words Like Feathers
Led by Louise Matthews, Diane Neal and EDU 287 students
Second grade students from Bluffton Elementary will participate in an interactive workshop to learn how words can help others as well as do harm. Through literature, music, movement, readers’ theater, art projects and a skit with J. Denny and Jenny Beaver, students will gain understanding about why kind words and honesty matter. 

1 p.m.

Stutzman Lecture Hall
Suicide, Bilingualism and Black Teachers
Led by Issues in Education class
Three Bluffton education majors will discuss issues having to do with schools and U.S. society. Bryce Rettig will talk about what happens when a student commits suicide, Victoria Silveus will discuss bilingual education and Leslie Beasley will discuss the influence of Black teachers on minority students. There will be time for those present to ask questions of the presenters.

Centennial 113
Difficult Conversations About the Bible
Led by Jackie Wyse-Rhodes
What is the Bible? There are as many answers to this question as there are readers. In this session, Dr. Wyse-Rhodes will reflect on how she fosters conversation about the Bible in her courses, specifically in REL100. She will reflect on questions like: how can we talk about the Bible both respectfully and honestly, especially in a classroom setting? How can the classroom be a safe space for students––and the professor–– to engage in conversation about both the lovely aspects of the Bible and its problematic passages? Dr. Wyse-Rhodes will share what she has learned about these questions in the past four years of teaching REL100 at Bluffton University. There will be ample time for participants to ask questions and to share their own strategies for engaging in difficult conversations about questions of faith and religion.

Centennial 209
Conversing Between Worlds: Out of Many, One
Led by TESOL Theories and Issues Class
The issue of immigration is one of the most contentious in the U.S. today. Presenters will guide participants through an exploration of the many varied experiences of newcomers to the U.S. The presentation will include a panel discussion in which individuals who have decided to come to the U.S. will share their stories. Session participants will be encouraged to expand their understanding of what it means to be an immigrant in the U.S. today.

Centennial 211
Tell It Slant: Hard Conversations in Writing
Led by Writing Students of Jeff Gundy
Writing has often been a powerful tool for carrying on hard conversations and speaking difficult truths—sometimes directly, sometimes by "telling it slant," as Emily Dickinson suggested. In this interactive presentation, students from Writing Seminar and Advanced Nonfiction will read from their own work, discuss the challenges and rewards of such writing, and take questions from the audience.

Kreider Room
Theater for Social Change: Abortion
Led by Melissa Friesens’ Theater for Social Change Class
Students from the Theatre for Social Change class will hold an interactive workshop that addresses the issue of abortion. How can we have respectful conversations when we come from different perspectives, experience and belief systems? This topic will be explored through interactive games and activities, leading to a reflection/discussion of the topic.

2 p.m.

Centennial 113
Discovering Disability
Led by Bluffton National Student Speech, Language and Hearing Association
In our session, we will be opening a space to discover disability. There will be a brief introduction on the topic, and then there will be four stations: Dysphagia, Aphasia, Nonverbal and Stuttering/Fluency. Participants will explore a certain disability and have time to discuss their experience. This is an opportunity for people to talk when talking is tough because talking about disability can be hard. We hope to educate participates on disability and give them a safe space to ask questions and discuss different disabilities.

Centennial 209
It Could Happen to You
Led by the Gender Perspective
Discussion and Q&A on the topic of sexual violence and how to be supportive to someone in a tough situation. This will be how to have conversations and support people who have been assaulted and also in relationships where violence has occurred.

Stutzman Lecture Hall
Honest Questions about God: Alpha participants share about their experience
Led by Ministry Assistants Courtney Davis, Michael Short, and Makenzie Speakman
Everyone should have the freedom to ask honest questions about God and faith without feeling judged. This semester, more than 40 students have participated in the Alpha program, which provides the opportunity to ask questions of a spiritual nature and explore those questions in small groups. In this presentation, a panel of students involved in Alpha will reflect on how this experience has challenged them and helped them in their own journey of faith. 

Kreider Room
Theater for Social Change: Bullying
Led by Melissa Friesens’ Theater for Social Change Class
Students from the Theatre for Social Change class will hold an interactive workshop that addresses the issue of bullying. This topic will be explored through interactive games and activities, leading to a reflection/discussion of the topic, and may be particularly relevant for education majors, social work majors and others interested in working with children and young adults.

Centennial 211
Difficult Conversations through a Couseling Lens
Led by Rae Staton
Why are some conversations so difficult? Why can't we talk about poltics at Thanksgiving Dinner? This discussion will examine the whys of what makes conversations so difficult, and identify some strategies for your next family function. 

3 p.m.

Stutzman Lecture Hall
Should We Really Do This? - Discussions at the Leading Edge of Science
Led by the Science Club
A panel of students will present some current "hot topics" in various scientific fields that are going through difficult conversations (possibly including: childhood vaccinations, gene editing and climate change - but the lineup is not yet finalized). After a summary of the topic, and a presentation of the current challenges, the audience will be given time to ask questions.

Centennial 113
The Wall: A Film About the Border between the US and Mexico
Led by Paul Neufeld Weaver
With rare footage from some of the most remote reaches of the U.S., “The Wall” explores the impact, reveals unknown issues and details the unintended consequences of President Trump’s $20 billion promise to build a wall from the Gulf to the Pacific. Watch as journalists travel the length of the U.S.-Mexico border – by land and air – documenting the possible effects of a wall on security, life, commerce, the environment, smuggling and property rights.

Centennial 211
The Fire in Our Words: Blessing and Cursing in a Culture of Violence
Led by Gerald Mast
Responding to our current culture of conflict and violence, this presentation offers a model for peaceable speech that includes confrontation as well as collaboration. Reconciling speech goes beyond the Greek model of civility rooted in rhetoric to incorporate a biblical vision of blessing grounded in wisdom. Such reconciling speech creates a path toward healing and hope by offering testimony, inviting repentance and accepting rejection.

Centennial 209
How Free is Free Speech?
Led by Jacob Michael Kiger|
We will be discussing the topic of free speech on college campuses along with the issues of hate speech and free speech.

Kreider Room
Faith and LGBT
Led by Brave Spaces
Brave Spaces would like to present a panel of those identifying as LGBT and how faith has impacted their lives. Religion and LGBT have long been subjects that have caused great discussions and hurt. This presentation would like to discuss these topics in an open and reconciled way. Can you be faithful and support the LGBT community?

6 p.m.

Yoder Recital Hall
C. Henry Smith Peace Oratory Contest

  • Hannah Conklin, “Water Access as Inequality: A Vision for Justice and Healing.”
  • Zachary Lykins, “Christian Persecution: A Nonviolent Protest.”
  • Kiera Suffel, “Peace in Marriage: How the Church Can Support Struggling Couples.”

Arts and Lecture Credit available

8 p.m.

Kreider Room
When Talking is Tough – Play!
Led by Melissa Friesen’s Theatre for Social Change class
A Theatre for Social Change workshop on texting and driving
Join student leaders for a participatory workshop exploring texting and driving. Come prepared to move around, play theatre games and discuss the ways our lives are impacted by distracted driving. Student leaders include Amryn Dover, Brianna Gillig, Ronnie James, Jeremy Locklear, Emma Saltzman and Louden Saulbeamer.