A little over one year ago, representatives of two schools with similar values, including a strong commitment to international learning, gathered on the Eastern Mennonite University to get better acquainted and to formalize an agreement between the two institutions.
On May 27, 2008, Hongnam Lee, principal of Bell International School (BIS) in Nonsan City, Chungcheongnam-do, Korea, and Loren Swartzendruber, EMU president, signed an agreement document that sought to promote interaction between the schools and encourage Bell students to apply for admission to EMU.
James Rhee (l.) introduces EMU President Loren Swartzendruber at a visit to the ETRI government research center.
The informal, non-binding agreement stated that “subject to meeting all academic, English language proficiencies and other requirements, BIS graduates will be admitted for undergraduate study at EMU.”
This fall, the first three Bell International graduates will enroll at EMU – one first-year student and two in the Intensive English Program (IEP) that provides the language skills needed for college-level study.
From July 15-23, EMU President Loren Swartzendruber and his wife, Pat, took a reciprocal trip to Korea to meet faculty, staff, students and parents of Bell International School. James Rhee, pastor of the Stephens City (VA) Korean Mennonite Church and a graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary, and Jonathan A. (Jon) Kratz, director of international student services at EMU, accompanied the Swartzendrubers.
BIS, an alternative school with over 200 students enrolled in tenth through 12th grade, operates from a Christian philosophy that emphasizes community, language proficiency, computer education and music (every student learns to play one instrument and become competent in a sport). Similarly to EMU, students are required to take part in cross-cultural study programs across their three years that include trips to China, Canada and the Philippines.
“We were welcomed with much fanfare and treated royally everywhere we went,” Dr. Swartzendruber said.
During their visit, the Swartzendrubers conferred with BIS administrators and faculty while Kratz met with students and parents. The EMU president gave a chapel presentation and led a seminar on raising children in Christian faith.
The university presented an eight-foot-long aerial photo of campus to the school and donated a tree, purchased in Korea, and planted during a special ceremony.
Despite heavy rain, a tree-planting ceremony took place during the EMU delegation’s visit to Bell International School. Principal Hongnam Lee stands to the left of President Swartzendruber.
The EMU contingent toured ETRI, a government research center with 1,800 employees, all PhD’s doing high-tech projects. Rhee worked at the facility before coming to the US.
The EMU group contingent visited one of two Anabaptist-Mennonite congregations in Korea. The president preached at “Jesus Village” in Chungeun.
“This was an extremely valuable time of contacts with the Bell school and other contacts made in Korea,” Swartzendruber said. ““If these first several students have a good experience [at EMU],” we expect that others will follow.”