Ten graduating seniors were honored as Cords of Distinction recipients in a ceremony Saturday afternoon, May 5, 2018, at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU).
Faculty, staff and fellow students nominated the recipients, who were cited for their “significant and verifiable impact” on the university and on student life; for their contributions to developing the institution’s positive image; for substantial contributions to the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County area and beyond; for their high academic and social standing; and their embodiment of EMU’s shared values of Christian discipleship, community, service and peacebuilding.
Emily Clatterbuck: presented by Paul J. Yoder, PhD, assistant professor of teacher education
Emily Clatterbuck has confidently declared that “Teachers are leaders,” contending that “Teachers work to create positive change through their leadership. They set examples for their students and colleagues, and they help one another: students and colleagues. Teachers teach because they have been called to lead.” In her sense of conviction—and more importantly through her actions in both classrooms here on EMU’s campus and in local public schools—Emily Clatterbuck exemplifies the EMU Teacher Education mission of “teaching boldly in a changing world through an ethic of care and critical reflection.”
Emily has put her commitment to the EMU community and the teaching profession into practice through many leadership and service engagements. As the secretary and then president of the Student Education Association, Emily planned a book drive and canned food drive aimed at giving back to the local community. She contributed to the professional development of current education students through planning a panel for first-year teachers. Emily also contributed to the life of the university through organizing childcare during EMU Homecoming and planning a Language & Literature Department chapel with professors Kirsten Beachy and Carol Snell-Feikema.
Emily has helped to communicate EMU’s mission to those beyond the campus community. She contributed to recruiting local prospective education students through her work in Admissions and volunteered her time to assist in the Education Department during Scholarship Day. Emily has also intentionally sought opportunities to extend her learnings from her cross-cultural semester in Guatemala and Colombia through utilizing her Spanish fluency in the classroom and attending events that support local immigrant communities.
A native of Rockingham County, Emily has continued to invest in the local community. She volunteers with fundraising events at the Grottoes Volunteer Fire Department. Emily also seeks opportunities to work with children such as reading to young people at Second Home Childcare and doing crafts with participants of Ridgeway Mennonite Church’s Kids Club.
Finally, Emily has excelled in the classroom. She is an engaged and conscientious student. More importantly, however, is the balance Emily strikes, being quick to speak up in class, yet making room for multiple voices during class discussion. Emily is the recipient of the Carroll Yoder Award for Teaching Excellence in recognition of her academic excellence in both literary studies and education courses. Emily was also one of five Teachers of Promise awardees. We applaud Emily for all she has achieved already and for answering the call to be a teacher who authentically cares for students of all backgrounds and thus leads by example.
Drew Diaz: presented by Maria Esther Showalter, MA, multicultural student advisor
We are living in times when people seek power or a position of leadership to benefit themselves. However, a few leaders shine even brighter because their leadership style is so different. In 1970, Robert K. Greenleaf published his first essay, entitled “The Servant As Leader,” which introduced the term “servant leadership.” Of his philosophy, Robert Greenleaf wrote, “The servant-leader is servant first… Becoming a servant-leader begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.”
Drew Diaz has impacted our campus with his gentleness and genuine care and service for others. A popular saying describes Drew very well, “Actions speak louder than words.” His ability to listen empathetically is unique and a gift to those who surround him. His professors say that he is great at building community in his classes, encouraging and willing to work hard, helping others is part of who he is. Drew makes people special simply by listening to them and walking with them. He accepts people for who they are. His friends and classmates think highly of Drew and feel comfortable around him because he treats people with respect and he is always ready to lend a hand at all times. From the very first time that Drew joined the Latino Student Alliance, he was ready to roll up his sleeves and do any kind of work. He always asked, “How can I help?” It is evident that he enjoys serving people and gladly goes the extra mile. One of my favorite memories about Drew was when his peers nominated him to lead the new student orientation mixer. He said it was out of his comfort zone and he had never done anything like that before. He did an incredible job and a natural leader was born before our eyes.
Drew has been consistently committed and responsible to his studies while being an active member of the Latino Student Alliance. He was always dedicated and faithful to the many events organized throughout the year. He was also a support for the Multicultural and International Student Services. Drew volunteered with On the Road Collaborative that empowers young people at Skyline Middle School. He also volunteered with Medical Ministry International in Honduras. This experience made a huge impact in his life. He actively tried to incorporate these experiences within his daily interactions at EMU.
Drew, we want to thank you for servant heart and your willingness to help at all times. We know that you will continue caring for others. Just as Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Harrison Horst: presented by Jenni Holsinger, PhD, associate professor of sociology
There’s a theme that underlies Harrison’s extensive involvement across EMU’s campus. It is important to understand this theme if you want to understand the connection between solar panels and saxophones. What many people recognize about Harrison, including those who nominated him for this award, is his collaborative energy and his attention to building community.
Indeed, Harrison is motivated by a radical vision for a more nuanced form of community. His understanding of community is not limited to some narrow, superficial conceptualization. I suggest that Harrison has added three dimensions to the idea of community that are desperately needed.
First, Harrison exemplifies a broad sense of community that is inclusive of all life around us. Harrison’s community includes the natural environment that connects all of our lives. We see this in his dedication to Earthkeepers, the first student club he joined upon arriving at EMU from Pennsylvania. His advocacy for the environment remained strong through his four years at EMU. It included a research position with the new Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions, and culminated in the form of a well-received podcast entitled “Shifting Climates” which he developed, in partnership, for his capstone project in the honors program. Read more here.
Second, Harrison understands community-building to be key in solving our social and environmental problems. An example of this is the work he was involved in connecting low-income homeowners in Harrisonburg with free energy auditing service. He has served his local urban community by volunteering with groups like Renew Rocktown and Harrisonburg Renaissance, and he has served local communities elsewhere by leading service trips over school breaks.
Lastly, Harrison demonstrates the power and responsibility that comes from being an individual who is part of a larger institution. Harrison has given tirelessly for four years from the gifts he has been given and as a multi-talented individual he has many gifts. As a skilled musician he helped to revitalize the EMU jazz band. As an expert wordsmith he served as staff and editor for EMU’s newspaper. Even his strong academic skills he looked to share through formal and informal tutoring for his peers.
Harrison has been an inspiration to me. Not only does he exhibit an extraordinary sociological imagination but he has shown that students can leave a legacy. He has asked EMU to challenge itself. And he has provided a model for us to follow. Harrison has made the most out of every moment here, even up to the last week of his senior year by way of his second semester-long cross cultural trip. And I suspect he will continue to be involved in the student solar project even after he walks across the stage.
Harrison, we honor you today with the Cords of Distinction and we encourage you to continue building communities. You will be missed in the capacities you have served here but I trust that you will continue to influence our lives in new ways. Blessings as you “leap forward in faith of a greater plan.”
Maleke Jones: Presented by Kirby Dean, MS, head men’s basketball coach
Maleke Jones represents everything that administration, faculty, staff and alumni want to define Eastern Mennonite University graduates. Of all the young men I’ve had the opportunity to work with at EMU over the last 15 years, in none have I witnessed so much growth as I have seen in Maleke – in the classroom, on the basketball floor, concerning social issues, and in all facets of life. Four years ago I encountered a teenager in Charles Town, West Virginia, who had unlimited potential but was blind to the great things he was capable of accomplishing. Today a mature man stands before me who has found himself while here at EMU and yet still has only scratched the surface of the positive influence he can have on this world moving forward.
The thing that separates Maleke from his peers is the sacrifices he has been willing to make to find success here at EMU. Few have been privy to these sacrifices as I. I often wonder how many student athletes would be willing to work through school breaks for facilities management, including spring break as well as all summer long, instead of going home and hanging with friends or heading to the beach, in order to be able to afford school? I’m often curious as to how many student athletes would go through the re-habilitation of tearing every ligament in their ankle and return as one of the best point guards in the entire Old Dominion Athletic Conference?
I’d love to know how many student athletes had to go through an appeals process just to get admitted to a college and yet carry a high GPA during their senior year at that same college. We live in an environment of statistics, probabilities, and projections; I wonder what the probability of Maleke Jones graduating from EMU was back when he committed to EMU in the spring of 2014? I’d say the probability was less than 5 percent and yet here we stand today to celebrate his graduation, present him with Cords of Distinction, and relish all the positive things he has brought to the EMU community.
Maleke’s list of involvements is stellar: Whether working with Campus Activity Council or the Black Student Union, doing volunteer work with the Special Olympics or Unified Games, speaking his faith at Aletheia Church, playing basketball or singing his rhymes of racial equality and social justice, Maleke always seems to be involved in activities that benefit others in some way. The measure of a great basketball player is the ability to make those around him more successful, I’d say Maleke does this on the basketball floor as well as in life. It has been an honor to recruit Maleke, coach Maleke, and present him with his Cords of Distinction. Thank you Maleke, and I can’t wait to see all the great things you are going to do with the rest of your life!
Keyri Lopez-Godoy: Presented by Ron Schultz, MEd, instructor in teacher education, PK-6 program coordinator
There was something notably special about Keyri from the moment she arrived at EMU three short years ago. Her inquisitive nature, passion for life, gracious and humble spirit, and her care and concern for others are qualities that have endeared her to many at EMU and the local community. The scope of Keyri’s influence is evidenced in the comments of those across campus who nominated her for this special recognition, ranging from peers to professors and staff personnel from various departments. The adjectives used to describe Keyri included: conscientious, caring, dedicated, sincere, compassionate, brave, articulate and inspiring!
Keyri views service as a calling, and as a way to pass on the blessings that she has received from many others. She says,
I am an instrument of God (who has the opportunity) to make a difference in somebody else’s life, even if it is just with a smile. When I am in service I enter into relationship, I walk the path with others, I enter into an endless world of possibilities and the chance to spread the most powerful tool any human has: love.
Her motivation to serve is also rooted in the modeling of her family, beginning with the influence of her grandparents during those early childhood years in El Salvador, and the determination, work ethic and unwavering faith as exemplified by her parents during the process of relocating to the United States when Keyri was in third grade. Throughout her educational journey, many teachers, mentors and peers have inspired her to set high expectations and give her best effort in everything she does. Those early experiences of learning English as a second language have also served as a motivation to teach young students during such an influential time in their lives.
After just her first semester at EMU, Keyri accepted the role of ministry assistant as an opportunity to encourage others in their faith journey. During the last two years, she has served as a community advisor while also filling the role of secretary for the Student Government Association for a semester. Other on-campus involvements have included participation in EMU’s Rotaract Club, the Latino Student Alliance Club, and as a conversation partner for international students in the Intensive English Program.
Keyri’s acts of service have extended beyond campus through her involvement in other local initiatives and organizations. She engaged with the Alterna Community in Georgia during a Y-Serve trip; she has used her bilingual skills to translate documents for local schools; and she has helped to inspire local high school students who have the opportunity to become first-generation college students. Perhaps one of the more courageous forms of service in the last year has been her advocacy work in raising social awareness to immigration and Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)-related issues. She helped to coordinate events on and off campus by sharing her own story, including an EMU chapel service, Q&A sessions, and a march in downtown Harrisonburg in an effort to gain support for those impacted by DACA legislation and the Dream Act.
Service has clearly characterized Keyri’s contributions to the EMU community; and although current legislation makes the future somewhat uncertain, Keyri’s faith and compassion for others will continue to motivate her efforts wherever she goes. Thank you, Keyri, for the many ways you have blessed our community at EMU.
Michaela Mast: Presented by Judy Mullet, PhD, professor of psychology
Imagine a world where
- we only invest financially in corporations that support climate and social justice;
- education prioritizes relationships as the flag ship for living;
- it’s an everyday matter to grow and market food for the local community;
- there are ample tutors, counselors, community advisors, kids club leaders and mentors for everyone to feel valued and supported;
- we welcome visitors beyond nation borders and learn each other’s languages and share perspectives not possible with in-groups;
- we run the hills just for sake of running;
- where we raise our voices in three-part harmony to connect hearts, minds and souls;
- And finally, imagine a world where Jesus shines so brightly as “love in practice.”
Michaela writes, “Love in practice transforms a contentious, destructive world into a reconciled world – and a Mennonite church into light for community, reconciliation and the way of Jesus.”
We can imagine such a world because of someone like Michaela who lives into this vision as if the second coming is already here. Integrity. Grace. Humility. Kindness. Wisdom. And a holy spirit of connection.
At EMU, she lived the seven dreams painted above as both advocate and mediator. She camped out with DivestEMU to encourage investments in renewable energy companies, worked in campus gardens and coordinated the distribution of garden produce. She joined the leadership team of the Coalition for Climate Justice, walked with kindred spirits in the historical Women’s March in D.C., and shared vigils for Standing Rock.
As well-rounded as any student can be, Michaela leads from any chair. She earned a silver medal at the ODAC cross-country championship meet in her first cross-country season. She sang in Emulate, served as an Honors Council member, senior class officer, Intensive English Program tutor and Summer Peacebuilding Institute assistant. In her backyard she welcomed children as a camp counselor, helped start a Kid’s Club at Park View Mennonite Church, and led Friendship Camps that extended that yard into Romania. Rich in mind and soul, she remains a stellar scholar, earning the G.R. Lehman Award for Outstanding Research in Psychology, and a poster session entry at the Virginia Association for Psychological Science.
Next year she embarks on a journey that she describes as “the apex of my education, bringing together many areas of thought while also elucidating the connection between the Anabaptist tradition I identify with, my belief in holistic, radical love, and a topic that has threaded its way through my time here.” This fellowship project, sponsored jointly by EMU, Goshen College and Mennonite Central Committee’s Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions, will send Michaela across the U.S. in co-creating climate change literacy podcasts for youth.
We can only imagine where “love in practice” will lead her in the future. May the dream continue, for the sake of our shared future.
Katrina Poplett: Presented by Jonathan Swartz, MA, MDiv., director of residence life, student accountability and restorative justice
“We have to change ourselves in order to change the world,” said author, activist, philosopher, and feminist Grace Lee Boggs. Interpreting this quote further, Adrienne Maree Brown writes that “this doesn’t mean to get lost in the self, but rather to see our own lives and work and relationships as a front line, a first place we can practice justice, liberation and alignment with each other and the planet.” This work of changing ourselves is the work of learning. It is the work of paying attention, of being awake to our lives and the lives of those around us. It is also the work of action. It is the work of taking risks in order to build trust, create change, support relationships, and show up for each other.
Katrina Poplett’s four years as an undergraduate student at EMU have been packed full of showing up. From her engagements as a community advisor in her sophomore year, to various involvements in Team Accord, the Weathervane, Divest EMU, Peace Fellowship, RJ Steering Committee, Take Back the Night, Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, and peer restorative justice facilitation; Katrina has made and continues to make an indelible mark on the EMU campus and beyond. Interviewing restorative justice scholar and activist Fania Davis during chapel at the end of the ACE Festival seemed to be a fitting capstone to Katrina’s nearly endless (undergraduate) engagement with the EMU campus.
Katrina’s resilience came through in new ways in this past year as she spent most of the year managing the aftereffects of a broken leg. She experienced what it was like to receive the care and concern that she has so often given to others.
Not only has Katrina impacted the EMU campus, she has also offered her gifts to the Harrisonburg community as a co-facilitator of restorative conferences and circles in conjunction with the Fairfield Center and the Harrisonburg Restorative Justice Coalition. Katrina is Shalom Mennonite Congregation’s representative to the local Faith in Action Initiative, and she has worked with Gemeinschaft Home as a restorative justice educator. In her “down time” during the summers in Minnesota, Katrina has worked as a case coordinator for Restorative Justice Community Action and been involved in social action with Black Lives Matter and Standing Up for Racial Justice.
Katrina, you have left an enduring legacy at EMU. Your impact has spread from EMU to Harrisonburg and even to Minnesota. You have also learned that changing the world is hard work – perhaps impossible work – but it is work that cannot be done alone. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to witness your years here. Keep showing up.
Caleb Schrock-Hurst: Presented by Brian Martin Burkholder, MDiv, campus pastor and director of campus ministries
Caleb Schrock-Hurst: hard-working, involved, active and vibrant, present, a blessing. These are descriptors used by faculty and students who nominated Caleb for the Cords of Distinction. Indeed, with only two years on campus, Caleb has made a substantial contribution to the life of the EMU campus and broader community after having done the same at Hesston College for the first two years of his college experience.
Among other things, Caleb has been engaged as a pastoral assistant, chapel planner, musician and speaker for chapel, preacher for the Seminary School for Leadership Training and Park View Mennonite Church, staff writer and copy editor for the Weathervane, a member of Peace Fellowship, youth sponsor at his church, participant in the Ministry Inquiry Program, and a Student Government Association senator and co-president. One person noted that “he does a good job of furthering EMU’s core values of peacemaking, community involvement, discussion and sustainability.”
When asked, “Why do you choose to do service or volunteer work?” Caleb responds, “Understanding my talents as not only talents but as products of racial and economic privilege has always driven me to participate in as many and as wide a variety of events as possible to support whatever community I am a part of at a given time. I’ve been able to do this through various church and school communities through music, academic and athletic ability, and whatever else needs to be done. Nothing exists without a dedicated community, and members willing to sacrifice their own time and effort for the good of the whole is what creates and sustains that community. I love making the most of whatever opportunities come my way.”
And plenty has come his way. The good news is that Caleb pays attention and responds to needs. When it seemed prudent to energize the EMU campus community around engaging dynamics and timely opportunities, Caleb was instrumental in implementing the Podcast Like No Other. He lined up interviews with faculty, staff and students, served as the interviewer and recorder, and posted the podcasts. In short, he got the job done. He also responded favorably to offering a farewell reception for beloved faculty who were finishing their teaching at EMU. He helped host spaces for students to engage the challenges around budget reductions and a changing academic schedule. He demonstrated care and concern enough to bring people together. He also stepped in to complete the spring semester series of Friday Announcements at the close of Friday chapels.
As a gifted and skilled writer, Caleb also contributes to community engagement and well-being through this medium. I expect we will hear more from him through the years as he offers perspectives and insights in the form of blogposts, articles, commentary and editorials. Surely he will keep us connected, thinking, and engaged in ways that benefit all and for this we are grateful.
Brittany Williams: Presented by Joohyun Lee, PhD, assistant professor of recreational leadership
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” – 1 Peter 4:10.
God says we all live to serve, that by helping others we fulfill our own mission. Ever since she started her studies at EMU, Brittany Williams has participated in a broad swath of organizations, clubs and volunteer activities. She relished every opportunity she could find to work with people and to help others. She reveled in the joy that comes with feeling that she makes a difference in their lives. In every one of her altruistic endeavors, she obtained a sense of fulfillment, happiness and a surge of energy. Serving others became her mission and passion. She exemplifies the core attributes of a servant leader.
Brittany was one of the most outstanding students I have encountered in my first year at EMU. In my course, she always sat in the front row and engaged intensely with the lecture materials. However, her serious academic pursuit is not what captured my attention. It was her willingness to help others. When classmates were struggling in a problem set that required a budget calculation, she immediately volunteered to guide and assist them. When I needed a student research assistant to help with data collection and coding of my research, she stepped up and pitched in. Throughout all these activities, and whenever serving others, she was consistently passionate and pleasant. Overall, she was the most dedicated and involved student I have known.
Brittany has been engaged in leadership roles with numerous organizations on campus. She was a vital member of Black Student Union and organized a variety of social activities. She was a pastoral assistant for Campus Ministries and did a lot of behind-the-scenes work to prepare for various campus ministries event. She also made a significant contribution as a member of the track and field team. She walked with the team in a strong and supportive leadership role, providing a steadfast, calming and mature presence during transitional periods. She greatly assisted the new interim head coach in communicating key information to team members while serving as a role model in focusing on academic and athletic pursuits. She was also elected as the President of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In addition to taking leadership roles in many capacities on campus, Brittany also served on an array of important committees. She was a member of the student planning committee for President Huxman’s inauguration. She served a student member of the track and field/cross country head coach search committee. She also served on the planning committee for EMU’s first Academic and Creative Excellence festival guest speaker. She was always thoroughly engaged, demonstrated active listening, and creatively contributing to the activities with which she was involved.
Brittany also volunteered with a plethora of local community organizations, including the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Center, Harrisonburg International Festival Research, Community Mennonite Church Food Pantry, Martin Luther King Community Service Events, and Sister Care-Mennonite Women USA.
If I may quote Brittany’s comments about her desire to serve others, she says,
God has given us all different gifts and interests. When I serve others, I do it because it is a passion. I genuinely enjoy working with people and experiencing the feeling when completing a task. As I continue to do service with others, I learn more about myself, my community, and other people around me. It allows me to have an insight for the environment I am working. Service for me isn’t just about going in and making changes for others, but also learning to live a better lifestyle for myself.
Brittany, you have been a blessing to all of us. You have inspired us with your faith, your action, your service, your leadership and your compassion. Thank you for walking with us and I wish you great successes in the next chapter of your life.
Elizabeth Kate Witmer: Presented by Kathleen Roth, MS, director of the Intensive English Program
I first met Elizabeth Witmer in early August 2015. We met at Red Robin Restaurant in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, for an interview for a work-study position in the Intensive English Program (IEP) that would begin in the fall of Elizabeth’s freshman year at EMU. I was impressed with Elizabeth’s humility and her obvious joy in life. This was the beginning of a four-year involvement for Elizabeth at the IEP. Over these years we’ve learned that Elizabeth, along with the humility and joy that she takes into her relationships and involvements, has a keen intellect, dedication to detail, a passion for justice, and the commitment to do things RIGHT.
In her time at EMU, Elizabeth has used her passion, personality and skills to be active in a number of involvements. In the summer 2017, Elizabeth took part in the Ministry Inquiry Program to help her determine if her call to service might involve the pastorate. During this time, she worked at a community-organizing project that helped to hone her interest in working to alleviate injustice and suffering in the world.
The list of projects, activities and commitments that Elizabeth has been involved with while a student is long and totally consistent with her desire to be a faithful follower of Christ. At IEP, her dedication to the students led her to become a conversation partner and a student tutor in addition to her work hours. Her work has exposed her to the plights of the immigrant and refugee students and the cultural adjustments of the international students, so that she has become an advocate for these students and become universally appreciated by them.
Elizabeth’s involvements haven’t been limited to the classroom or the international student areas of university life. She has also been a member and co-president of the Coalition for Climate Justice which has helped her to be aware of the environmental perils we face and the opportunities we have to be activists in its protection. She has been a member and co-president of the Third Culture Kid Student Fellowship where she has been involved in dialogue and program development. Elizabeth has been a member of the Peace Fellowship through which she has been active in campus/community events such as protests, vigils, workshops, and conferences that have included the Mennonite Central Committee United Nations and Intercollegiate Peace Fellowship.
Other involvements have included the International Student Organization, Take Back the Night, DACA Dialogue Committee, Latino Student Association, Social Work is People, Mennonite Central Committee East Coast Board as the student representative from EMU, Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, Patchwork Pantry, New Bridges Immigrant Resource Center, and the nursing home and prison worship team. These many involvements are rounded out and motivated by her faith and her ongoing relationship with her family and home congregation and have helped her to stay grounded and kept her desire to be like Christ foremost in her thinking.
Elizabeth says, “I want to work at root causes of issues, and travel the world my passions include immigration, women’s rights, creation care, and prison abolition. One day I may run for public office, although I see myself as more of a grassroots organizer.” With Elizabeth’s passions, Spanish fluency, skills, and energy, she is well placed to make an impact for good wherever she will find herself in the future.