From the Editor

Spreading peace — one tweet at a time

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

From the EditorEarlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI directed priests to embrace web-based communication tools, such as e-mail, blogs, Twitter and his own YouTube channel and Facebook page, to promote dialogue with people of other religions and cultures. Priests, the pope said, are “challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources.”

The pope’s call for a cyber-ministry triggered predictably pun-filled – and painful – headlines such as “Pope to priests: Go forth and blog” (The Washington Post), “Holy tweet! YouTube-era pope urges blogging for faith” (USA Today) and “Blessed are the Bloggers” (News of the World).

While the Vatican is only now embracing Online communication, many religious organizations have years of experience using the Internet to spread the faith as well as to promote peace and justice. At Goshen College, for example, we have long used e-mail and www.goshen.edu to communicate with alumni and friends as well as the campus community and prospective students.

In mid-January 2009, we increased our online outreach to Goshen College fans by adding a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/goshencollege). We’re using the social networking site to report on the amazing accomplishments of our alumni, faculty and students, to foster conversation, to promote campus events, to show photographs and videos and, most important, to connect alumni. We’re encouraged by the initial results. After three months we had 300 fans and then doubled that total by the end of May. We crossed the 1,000-fan threshold on June 23. And as of the end of January 2010, we had more than 2,100 fans – and rising.

In August we added an innovative Web site – www.PeacebyPeace.com – to spread our peace message of “Healing the World, Peace by Peace,” to a broader audience. The aim of this site is as direct as its opening screen, which states: “Peacemaking is anything but passive. It requires action. Compassion. Engagement.
To make peace, you need to find common ground and be ready to make some waves. Find out how.” Our hope is that PeacebyPeace.com will take on a life of its own by providing a state-of-the-art venue for alumni, students, faculty and staff – and people from throughout the world – to embrace and further our goal of promoting peace.

Users are encouraged to engage through four distinct sections. “Speak your peace” invites people to describe how they are making peace in their lives through written reflections, photographs or videos. “Wear peace” gives you the chance to order a free “peace” fabric patch and then to post a photograph of yourself wearing the patch or to suggest a new peace slogan. “Visualize Peace” welcomes creative people to share their vision of the world by posting photos of their original artwork. Finally, the “Peace Heroes” section offers introductions to peacemakers from around the world, and asks people to nominate a peace hero.

PeacebyPeace.com is still in its infancy and it may be many more months before it takes on a life of its own and attracts a devoted following. For now, we have faith that we have planted a small seed which we hope will grow as the Goshen College community and friends worldwide contribute their wisdom, dreams and hopes for building a peaceable community. Join us!

Richard R. Aguirre

Director of Public Relations
rraguirre@goshen.edu

Finding common ground across campuses

Friday, October 9th, 2009

WHAT’S DISTINCTIVE about Mennonite higher education?
From the EditorGraduates of Goshen College, Bethel College, Bluffton University, Eastern Mennonite University, Hesston College, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Eastern Mennonite Seminary answer that question in “12 Traits of Mennonite Colleges,” the main story in this issue of the Bulletin. The story was conceived and produced for Crossroads, EMU’s alumni magazine. How did it end up in the Bulletin? Because of camaraderie and generosity.

Last October, I attended the annual gathering of the Anabaptist Communicators with my colleague Jodi Beyeler in Wichita, Kan. We learned about the Anabaptist “market,” improving Web sites, the value of “branding” institutions and social networking. For me, the highlight was networking with colleagues who share a passion for promoting Mennonite institutions.

Among those I met was Andrea S. Wenger, director of marketing and communications at Eastern Mennonite University. While I’d heard a lot about the rivalries between EMU and Goshen, particularly around athletics and student recruitment, I felt a quick kinship with Andrea because of her openness and graciousness. Job wise, we had a lot in common and we talked openly about our joys and challenges. Our conversation went so well that I proposed we continue our discussions, perhaps with colleagues from other Mennonite colleges. When I mentioned that it had been 24 years since I’d last visited EMU, Andrea invited me to her beautiful campus.

In February, Jodi and I traveled to Harrisonburg and met with Andrea and her talented staff. Rachel Nussbaum Eby, director of communications for the Mennonite Education Agency, also joined us. We talked about our work and our ups and downs. We learned that EMU does some things better than Goshen and vice versa. We also talked with Rachel about ways the colleges together can advance our institutions and Mennonite higher education.

The person most passionate about that subject was Bonnie Price Lofton, publications editor for EMU, who proposed working together to increase the number of Mennonite students attending Mennonite colleges. Not long afterward, Bonnie and Andrea conceived an ambitious reporting project, which eventually became “12 Traits of Mennonite Colleges.” Bonnie and Jon Styer, EMU’s photographer and graphic designer, visited all the Mennonite colleges and seminaries to interview people for the story. When they finished, their stories and photos were published in Crossroads.
Because of a deep sense that this story needed a wider audience and a deep passion for what Mennonite higher education offers the church and the world, EMU also offered the stories to the Bulletin. We gratefully accepted this generous gift. Bonnie and Jon did a beautiful job with words and images to tell this story and we are thankful to be able to share part of it with our readers.

Under Rachel’s leadership, representatives of the colleges gathered in July for dinner at the Mennonite Church USA convention in Columbus. Although we compete for a limited pool of Mennonite students, we agreed to collaborate on marketing issues, starting with quarterly conference calls.

Recently, we shared successful communication and branding strategies. If we began the call with any pre-conceptions or rivalries, we promptly set them aside and spoke as colleagues. We exchanged advice about marketing and advertising. We also agreed to keep talking.

I consider this proof of the Holy Spirit at work because I believe that as we collaborate and help our colleges to thrive, we Anabaptist communicators also will be supporting the church’s mission of bringing Christ’s healing, peace and hope to the world. Whether we are Maple Leafs, Royals, Beavers, Threshers or Larks, we have much in common and much we can learn from one another.

Richard R. Aguirre
Director of Public Relations
rraguirre@goshen.edu

Striking the balance between old and new

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

WHEN IS ONE no longer a newcomer at Goshen College?
From the Editor I’ve reflected on that question since Dec. 1 — my two-year anniversary as director of the Public Relations Office. It’s been a joyful time for me. I’m grateful to work at a Christ-centered college for visionary leaders and with bright colleagues. My work is challenging, rewarding and usually fun.
Yet when I mentioned my anniversary around campus, the most common reaction surprised me: “Really? You’ve been here two years? It hasn’t seemed that long.” Some people guessed I’d only been here a year; others just shrugged, which I took as a sign that two years isn’t a big a deal at Goshen College. In fact, it isn’t.
Two years means I’m a toddler compared with many people around here. For example, Myrna Kaufman ’66, our administrative assistant in the PR Office, just celebrated her 30th anniversary. At the Staff Christmas Banquet, 18 people (all of whom completed at least five years here) were honored for a combined 265 years of superlative service.
A cynic might ask: What does it take for someone to be considered a full member of the Goshen College family? Must one be an alumnus? A GC employee for several decades? Or do one’s parents and grandparents have to be GC graduates or come from a family that is Mennonite?
Frankly, that once may have been the case, but I don’t think that’s true now. As President Brenneman told a campus gathering in late August, GC needs to warmly welcome all students, regardless of their backgrounds, as long as they live the college’s Christ-centered core values of being compassionate peacemakers, servant leaders, passionate learners and global citizens.
“So great are the core values we proclaim that I believe they can be trusted to carry us into the 21st century as an institution,” President Brenneman said. “I have lived to see and experience the transforming nature of core values such as these accepted, cherished and faithfully lived by those without any historic connection to the Mennonite Church or any church, even by those who were sometimes initially antagonistic toward these values.”
As a non-Mennonite, I wholeheartedly agree with President Brenneman. I believe Goshen College benefits from the skills, experiences, cultures and worldviews of non-Mennonites. It’s important that newcomers learn Goshen College’s history, celebrate its traditions and understand and respect the way things have been done. It’s also important for newcomers be true to their beliefs, suggest new approaches and speak their minds. New viewpoints are vital at a time when GC is trying to attract students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds.
So I’m happy that I’m involved in many campus initiatives, that I understand what makes Goshen College tick (and so great) and that I also know many students, faculty, staff members and alumni. I love to attend campus gatherings because they help me learn more about GC, hear new stories and make new friends. In fact, my wife (Judy Weaver ’81) often jokes that I know more people at Goshen than she does.
But I also don’t mind being a rookie. Being a newcomer makes it easier to related to other newcomers, keeps my job feeling vital and opens me to new possibilities. So even as I become more “Goshen-ized,” the newness of being a part of the Goshen College family hasn’t worn off. And I hope it never does.

Richard R. Aguirre
Director of Public Relations
rraguirre@goshen.edu