New experiences


How do you prepare young people for a future that will be different than anyone can imagine? At Bluffton University, the answer is through the Bluffton Blueprint—four foundational courses, one for each year of college, which create a core of resiliency.

Featuring both traditional classroom learning and experiential components, the Bluffton Blueprint pushes students to look at their majors and futures in unexpected ways.

Whether it’s changing careers or moving across the country, the Bluffton Blueprint provides a framework for the challenges that come with life. 

Starting this spring, Bluffton University and partners across the city are connecting in new and meaningful ways through one of the Bluffton Blueprint classes. The sophomore-level Learning in Community class will be taught by a team of Bluffton faculty as students explore direct connections between their academic studies and community engagement. The interdisciplinary coursework will range from history to data analytics. The classroom analysis will then come to life for students through visits to Lima and partner agencies.

Hands-on community partnerships, developed specifically for this class, will give students an early look at how they can make a difference in their own communities.

“With this class, I think we’re on the forefront of helping students early in their college career understand multiple ways they can have an impact in the world,” said Dr. Walt Paquin, director of social work and the outreach coordinator for the class. “Gen Z wants to give back. They want to apply their learning. This class will help students move outside of the classroom and into the community.”

During the 2018-19 academic year, Paquin began developing partnerships with community agencies and resources in Lima. Currently, 11 agencies have committed to partnering with Bluffton. The agencies include:

  • Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities
  • Allen County Juvenile Detention Center
  • American Red Cross of West Central Ohio
  • City of Lima administration
  • Coleman Professional Services
  • Crime Victim Services
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Lima YMCA
  • SAFY
  • West Ohio Community Action Partnership
  • West Ohio Food Bank

In developing the partnerships, Paquin found that colleges and universities routinely implement service-learning components into their coursework, but what Bluffton is developing is unique.

“To have students across various majors spend an entire semester studying community, being engaged in one particular community and completing internship-type work in that community is something I haven’t found. We really are building something,” explained Paquin.

The class will be piloted during the spring 2020 semester and will be fully integrated into the general education program the following fall.

Overall, the Bluffton Blueprint is designed to guide students to finding and achieving their greater purpose in life. From the initial class, Becoming a Scholar, which introduces students to college-level research and learning, to the final course, Christian Values in a Global Community, students build a foundation to living out their greater purpose in the communities they will call home, including Lima.