Peter Block is a noted speaker at “Leading into the Common Good: An Anabaptist Perspective," a conference for practitioners, scholars and students April 7-9, 2016, at Eastern Mennonite University. (Courtesy photo)

EMU leadership conference to create a new paradigm of “Leading into the Common Good”

Author and speaker Peter Block headlines a list of notable speakers for “Leading into the Common Good: An Anabaptist Perspective,” a conference for practitioners, scholars and students April 7-9, 2016, at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU).

Block, a well-known expert on organizational development, community building and civic engagement, will address the conference live via video. A strong advocate for the concept of “servant leadership,” he is the author of The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods (2010), Community: The Structure of Belonging (2008), The Answer to How Is Yes: Acting on What Matters (2001) and Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self Interest (1993).

Jim Smucker, vice president and dean of graduate studies at EMU and one of the primary organizers for the conference, says Block will bring an important perspective as an “outsider” to the church. Smucker says Block’s address will focus on “third-way leadership.”

“We’re struggling as Anabaptists with leadership paradigms and how we make decisions,” Smucker says. “We want to facilitate a conversation about how we go forward and further develop our movement in a way that brings us together.”

The conference will focus on clarifying Anabaptist values related to leadership, examining historical models, critiquing current economic and social systems, and developing applied theories that can be used to build more effective and future-looking organizations.

The planning committee is emphasizing the representation of diverse voices and perspectives, and students from the various Anabaptist-related schools will be sharing during each plenary session.

Other keynote speakers include:

  • Bryan Welch, CEO of B The Change Media and founder of Mother Earth News;
  • John Sharp, teacher, author, storyteller, and historian;
  • Lee Snyder, a former vice president and academic dean who will serve as interim president at EMU;
  • John Stahl-Wert ’81, recognized expert in leadership and innovation;
  • Rachel Waltner Goosen, professor of history at Washburn University;
  • Phil Wenger ’82, executive director of Lancaster County Conservancy and former CEO of Isaac’s Famous Grilled Sandwiches;
  • Gilberto Perez Jr. ’94 , senior director for intercultural development and educational partnerships at Goshen College;
  • Jeff Boodie ’07, founder and CEO of JobSnap;
  • David Brubaker, associate professor of organizational studies and new director of EMU’s MBA program;
  • David Miller, associate professor of missional leadership development at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary;
  • Dominique Burgunder-Johnson, Goshen College director of marketing and current collaborative MBA student;
  • Nancy Heisey, professor in EMU’s Bible and religion department and former academic dean;
  • Rick Castaneda, home/school liaison for Harrisonburg City Public Schools and founder of Men of Character;
  • Roxy Allen Kioko, MA ’07 (conflict transformation), doctoral student at James Madison University and instructor with the Summer Peacebuilding Institute and EMU’s business department.

Workshop topics include emergent leadership, leading innovation, people management ethics, developing resilient organizations, and authentic leadership.

The conference grew out of discussions at the Anabaptist Center for Religion and Society (ACRS), a community of Mennonite elders and scholars who meet monthly for fellowship and intellectual engagement at EMU. Six years ago, ACRS initiated a biography project on 20th-century Mennonite leader Orie Miller; the result was a book published by Herald Press in May 2015.

In the planning and conception process, the group found synergy with conversations happening in the Collaborative MBA program (a joint project of Bluffton University, Canadian Mennonite University, EMU and Goshen College), which Smucker says had recognized a lack of scholarly work around leadership and Anabaptism. A network of partnerships began to grow.

The conference is sponsored by ARCS, EMU’s School of Graduate and Professional Studies, Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Economic Development Association (MEDA), Mennonite Health Services and MennoMedia. Co-sponsors include Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Bethel College, Bluffton University, Canadian Mennonite University, Conrad Grebel University College, Goshen College and Hesston College.

“We have never before pulled off a conference of this type with this amount of collaborative engagement,” says Lee M. Yoder, chair of the ACRS steering committee and former vice president and associate professor of education at EMU. “It’s the first of its kind.”

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