ALLIANCE, Ohio – Dr. Otis French, the new Director of Bands at the University of Mount Union, is bringing the drum major position to the university’s marching band beginning with the 2014-2015 marching season.
The head drum major will serve as the top leader of the marching band, under the Director of Bands, and will work alongside the band director on the field and in the stands. He or she will also assist in planning band camp and practicing drills and will serve as a liaison between the director and the rest of the band members.
“The drum major position is a great way for students to develop their own sense of leadership and accountability and to be a part of the chain of command,” French said.
In order to be considered for the position, students first indicated interest in interviewing and auditioning for the position. Interested students then met with French for a one-on-one interview. From there, applicants were put through a rigorous tryout before a selection committee which included French, the color guard coordinator, the chair of the Department of Music and several band alums.
According to French, the tryout included conducting and marching demonstrations as well as a demonstration of how the student would teach a fellow band member a particular marching move. Students trying out were also asked numerous questions regarding their understanding of college football and how they saw themselves portraying the role of drum major.
French, who is in his first year as Mount Union’s band director, previously directed a band at a Pennsylvania university where he implemented the drum major program as well. The position is a way to give students leadership opportunities and improve the visibility of the marching band, according to French.
This season, senior biology major Taylor Nervo of Louisville, Ohio, was chosen as head drum major and junior finance major Emily Zbasnik of Minerva, Ohio, will serve as assistant drum major.
“I was the drum major in my high school and I loved the directing a band so much that I made a promise to myself to try out again if I ever got the chance,” Nervo said. “I love the leadership opportunities of this position and I enjoy being able to work with the director, my fellow band students and the assistant drum major to strive for our full potential as a marching band.”Running Toward Success
Financial mathematics major Chase Swisher ’15 is running toward success, both on and off the track.
A sprinter and long jumper, Swisher is a member of the Mount Union men’s track and field team, the 2014 NCAA Division III Outdoor National Champions. He participated in the 1,600-meter relay at the championship, the final event and deciding factor to winning the title.
Swisher had one word to describe the way he felt directly after becoming a national champion – gratification.
“It was everything anyone who competes in track and field could dream of,” Swisher said. “To win the meet on the final event, and winning the event itself, was just icing on the cake. It is something my teammates and I talked about all year and believed we could make happen.”
They say “you can only go up from here,” but when you’ve just won a national championship title, how much higher can you reach? Swisher and fellow team members are striving for the stars, setting goals for next season to win the NCAA indoor title and successfully defend their outdoor title.
“Winning is contagious!” Swisher said. Personally, he hopes to win an individual national championship in the 400-meter dash and participate in the 1600-meter relay at the National Championship once more.
As the National Championship was held in close proximity to Swisher’s hometown of Lewis Center, Ohio, he was ecstatic to receive loving support from high school friends and family, including his brother (Management Major Garrett Swisher ’16) and two adopted sisters from Guatemala.
“One thing that has gotten me through tough stretches in school or during the track season is having a brother right here at Mount Union with me and a loving family back home that hasn’t missed a track meet yet,” Swisher said.
As if balancing studies and athletics isn’t enough to keep him busy, Swisher is an active member of the Psychology Club and holds a student assistant position in the Office of Alumni Engagement at Mount Union, helping to carry out various on and off-campus events for the alumni community.
“Having a great support group of coaches, friends and teammates makes it much easier to be a student athlete because they understand how important it is for me to be successful both inside and outside of the classroom,” Swisher said.
Though undecided about his future career goals, Swisher is excited for the opportunities in front of him and is considering working in hedge funding.
“There are so many possibilities,” he said.
What Swisher loves most about his major in financial mathematics is the required day-to-day problem solving.
“The professors in the Department of Mathematics do a tremendous job of developing the skillset of each student and always find a way to put students and our success first,” Swisher said.
Swisher spent the majority of his summer problem solving in the Sunshine State, holding an internship position at Worldwide Superabrasives (WWSA) in Boynton Beach, Florida. Swisher’s main responsibility was to provide assistance in the company’s accounting department.
Swisher’s aspirations have only grown larger with time, from dreaming of owning a McDonald’s as a child to now discovering and pursuing his love for math. Following graduation, he plans to travel outside of the state, but ultimately hopes to end up back in Ohio, close to Mount Union.
“I feel at home here,” Swisher said. “This is a school that puts you in the position to succeed as long as you are willing to put in the work. I owe a lot of my success to the people I have met at Mount Union.”
You can find anything on Craigslist – even cows. But Andrew Ruffing ’13, of Republic, Ohio, decided that there was a better way. While enrolled as a student in Mount Union’s entrepreneurship program, he discovered that Craigslist was being used to sell livestock and became inspired to start his own business.
After further researching the industry, Ruffing decided to start Beef Jockey 365 LLC, an online livestock marketing company for private treaty sales and auctions.
What Ruffing did not initially realize was that there are many difficulties that small business owners face.
“Starting a business is hard,” said Ruffing. “There are a lot of downfalls but none have been devastating. I would say the biggest downfall so far has been timing. Our web development took a little longer than expected and pushed our launch back preventing us from being able to take advantage of the fall cattle sale season. That made things tough, but not impossible by any means. It gave us extra time to think and learn so that we have things working great for this fall season.”
After working through the struggle, Ruffing began to see a prosperous future ahead.
“The initial launch was small, and we were only able to do classified ads,” he said. “It was interesting, and I learned a lot, but we had a long way to go. After reworking my business plan and developing my idea, I attended the Reppert School of Auctioneering. I have gained my apprentice auctioneers’ license and have learned more than I could have ever imagined about the business of auctions and sales. We just re-launched in March. It has been exciting, and we have had a lot of interest from prospective clients. We have also landed a few well known clients, and that has made things very enjoyable.”
Ruffing is now working on a similar site geared toward marketing of used landscaping equipment via private treaty sales and auctions. This site will be called ScapeXchange.com.
An exercise science major, Ruffing gained most of his business knowledge through mentors and the entrepreneurship program.
“There are a lot of people who have helped me along the way,” said Ruffing. “The most influential was Todd Pugh, CEO and founder of Todd’s Enviroscapes, Inc. He has been a mentor to me throughout the whole process and really helped get things off the ground. Professor Michael Kachilla and the Entrepreneurship Program helped my idea evolve and become a growing business with a lot of potential.”
Ruffing offered advice to students interested in starting their own businesses.
“I would tell anyone who was looking to start their own business to look into the Entrepreneurship Program,” he said. “It helped me learn so much and helped me develop my business in classroom so that i could take it to the real world. I would also say that if you would like to start a business, talk to several people in the industry. You can learn a lot from just a few phone calls, and you might even make a connection that could last a lifetime.”
Many students engage in community service while at Mount Union, but some students go above and beyond by traveling to a third world country to help the less fortunate.
Faculty member emeritus Steve Kramer, who leads one of these trips each year, contacted alumni who have participated in these trips in the past in order to plan a service trip. This summer, Kramer and community member Mike Patterson led 10 Mount Union alumni to El Salvador where they built 23 wood saving stoves over the course of the week.
It may not sound like very much – most Americans use their stoves every day without realizing how fortunate we are – but the people in El Salvador are not so lucky. The stoves they have are inside their homes, use a lot of wood and have no ventilation. This means that using the stoves not only adds to the deforestation problem, it fills the home with smoke when used. The newer stoves cost $175 each to build, but according to Kramer, the stoves are more than worth the money and effort.
“Although the actual work wasn’t very strenuous, it was very rewarding to readily see the impact that the stoves would have on the health of the families,” Kramer said. “The families were extremely grateful for our help and shared their gratitude in a ceremony near the end of our time there. They gave each of our participants a small gift to reflect their gratitude and individually shared what these stoves meant to them. It was a very moving experience for me and for everyone involved, I think.”
While in El Salvador, the group also spent a day at Barefoot Angels, an organization funded by ASAPROSAR (Salvadoran Association for Rural Health) that provides school, a safe place to play and counseling to children. They visited tourist sites upon arriving, but most of their time was spent visiting the families that they were building the stoves for. Fortunately, several alumni had good Spanish speaking skills to help with the interactions, as the families did not speak English.
The alumni ranged from the class of 1997 to the class of 2012, making this trip unique to Kramer. Typically the service trip is preceded by a course that allows students to prepare for the trip and get to know each other, but for this trip that was not the case. Most did not know one another and the group met at the airport before flying to El Salvador.
“The trip turned out to be very rewarding and enjoyable,” said Kramer. “The alumni group gelled together as a unit even though most didn’t know one another going into it. They became close friends and had a great time interacting with the children and families with whom we worked, with the ASAPROSAR staff, and also with one another. Our nightly discussions also proved to be very enriching.”Faculty Recital to Take Place at Mount Union
ALLIANCE, Ohio— Dr. Elaine Anderson, professor of music, and Janelle Penn Phinney, will hold a faculty recital at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 26 in Presser Recital Hall.
The performance will include works of Johannes Brahms, Arvo Pärt and Lukas Foss.
‘Cellist and conductor Elaine Anderson is a professor of music at Mount Union. She conducts the Repertory Strings Chamber Orchestra and teaches ‘cello and other music classes. Anderson has a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in ‘cello performance from the University of Alabama and a Master of Music degree in ‘cello performance from the Manhattan School of Music. Anderson performs with several orchestras and presents chamber and solo recitals.
Janelle Penn Phinney is an active performer and leader in Canton, Ohio area music organizations. Janelle began piano study at the age of nine. She attended Bowling Green State University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music History. She was a singing member and accompanist for every major choral group on campus. She is an award-winning accompanist, earning first prize in the Marjorie Conrad Peatee Art Song Competition and receiving a personal invitation to join the Ameropa Festival in Prague, Czech Republic where she performed chamber music to standing ovation.