Board of Trustees Hears Updates in Lively Sessions

Upbeat reports on enrollment and finances dominated the fall meeting of the EMU board of trustees held Friday and Saturday (Nov. 13-14) on campus.

The 17-member governing body approved a final operating budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year of $28.5 million dollars, a 3.4 percent increase over last year, that includes capital improvement allowances of $985,175 from the operating budget. The fiscal year runs through June 30.

The board adopted a $2.4 million project budget for Phase II of the University Commons, which includes major renovations to the mainstage theater in the former old gymnasium space and a renovated Studio Theater named in honor of the late Lee Eshleman, a 1986 EMU art graduate who was half of the “Ted & Lee” playwright-acting duo.

The administration was authorized to proceed with construction when funding commitments reach that figure, projected for the spring of next year.

President reports highest enrollment in a decade

In his report to the trustees, EMU President Loren Swartzendruber expressed gratitude for ending the 2008-09 academic year with a balanced operating budget with a substantial margin – a major achievement in a struggling economy, he said – and for the “good enrollment” in undergraduate, graduate and seminary programs this fall, particularly the first-year undergraduate class of 219 students, the highest number in the last 10 years.

Seminary affirmed during reaccreditation

Ervin R. Stutzman
Ervin R. Stutzman, seminary dean, reported on a reaccreditation visit

Ervin R. Stutzman, seminary dean, reported on a reaccreditation visit from an ATS (Association of Theological Schools) team that had just taken place on campus. While EMS is waiting for an official site visit report, Dr. Stutzman noted that the seminary was affirmed for “a clear statement of mission and purpose,” the “flexibility offered to students” in the revised master of divinity degree program, the “integrated relationships” between the seminary and the larger university and the “dedicated faculty and staff.”

“You are clearly better at what you’re doing than what you let on,” the team stated.

Kay Nussbaum of the advancement and enrollment committee of the board, reported that total contributions to date to the university of $1.1 million are up 26 percent over the same period last year. However, unrestricted gifts to the University Fund are down 17 percent over last year. EMU development officials attributed this in part to transitions in the phonathon program, and they are optimistic that the gap “will close substantially” early in the new year.

EMU at Lancaster (Pa.)

The board spent considerable time hearing and responding to an update report on a strategic plan for the EMU at Lancaster (PA) extension program from Mark R. Wenger.

Dr. Wenger directs and teaches in EMU’s STEP (Study and Training for Effective Pastoral Ministry) program in Lancaster, a course of study designed for pastoral leaders – or those exploring a call – who haven’t had college or Bible school training. Students earn 30 college-level credits studying part time over three years.

Wenger said that STEP “is enhancing relationships in the Lancaster Conference area that were previously resistant to higher education” and that collaboration “is spreading to other Anabaptist-related groups who are exploring the program.” Exploration is also under way to expand the STEP program to other geographic areas in Pennsylvania, Wenger told the board.

Other board business

Ron Piper
Ronald L. Piper, vice president for finance, is retiring this year.

* Approved moving ahead on plans for the university to offer a masters in nursing degree with an emphasis on leadership and management. Classes would run in a cohort structure with a distance learning emphasis with many courses offered on line.

* Gave the green light to do renovations to Maplewood and Elmwood residence halls, both completed in 1963 and in need of upgrading, including “going green” with environmentally-friendly features. Work on Maplewood would begin after spring term of 2010 with students temporarily housed in a portion of Roselawn residence hall, followed by renovations to Elmwood.

* Expressed strong appreciation to Ronald L. Piper for his 23 years of outstanding work as vice president for finance at EMU. He plans to retire this year; a search process is under way for his successor.