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EMU Trustees Consider Campus Design

Posted on November 14th, 2005

What is the best way to enter the Eastern Mennonite University campus, especially for those persons who’ve never visited before?

The EMU board of trustees spent a portion of their fall meeting, Nov. 11-12, focusing on that perplexing question with the aid of Van Yahres Associates, a Charlottesville, Va., architectural firm.

Using a Powerpoint presentation on "the anatomy of a campus," Mike Van Yahres, colleague Syd Knight and Sam Jones of Troyer and Associates, designers of the campus master plan, identified the key planning components as: a recognizable entrance, identifiable centers, definite edges, organized circulation (parking), efficient maintenance and simplicity of design.

Architects Mike Van Yahres and Syd Knight introduce key considerations in designing a welcome entrance to the EMU campus.Architects Mike Van Yahres (standing) and Syd Knight introduce key considerations in designing a welcome entrance to the EMU campus. Designing entranceways to schools and other institutions is the firm’s speciality.
Photos by Jim Bishop

Although the board’s discussion centered around where to create a main entrance, the other components factor heavily into that planning.

A successful entrance provides an "ah-ha" moment to visitors, engages the center of campus, is welcoming – often including admissions’ interests – and anticipates long-term growth and change, the architects said.

Board members raised questions about the city’s plans for roads surrounding the campus, the university’s relationship to other campuses such as Eastern Mennonite High School and Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community EMHS and EMU’s long-term plan for purchasing surrounding buildings.

Suggestions from the board included the need for "ample and convenient parking" as well as "capitalizing on the beautiful view available from certain areas on campus."

The architects also noted that EMU has enough land area to grow "by more than a third of its current population" over the long term.

"This is a 50 to 100-year decision, and we want to proceed carefully but expeditiously," EMU President Loren Swartzendruber said. "We will plan several meetings in late spring to engage faculty, staff and students in discussions about the options for an entranceway and welcome center."

In trustees’ actions, the board approved a revised final operating budget for the 2005-06 fiscal year of $24.6 million, a 4.5 percent increase over last year. The budget calls for contributions of $1.75 million to the University Fund by June 30, 2006 and includes $4,947,000 earmarked for student financial aid.

The board also gave the administration authority to increase tuition "not less than 5 percent and not more than 8 percent" for the 2006-07 year and approved a $600 increase in room and board. The room and board hike "will still place EMU in a lower category than many peer schools currently charge," a board member noted.

Susan Godshall, chair of the EMU board of trustees, confers with Carlos Romero of Mennonite Education Agency between sessions.Susan Godshall, chair of the EMU board of trustees, confers with Carlos Romero of Mennonite Education Agency between sessions.
Photo by Jim Bishop

The board recessed to attend an EMU chapel service and heard Carlos Romero, executive secretary of the Mennonite Education Agency (MEA), speak on how small the world is becoming and the changing demographics that are transforming schools and communities.

"Different cultures come with different unwritten rules," Romero said. He gave this example: His mother always instructed her children to not clean their plate lest the host think that she was an unfit mother who didn’t feed her family. He then contrasted that with the family who thinks if you DON’T clean your plate you are wasting food when there is so much hunger in the world.

"The heart of understanding comes when we can make the unwritten rules and expectations of various cultures clear," Romero told the assembly. "Grace in understanding is our call when it comes to cross-cultural relationships and in becoming the church God wants us to be.

"Deep in my heart I do believe in the goodness of people," he said. "I do believe in the power of Christ in our relationships."

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