A banner day opens school year

Something slightly different contributed to the atmosphere of expectancy that permeated Lehman Auditorium.

In an all-campus convocation Wednesday morning, Sept. 2, President Loren Swartzendruber welcomed EMU’s largest incoming class in five years and called attention to colorful handmade banners that grace the left and right sides of the stage area with the university vision and mission statements.

EMU President Loren Swartzendruber speaks during fall 2009 convocation
Against a backdrop of a new mission statement banner, EMU President Loren Swartzendruber reflects on qualities of a ‘servant leader’ in his convocation address. Photo by Jon Styer

"These are not the same banners that hung here previously," Dr. Swartzendruber said. "These banners – designed and created by 2002 EMU alumna Ravonn Schrock Kauffman – reflect the revised mission statement text that the EMU board of trustees approved last year."

The artist – who came from her home in Bluffton, Ohio to attend the convocation and was acknowledged for her work – said that she chose to work with pieced blocks to "evoke the rich cultural heritage and spiritual Anabaptist tradition in the Valley and beyond." Visit Kauffman’s website: www.ravonn.com/

The small pieces of cloth sewed together represent the "varying backgrounds and understandings" that are brought together at EMU into a single body," Schrock Kauffman said. In addition, the pieced comforter image connects with the "serve" part of the school’s mission, she noted, calling to mind the thousands of blankets distributed by service workers around the world.

"Because of the great value placed on diversity within EMU, the blocks intentionally adopt widely varying colors … the exuberance and intensity of the color is intentional," she said.

For more on the creation of the banners read the artist’s statement.

‘Serve and Lead’

Dr. Swartzendruber drew from the mission and vision statements on the banners – "EMU educates students to serve and lead in a global context" – in his remarks to the campus community.

"At first glance, that combination of words – to serve and lead – seem to be mutually exclusive," Swartzendruber said. "Most people don’t put those words together in the same sentence, unless they are writing about Jesus in the New Testament – ‘the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.’ That’s not exactly how we tend to define a leader," he added.

Swartzendruber went on to identify the qualities that a person must embody in order to serve and lead in a global context as integrity, vision and hope.

"Stephen L. Carter, a professor at Yale University School of Law, defines integrity as discerning what is right and what is wrong, acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost, and saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right from wrong," he noted.

In addition, "a servant leader has a vision of how things ought to be," the president continued. "The means to a vision should always be consistent with the ends that one has in mind.

"Most students have at least a general vision of obtaining a college degree. Some have a more precise vision – knowing what major they want to pursue and future vocation.

Shenandoah Welcome during fall 2009 convocation
Returning students and faculty-staff bestow a "Shenandoah Welcome" on new students and others joining the EMU community. Photo by Jon Styer

Swartzendruber told the assembly that he has "a greater vision" in mind – "one shaped by our faith commitments – a vision for shalom, the well being of all humankind, a vision for peace and justice, a vision that is formed by the life and teachings of Christ as best articulated in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6 and 7. All of us can pursue this vision, no matter what our vocation or position in life."

Finally, the president said, "Servant leaders are people of hope. Not mere optimism, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good."

"During our time together on this campus each of us will have opportunities to serve others. And in that service we will grow into leaders with a vision to extend God’s Kingdom in the world," Swartzendruber said.

Cross-cultural group commissioned

The convocation included the singing of the university hymn, "Christ of the Mountain," and closed with a commissioning for 24 students who leave campus Thursday, Sept. 3, on a fall semester cross-cultural seminar in South Africa and Lesotho.

The group, led by Harlan de Brun, instructor in physical education and recreation, and assisted by EMU alumna Audra Baker, will study the values and norms of South African culture, learn about the African Independent Church movement, do elementary Sesotho language study and focus on community development and projects with particular attention given to AIDS issues.

Students will do readings, hear lectures and journal in learning about the history and culture of Southern Africa, including the Apartheid era and how religious beliefs affected government policy. They return to campus Dec. 5.

‘Shenandoah Welcome’

Returning students, faculty and staff gave new members of the EMU community a "Shenandoah Welcome" as they wended their way through a human "tunnel" – with Appalachian bluegrass music playing – to the Campus Center plaza for ice cream and fellowship before heading off to classes.

EMU’s fall semester ends Dec. 19.