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Eastern Mennonite University
Eastern Mennonite University seal.png
Former names
Eastern Mennonite School (1917–1947)
Eastern Mennonite College (1947–1994)[1]
Motto"Preparing students to serve and lead globally." Guiding biblical verse: "Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God." (Micah 6:8)
TypePrivate university
Established1917; 106 years ago (1917)
Religious affiliation
Mennonite Church USA
Endowment$25.587 million (as of 2014)[2]
PresidentSusan Schultz Huxman
ProvostFred Kniss
Academic staff
Approximately 100 full-time and 100 part-time faculty
Undergraduates1,224 (fall 2015)[3]
Postgraduates450 (fall 2015)

38°28′15″N 78°52′46″W / 38.470966°N 78.879519°W / 38.470966; -78.879519Coordinates: 38°28′15″N 78°52′46″W / 38.470966°N 78.879519°W / 38.470966; -78.879519
ColorsWhite, black and royal blue
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division III

Old Dominion Athletic Conference

Continental Volleyball Conference
MascotHeRM (His Royal Majesty) the Lion
Eastern Mennonite University logo.png
Eastern Mennonite University is located in Shenandoah Valley
Eastern Mennonite University
Location in Shenandoah Valley
Eastern Mennonite University is located in Virginia
Eastern Mennonite University
Eastern Mennonite University (Virginia)
Eastern Mennonite University is located in the United States
Eastern Mennonite University
Eastern Mennonite University (the United States)

Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) is a private Mennonite university in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The university also operates a satellite campus in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which primarily caters to working adults.[4] EMU's bachelor-degree holders traditionally engage in service-oriented work such as health care, education, social work, and the ministry.[5] EMU is especially known for its Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP), especially its graduate program in conflict transformation.[6][7]

More than half of EMU's undergraduate students do not come from Mennonite backgrounds, though the majority are Christian.[8]


Eastern Mennonite University Administration Building in 1943
Eastern Mennonite University Administration Building in 1943

Eastern Mennonite University was launched in 1917 as the Eastern Mennonite School by a handful of Mennonite church members. They recognized that their church-centered communities needed to offer schooling beyond the basic level for young-adult Mennonites.[9] These church leaders sought to stem the tide toward enrolling in secular educational institutions.[10] One of that founding group, Bishop George R. Brunk Sr., stated that "the world standard of education is self-centered, self-exalting, and materialistic." By contrast, he advocated a form of Christian education that "expands and develops the God-given powers both natural and spiritual, guides them [students] into channels of activity most conducive to God's glory and the blessing of mankind."[11]

Eastern Mennonite's first registrar, John Early Suter, believed that the university should offer secular academics in addition to Bible classes, and he was one of the first two such teachers.[12] The Suter Science Center was named in honor of J. Early Suter's son, Dr. Daniel Suter, who taught in the Biology department from 1948 to 1985.[13] In 1947, the school began to offer bachelors degrees in subjects other than theology and changed its name for the first time, becoming Eastern Mennonite College.

In 1948–49, EMU admitted two local African American students, becoming one of the first historically white colleges in the U.S. South to integrate, defying written and unwritten rules enforcing segregation prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[14] (The University of Arkansas also admitted African American students, beginning in 1948.)[15]

From exclusively serving members of the Mennonite church in the early and mid 1900s, EMU has evolved to educating thousands far beyond its original constituency of "Anabaptists," a broad term for Mennonites and kindred subscribers to the theology of Anabaptism.[16] EMU and its seminary are affiliated with the Mennonite Education Agency of the Mennonite Church USA, as are five other higher education institutions in Kansas, Indiana and OhioBethel College (Kansas), Goshen College, Bluffton University, Hesston College and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary.[17]

In 1994, the college changed its name for a second time, becoming Eastern Mennonite University.

In the last 20 years in particular, EMU has attracted people from all over the world and various faiths who are interested in the way it combines peace, social justice, simplicity and community.[18][19] EMU orients its students toward "experiential learning" (i.e. hands-on learning, connected to real-world work), "creation care" (environmental sustainability), and "cross-cultural engagement" (required of all undergraduates).[20][21]

The university made national news in 2015 when it, along with Goshen College (also associated with the Mennonite Church USA), added sexual orientation to their nondiscrimination policy.[22] This allowed the school to begin hiring faculty or staff members who were in a same-sex marriage. The decision put the school somewhat at odds with its affiliated denomination, the Mennonite Church USA, and out of step with the interests of the CCCU, of which it was a founding member.[23] This decision prompted two fellow Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) member schools – Union University and Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU) – to quit the organization in protest.[24] The two Mennonite schools later chose to withdraw their membership from the consortium in order to spare "significant division" within the CCCU's ranks.[25][26]

Mission and values

EMU attempts to graduate people oriented toward the wider world and toward helping others. The wider Mennonite culture of service is reflected in the university's mission statement.[20] EMU is home to the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, and its mission statement refers to Micah 6:8 on doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God.


Eastern Mennonite University Solar Array
Eastern Mennonite University Solar Array

EMU claims that it is a leader among universities countywide in low-energy consumption, solar energy production, sustainable new construction, recycling, and composting efforts.[27][28][29][30] Three residence halls meet the gold-level requirements of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).[29]

Peace studies

The university hosts the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) which includes a graduate program in conflict transformation.[6] CJP has educated and trained more than 3,000 people from 124 countries.[31] CJP's founding director, John Paul Lederach, and its expert in restorative justice, Howard Zehr, are considered to be international leaders in the fields of peace and justice.[32]

Views on same-sex relationships

The school's "Community Lifestyle Commitment" statement had been cited as reason for terminating the employment of faculty and staff members who were sexually active gay men or lesbians.[33] In 2004, then-President Loren Swartzendruber stated that the university's and Mennonite Church USA's policy was that "sexual relationships are reserved for a man and a woman in marriage" and applied equally to faculty members who are heterosexual. He noted that two heterosexual employees had also been let go after having extramarital sexual relationships.[34]

However, in November 2013 EMU's Board of Trustees suspended the enforcement of its same-sex relationships policy and authorized Swartzendruber to lead a six-month study of whether or not to allow tenure-track faculty to pursue same-sex relationships without censure.[35]

On 16 July 2015, EMU's board added "sexual orientation" to their non-discrimination policy, allowing for the hiring of faculty and staff involved in same-sex marriages.[22]


As of 2010 EMU's undergraduate programs included 35 majors, 16 teacher education certification programs, 9 pre-professional programs such as pre-engineering and health sciences, and 4 associate degrees.[36] Both the Harrisonburg and Lancaster locations offer an Adult Degree Completion Program.[37][38] 98% of job-seeking graduate from the class of 2021 were employed within 12 months of graduation.[39]

Each year EMU offers high-achieving high school students the opportunity to be part of the university's honors program. Selected students can receive 50% to 100% tuition scholarships, renewable for each year of undergraduate study. They also receive mentoring from assigned faculty members and attend honors seminars and social gatherings together.[40]

Cross-cultural study requirement

Eastern Mennonite University Campus Students on a Cross-cultural Trip
Eastern Mennonite University Campus Students on a Cross-cultural Trip

EMU was one of the earliest colleges to require cross-cultural study of all undergraduates, with a university-sponsored program beginning in the 1970s.[41] EMU recommends that its undergraduate students earn 15 semester hours of credit by living, studying and serving in cross-cultural settings.[42] Nine cross-cultural credits are the minimum number required for graduation; these can be earned through in-class study and a summer stint of three to six weeks in a cross-cultural setting.[42] Most undergraduates embark on semester-long, faculty-led, cross-cultural experiences, usually involving home stays in non-U.S. settings, such as Israel, Guatemala, South Africa, India, Spain and Morocco.[43] But some students opt to satisfy the cross-cultural requirement by studying and interning in Washington, D.C., while living in EMU-owned housing supervised by faculty members.[44] Others choose individualized alternatives, such as a summer of studying business with an international manufacturer or 11 months of service with the SALT program of Mennonite Central Committee.[45]

More than 75% of EMU's faculty members have lived in a cross-cultural context.[46] The leaders of EMU-sponsored trips are drawn from the ranks of faculty and staff members who have had extensive experience in the settings to which they are leading students.[47] Since 2001, three EMU faculty members have been Fulbright Scholars.[48][49]

Seminary, graduate and summer programs

EMU's Graduate School offers master's degrees. Extensive summer study programs are available through:[50] EMU's Summer Peacebuilding Institute (four consecutive sessions); Washington Community Scholars' Program; Summer Bridge Scholarship Program, in which EMU collaborates with the National Science Foundation to offer scholarships for incoming science students to spend a summer working with faculty; a Ministry Inquiry Program in which upper-level students are able to spend 11 weeks as an intern in a congregation; nine-day Summer Institute for Spiritual Formation; graduate-level courses for teachers.[51] The Intensive English Program attracts students who need to improve their mastery of spoken and written English before continuing into higher studies at EMU or another American college.[52]

Panorama of EMU's Campus

Campus life

Expectations for community members

Eastern Mennonite's 361-word "Community Lifestyle Commitment" was adopted by the board of trustees in 2001.[53] With this document as a guide, the institution expects its employees and students to commit themselves to a lifestyle based on "clearly stated expectations [to] promote orderly community life," coupled with "trust in and responsibility to one another".[53] It calls for "stewardship of mind, time, abilities and finances" and takes the unusual step of asking for "social responsibility in my standard of living and use of economic resources". EMU expects community members to "respect and abide by the university policy that prohibits the use of alcohol and tobacco on campus or at university functions and the misuse of alcohol off campus".[53]

The statement also asks community members to refrain from "sexual harassment and abuse, pornography, acts of violence, abusive or demeaning language and the use of illegal drugs" as well as "sexual relationships outside of marriage".[53] However, the school does permit homosexual activity within the confines of marriage.[23]

Campus ministries

Residential undergraduates, faculty, and staff gather for twice-weekly chapel services planned by the campus pastoral team. Voluntary Bible study and worship also occur in smaller settings during the week and on weekends.[54]

The Campus Ministries program sponsors activities such as campus-wide chapels on Wednesday and Friday mornings, a student-led praise-style service on Sunday evenings, monthly hymn sings and Taize worship services, annual "spiritual life week", and service experiences under the Young People's Christian Association.[55] Campus Ministries is led by the three trained pastors, assisted by students at various stages in their education including seminary students at EMU. Pastoral Assistants live in residence buildings and plan voluntary weekly activities.[56]

Outdoor and indoor recreation

Bicycle Lane on Eastern Mennonite University Campus
Bicycle Lane on Eastern Mennonite University Campus

As a result of EMU's location, bicycling is popular among the faculty and students as a means to commute, do errands, and for recreational jaunts around the countryside, both on and off roads.[57][58]

Other popular outdoor activities are kayaking & canoeing, swimming, golfing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting & fishing, spelunking and skiing & other winter sports at nearby private and public parks and centers, such as Shenandoah National Park, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, and Massanutten Four-Season Resort.[59] On campus, students, staff and faculty maintain a greenhouse, an arboretum, and a large vegetable garden.[60]

Indoor recreational features include gyms (for basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer, etc.), fitness center with exercise equipment, and climbing wall.[61] Swimmers head 2.1 miles to the year-round municipal swimming pool at Westover Park.[62]


Main article: Eastern Mennonite Royals

EMU Turf Field
EMU Turf Field

EMU's sports teams are known as the Royals. In most sports, EMU competes as NCAA Division III, a member of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. Sports include field hockey, cross country, basketball, volleyball, soccer, baseball, softball, indoor and outdoor track and field, and golf.[63]


Two-thirds of EMU's students participate in intramural sports, playing against peers as well as college employees, in friendly, often coed competitions.[64] In 2009–10, dozens of teams competed at various levels in basketball, billiards, floor hockey, flag football, golf, table tennis, and dodgeball.[65]

Beyond physical activities, students at EMU are involved in clubs and groups typical of college campuses, such as student government, the student newspaper, literary magazine and theater productions.[66]


Students participate from a variety of choral and instrumental musical groups, including men's, women's, and mixed vocal ensembles, as well as chamber and wind ensembles, a jazz band, and a chamber orchestra.[67] EMU's music department is home to the proficient hymnal editor, faculty member, and chamber singers director Ken J. Nafziger, who also directs and conducts the annual Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival and the Winchester Musica Viva.[68]

Notable alumni

President of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is an alumnus of Eastern Mennonite University's Summer Peacebuilding Institute. In 2001, he completed three of the SPI's intensive courses, studying mediation, trauma healing, and designing learner-centered trainings. He credits the tools and instruments that he acquired while attending the SPI with having equipped him with the necessary diplomatic skills to successfully engage challenging circumstances in his everyday work.[69]

In August 2010 Glen D. Lapp '91 was among a group of 10 unarmed volunteers with International Assistance Mission in Afghanistan who were shot and killed while returning from providing health care in a remote region. "As with many of our alumni around the world, Glen was fulfilling EMU's mission of serving and leading in a global context, which often involves great personal sacrifice," said then university president, Loren Swartzendruber.[70] Suraya Sadeed – an Afghan-American graduate of EMU's MA degree in conflict transformation and the founder and executive director of Help the Afghan Children[71] – told a newspaper reporter that such murders would not deter her and others from continuing to provide humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan.[72]

CJP alumna Leymah Gbowee was a co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. In her autobiography, she speaks of EMU as "an American college with a well-known program in peace-building and conflict resolution" and with an emphasis on "community and service."[73]

In January 2015, the NPR program All Things Considered profiled the work of EMU alumnus Michael Sharp ('05) convincing FDLR fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo to lay down their arms.[74]

Notable faculty


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