Bluffton University - Beth Kuntz
A poster about graduate education that she saw in Piqua, Ohio, helped lead Beth Kuntz to Bluffton as an undergraduate.
Kuntz, from Covington, Ohio, was a student at Piqua s Edison Community College in 2008 when she noticed the poster on campus, advertising graduate programs at Bluffton. She knew nothing about the university or community beyond having been in Bluffton on an extended bicycle ride when she was 11 but her curiosity was sufficiently piqued to make a phone call.
When she talked to Sue Van Eman, associate director of admissions, she asked about majors at the university. That was a huge question for me at that point, remembers Kuntz, who hadn t yet put together the interests in teaching and Spanish that would eventually become her focus.
Signing up to visit campus, she also checked out the Bluffton website, and I was really impressed by what I saw, says Kuntz, now a junior. Bluffton s emphasis on diversity and other cultures, and how we can live together, really attracted me.
That institutional emphasis, for Spanish and Spanish education majors, includes a required semester of study in a Spanish-speaking country. After coming to campus in fall 2009, Kuntz spent fall 2010 at Veracruz University in Xalapa, Mexico, which she chose in part, she says, in an effort to better understand root social issues that drive so many Mexicans to the United States.
But that wasn t her first experience in Latin America. The previous summer, during two weeks that Kuntz says changed my life, she was in Colombia with the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) organization. Her inspiration had been a religion course at Bluffton, War, Peace and Nonviolence, that helped her better understand her convictions as a pacifist, including the need to be active in undoing violent systems of oppression and building God s peace.
I became very challenged by what we were learning and by the many pacifists who have lived what they believed, says Kuntz, whose high school diploma is from an online charter school, the Akron-based Ohio Distance and Electronic Learning Academy.
Ongoing conflict and human rights violations in Colombia were unnerving, she admits, noting that the gravity of the commitment to peace in the face of possible danger hit home when she had to sign a liability waiver. But Colombia was her only Spanish-speaking option with CPT, and not only did Kuntz not feel as threatened as she had feared, but she also was enriched by her time with 123 farming families who had been violently forced off their land in 2009 so a palm oil-producing corporation could grow palm trees on it.
Their lives were overflowing with love and hospitality, she says, recalling their care when she became ill in their remote settlement. I definitely gained a richer respect for other peoples and how necessary it is to respect others first, free from preconceived notions, she adds.
Active on campus, looking to future
She also counts as rewarding her experiences at the university as a resident advisor; a C. Henry Smith Scholar; and a member of the Honors Program, the International Connection club and Diakonia, a service organization. On campus, too, she sees mutual respect shown by people from different backgrounds, she says.
I ll always be grateful to Bluffton for challenging me to live out my values and beliefs, notes Kuntz. As a result, she says she can picture herself making a three-year commitment to CPT. In addition, with her interest in Spanish education, she would like to become a bridge between cultures for non-native Hispanic children who have grown up in the U.S. and are at risk of losing some of the richness of their home culture.
I am open, she says, to wherever God takes me in life.