Bluffton explores ‘Modern Minimalism’ during Civic Engagement Day
Bluffton University’s year-long exploration of the theme “Cultivating Modern Minimalism: Planet, People and Popular Culture” culminated on April 6 with Civic Engagement Day. The event, which had been shuttered for the past two years due to COVID-19 restrictions, returned with students attending in-person sessions based on the theme instead of their typical class schedules.
“Lots of really important learning happens in our regular courses,” said Dr. Lamar Nisly, vice president and dean of academic affairs. “But it’s also significant at times to change up the routine and expose all of us to topics and approaches that we don’t hear every day. Having a shared topic allows us to learn together, to stretch our minds, to connect with people and ways of thinking that we don’t regularly encounter.”
More than 20 presentations were available to students, faculty and staff styled like an in-house conference. Multiple sessions choices were provided each hour. Sessions presented by classes ranged from Sociology students discussing work-life balance and harmonious living to Kinesiology students sharing advice on training and exercise routines which can be completed without the use of expensive gym equipment.
Anneliese Horner ’22, a TESOL major from Apple Creek, Ohio, presented with Bluffton’s PEACE club and was part of a panel during an April 5 Forum on the same topic.
She shared about singing the song “Simple Gifts” with the words “Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free” as one of her first memories in learning about minimalism. However, she also discussed growing up in a frugal household where buying second-hand items and composting were common.
“I think the thing that is important to remember is that sometimes we have a desire for more and that’s driven as a way to find happiness,” said Horner. “Instead, when I’m going to make a purchase, I think about what I want versus what I need. I tell people leave it in your cart for a while and a few days later go back. If you realize you don’t really need it, save it for a birthday purchase or take it out altogether.”
In addition to PEACE Club, student organizations with presentations included SERVE, Science Club and Brave Space.
Professors also shared including Marathana Prothro and Walt Paquin on adopting minimalist wardrobes, Jackie Wyse-Rhodes on ethical interpretation in the Book of Judges and Randy Keeler on the Christian practice of simplicity.
“I was really pleased with the day. Our speakers found a helpful array of approaches to our topic, and students engaged the speakers really well,” said Nisly. “You might go from hearing a presentation on minimalist mathematical concepts to exercising with minimalist equipment to practical lessons on canning and preserving garden produce. It’s such fun to see the various approaches to the topic that people find!”
An annual Civic Engagement theme has been selected each year at Bluffton University since 2007 when the topic “Environmental Stewardship: Living in the Natural World” was studied. Other themes have included “Creativity, the Arts, and Civic Life” and “Integrity, Truth, Virtue: Bluffton’s honor code in the world.”
The Civic Engagement theme for 2022-23 will be “Please Don’t ‘Ghost’ Me! Creating Space for Authentic Conversations.”