From The President: For Such A Time As This

December 15th, 2020

Let’s Light the Open Access Pathway!

GREETINGS EMU FRIENDS! This has been a year like no other! It has been filled with upheaval and uncertainty in how to respond to a pandemic that has been unusually cruel in its toll on lives and livelihood in the U.S. and around the world.

In the midst of all these swirling challenges, I am so very proud of our resilient, faithful EMU supporters – our faculty, staff, administrators, board of trustees, student leaders, and alumni, parents and friends. Hundreds of dedicated folks have worked courageously, imaginatively and generously to help us unveil responsible and flexible education plans for academic year 20-21.

In short, we are equipped as educators to be light amidst the darkness, to find strength and refuge in a loving God, and to be a welcoming place for intellectual and spiritual formation.

We will, as in biblical times, take heed of the pestilence before us, pray for courage and insight and “Lead Together!”

Many of you have heard the expression for such a time as this, included in a question posed by Queen Esther’s cousin Mordecai in the book of Esther. Esther’s story is dramatic and as high stakes as it gets. Esther’s story reminds us that in life we can be thrust without warning into making difficult decisions. Courageous actions sometimes mean forging a difficult path that can make all the difference.

Esther was an unlikely hero. She was an orphan with Jewish heritage. She was raised mainly by her cousin Mordecai. She was selected Queen for her beauty and yet this Jewish woman devised a plan to save her people from destruction. Esther acts shrewdly and wisely as she attempts to save her people. Her ultimate importance in this story is not her beauty, but her courage and careful strategy.

Esther’s crisis is dire: confronting the king could mean losing her life, but not confronting the king could mean the destruction of her family and her people. Esther had to be extraordinarily brave. She risked her life for a greater purpose.

The most memorable phrase from this story comes from Mordecai. Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this, he said to Esther.

This could be true for any one of us. Replace “royal dignity” with something else: Perhaps you have come to EMU for such a time as this. Perhaps you are equipped to assist EMU for such a time as this.

OK, so the stakes are not as high as those faced by Esther, but the lesson is no less valuable.

The pandemic is a crucible. Crises can force us to dig deep into our reserves and ask: What special gifts do I carry for this moment? Do I have the resolve to risk what it may take to affect positive change?

For such a time as this What a motivating catalyst. I suggest that for EMU this is our moment, our time.

Our post-pandemic educational journey has begun! Here are our first steps!

STEP ONE: BOLD VISION. This year we celebrated a new university vision statement approved by our board of trustees that gives wings to our mission and animates our Christian values. We will open new pathways of access and achievement for all students who aspire to be unifying leaders: equipped with intercultural competence, oriented to peace and justice, and rooted in an active faith modeled on the life and teachings of Jesus.

That new vision statement speaks profoundly to many students and increasingly to first generation college students, those who are economically challenged, and racial/ethnic minorities. The only problem is many of these promising prospective students simply cannot afford us, even after our current financial aid packages are applied. As a faith-informed peace and justice university, this sobering reality is particularly painful to me. Our bold vision is a clarion call to not just talk about diversity, equity and inclusion but to take decisive action!

STEP TWO: DECISIVE ACTION. Resilience and strategic pivots have kept us afloat in the areas of recruitment, retention and revenue. Our enrollment and financial positioning are strong given all the uncertainties. We are up 3% over last year in new students. On the budget side, even with the loss of nearly all summer revenue and with room and board reimbursements, we still ended our fiscal year on June 30 with a balanced budget and margin. This marks three years in a row that EMU has generated sizable income in its end of year operating budget. Our federal financial responsibility composite score is especially healthy in this same time period, unusually high in the small college higher ed sector.

Our relentless attention to multi-year fiscal discipline and metrics for long-term financial strength means we can celebrate financial stability and put our peace and social justice values into action more quickly and with more lasting impact. As we seek greater philanthropy to support EMU students, I assure you that we are making wise decisions operationally to keep EMU strong academically, financially and spiritually.

STEP THREE: RADICAL GENEROSITY. What a precious gift we have inherited at EMU – educating women and men to serve and lead in our world today. We graduate students, regardless of major, who are not afraid of conflict, who know how to engage difference responsibly, and who can “Lead Together” in their work, places of worship, and home communities. Can you imagine a more precious educational gift than this in our polarized world? I’d call our graduates “essential workers!” And we need more of them! May we continue to dig deep and find joy amidst fear; light amidst darkness; hope amidst despair. The pandemic has brought us pain, but it has also brought us possibility!

We will need faith, fortitude, and financial resources to continue to grow bold unifying leaders and activate our aspirational vision. To that end, we covet your prayers, your counsel, and your generous support.

Can we count on you? For Such a Time as This!