Barista, postal clerk and librarian duties were on the agenda as Eastern Mennonite University’s ninth president, Dr. Susan Schultz Huxman, experienced a whirlwind, behind-the-scenes campus tour in her third day at the helm.
“I am inspired and humbled,” said Huxman as the day drew to a close. “I’m awed by the many gifts EMU has to offer its students and the quality of the people who make up this learning community.”
Traveling by golf cart – accompanied at points by mascot Herm – Huxman took in academic and support service settings, heard program overviews and learned about student life.
A taste of academic life
Huxman observed Biblical history and documentary photography classes, a nursing student patient assessment in EMU’s simulation lab, and a rehearsal of Emulate choral ensemble. She also participated in an anatomy and physiology lab experiment.
In a Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) training, Huxman watched a group act out a scenario that led to conversation about cycles of violence. STAR is a training program offered by EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.
The morning included brief greetings with staff in the administrative suite of Eastern Mennonite Seminary, a tour of the MA in Counseling facilities, and an introduction to the Intensive English Program for English language learners from the local community and around the world.
A stop at the Academic Success Center highlighted the services – peer tutoring, assessment, writing support and more – available to all students.
In the Menno Simons Historical Library, Huxman saw some of the centuries’ old treasures, including an early edition of the Martyrs’ Mirror and an original Harmonia Sacra hymnal published in 1832 in nearby Singers Glen by Joseph Funk, who brought the shaped-note singing tradition to the Shenandoah Valley.
On the lighter side…
In EMU’s student-run Common Grounds coffeehouse, Huxman gained a few barista skills. At the post office, she delivered packages to students awaiting text books for the new semester. In Hartzler Library, she checked out a book for a (patiently waiting) student.
Seeing how students live in community was a highlight with stops at Parkwoods apartments, and Cedarwood and Northlawn residence halls. Student community advisors and ministry assistants pointed out the features of their home away from home, and how they work to build community together.
“Meeting Dr. Huxman was a great experience,” said Xavier McCants, a community advisor in Cedarwood Residence Hall. “Her energy and excitement resonated with all of the residents. She showed that she genuinely wanted to know about our lives.”
Lunch time provided a chance to re-group, meet the head of dining services – Pioneer Caterers’ Bruce Emerson – and chat with students, faculty and staff. Huxman connected with people through mutual acquaintances, learned where students are from and what brought them to EMU, and, whenever possible, talked about sports. ” I believe deeply in the value of the student-athlete-leadership model here at EMU,” said Huxman, who participated in a variety of varsity sports through her high school and college years.
In addition, Huxman:
- strolled through the Margaret Martin Gehman art gallery, EMU theater facilities, Royals Den snack shop, EMU Bookstore, Student Life Suite and health services;
- lifted a few weights at the Fitness Center (with help from Herm);
- visited the Athletics Suite where she interacted with several coaches;
- chatted with undergraduate admissions counselors;
- and visited business office staff, who presented her with a bouquet to celebrate her first week on the job.
“This ‘taste’ of the university made me hungry for more,” noted Huxman. “I know we couldn’t get everywhere today so I am eager for more opportunities like this … I come away more convinced than ever that EMU truly is ‘like no other.’”
Huxman ended her day by attending the monthly young alumni gathering hosted by EMU’s Alumni Engagement office at Harrisonburg’s downtown Ruby’s Arcade, accompanied by her husband, Jesse. Her final energy of the day was used to cheer on the women’s basketball team in their win against Washington and Lee.