Deirdre Smeltzer has many changes taking place in her life, such as preparing to lead the fall Cross- Cultural trip to China and transitioning into the role of EMU’s Vice President and Undergraduate Dean.
At a young age, Smeltzer knew she was different compared to other students. Even as a teenager and young adult, she says she “rejected many of the core pieces of [her] identity in an attempt to be like others.”
Smeltzer grew up in a family that was connected deeply with the Mennonite church. Enrolling in EMU (since it was her top pick of Mennonite colleges), she had not even planned on majoring in Mathematics. After a discrete mathematics course, Smeltzer was hooked.
She spent the summer after her sophomore year living with her grandmother and studying math with her uncle.
EMU started many paths for Smeltzer. She had, what she calls, a spiritual “conversion” while enrolled at EMU. She even married her husband in June after her Undergraduate graduation.
Smeltzer continued onto graduate school. Knowing she did not want to teach, she did not know what else to do, but continued her education studying algebraic coding theory and learning that she really did love to teach.
When Smeltzer finished graduate school, she received four job offers within one week. She knew she would eventually end up at a Mennonite school, but that going somewhere else first would be most beneficial.
She started her professional teaching career at St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. A very supportive staff surrounded Smeltzer.
Smeltzer studied Lynn Miller’s ‘Firstfruits Living’ while at St. Thomas. This book influenced her greatly. She even had the chance to hear Miller speak, which inspired her even more.
Miller spoke about the “fruits” that she had written about in her book. She spoke not just about monetary fruits, but the fruits of spiritual gifts and the time you should share.
Miller reminded Smeltzer of what EMU had taught her and showed her what she was able to give back. She remembered how important going to EMU was for her, and she wanted to return those fruits to EMU and God.
Smeltzer contacted the chair of the math department at the time, and on a whim, asked if there were any part-time or full-time positions available.
The chairperson responded that they had just announced their retirement for the end of the year. With that, Smeltzer says, “Everything fell into place.”
She had a strong calling to return to EMU. Smeltzer felt led towards new paths in her career after a time of working at EMU.
As Smeltzer prepared to present for the position of Undergraduate Dean, she looked back to her Professional Development Plan from the Women’s Leadership Development group.
In her PDP of 2008, she mentioned, “I may still be at EMU in five years, but I don’t see myself in exactly the same roles as I currently hold…”.
She continues by saying that she would most likely “continue in a faculty position with a reduced teaching load while also working on additional projects, or that [she] will move into a position with greater administrative responsibility.”
As Smeltzer looks at the Undergraduate program and the students, she recognizes that EMU has really changed. The Mennonite student population has decreased, and students are even more stressed about monetary situations.
She suggests that we “should try to change and adapt while still retaining the essential components of our identity.” EMU coins itself as “a leader among faith-based institutions.” This is important to keep.
Along with keeping EMU’s identity, Smeltzer recognizes keeping her own identity. She believes she is different from others. “Not everyone completes a Ph.D. in pure mathematics.”
She believes that EMU is a great place for her uniqueness, and she feels she fits accordingly with the community, both with her personality and Mennonite upbringing.
Smeltzer feels honored to serve as the Undergraduate Dean and to have the chance to give back her first fruits to EMU.
-Alicia Calkins, Feature Editor