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Eastern Mennonite University

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Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) is a private liberal arts university in the Shenandoah Valley of the U.S. state of Virginia, affiliated with one of the historic peace churches, the Mennonite Church USA.[5] Its 97-acre (390,000 m2) main campus is located near Harrisonburg, Virginia. The university operates a satellite campus in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which primarily caters to working adults.

EMU's bachelor-degree holders traditionally engage in service-oriented work, such as health care, education, social work, and the ministry. Currently, the following are the most popular majors: health sciences and/or biology (21%), liberal arts (16%), visual/communications arts (9%), and psychology (6%).

Worldwide, EMU is probably best known for its Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP), especially its graduate program in conflict transformation. CJP has educated and trained more than 3,000 people from 119 countries. 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.] 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."] President of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is also an alumnus of Eastern Mennonite University's Summer Peacebuilding Institute based in Harrisonburg, Virginia. 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.

More than half of EMU's undergraduate students do not come from Mennonite backgrounds, though the majority are Christian. EMU's graduate students represent a diversity of faiths, as exemplified by the mini-bios on Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu alumni posted on EMU's website. About 57 percent of EMU's undergrads are from out of state (32 states; 21 countries), and 20 percent are international or ethnic-racial minorities.

EMU describes itself as a "leader among faith-based institutions" in emphasizing "peacebuilding, creation care, experiential learning, and cross-cultural engagement.

Eastern Mennonite University was launched in 1917 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 who were hungry for more knowledge and for opportunities beyond the farm.[18] These church leaders sought to stem the tide toward enrolling in secular educational institutions.[19] 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.”[20]

Eastern Mennonite's first registrar, John Early Suter, advocated that Eastern Mennonite not limit itself to being a Bible school, but also offer academic courses such as English, Algebra and Latin. This proposal was accepted when he and A.G Heishman agreed to teach these courses on the condition that their pay come out of any money remaining after the Bible teachers were paid.[21] 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.[22]

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.[23] 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 Ohio – Bethel College (Kansas), Goshen College, Bluffton University, Hesston College and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary.[24] Of these colleges, only Goshen College has a higher percentage of Mennonite students (53%) than EMU (50%).