As this year’s SI planning began last August, I had one wish: for a really boring planning year. After 2014 which saw a new venue, change in theme speaker, transition away from a paper brochure, and new procedures for youth housing, among many other changes, I was hoping for a little more stability, a little less excitement.
We came close. We did once again need launch a search for a new theme speaker, but mostly this year is about tweaking things after last year’s shakedown cruise at Oberlin.
This year we are bringing the footprint of the community still closer together. Last year afternoons on the North Quad provided a visual representation of everything SI is about. People were tie-dying, body-arting, playing music, watching the kids’ activities or just enjoying the scene, all within sight of each other. This year we will try Art Space and Duct Tape to the mix, placing those workshops in tents on the North Quad.
We are also continuing our efforts to improve the financial health of Summer Institute, so that we can continue to create this special community for generations to come.
Toward that end, we are trying to take better advantage of the free (or at least already paid for) spaces at Oberlin. Oberlin’s rental model is different than Kenyon’s. At Oberlin we pay for each classroom or other university room we use each day we use it. That does not apply to lounges in dorms that we are residing in — those come with the price of the sleeping rooms that we rent. This year we are working to put more seminars, workshops and meetings in dorm lounges. We are also going to try to make greater use of First Church.
We are also continuing to use technology to save more money. We have fully migrated the brochure online, reducing what we send out to a quadfold mailer. We have found that to still be expensive, dubiously useful and less than green. We are planning to create a generic “This Is SI” brochure for in-church promotions and keep everything else paperless.
With the continued evolution and growth of the SI community comes a set of questions – Is this where we want to go? How do we manage the change? What can we be doing better? How do we pay for it all? We are inviting the community to a series of “World Café” style conversations to share information and gather community sentiment on these and a host of other questions. Look for the World Cafes on the schedule Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
You also have the chance to participate in morning worship this year. Rev. Lynn Kerr is encouraging community members to make “Storycorps” type videos answering a series of questions tied to the topics of her morning worship services. We will have a video room set up in the basement of First Church.
As you read this, we are days, maybe hours, away. See you in Oberlin.
Chair of the 2015 Summer Institute Planning Committee