A new liaison committee between Eastern Mennonite University and the City of Harrisonburg is exploring unique ways that the two entities can partner for the greater good. That might mean more interpreters at local parent-teacher conferences, a corps of trained facilitators to enhance community dialogue and input, specialized workforce development for city employees, or an EMU community block party downtown to kick off the fall semester.
Whatever the shape of the plans to come, university president Susan Schultz Huxman and Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed – both of whom came to their respective roles in January 2017 – are looking forward to a new era of partnership.
“We each have organizational strategic plans that feature the value and vitality of engagement and this new working relationship will allow us to live into those plans with more intentionality for how we can help one another,” Huxman said, speaking to a gathering that included university vice presidents and administrators, and city representatives Reed, Vice-Mayor Sal Romero and Deputy City Manager Ande Banks.
A frequent visitor to the campus over the past three years, Reed expressed her “excitement for the collaboration” and a “longlasting partnership.”
The collaboration was announced last week during a reception and initial planning session at EMU.
“You all are our moral compass to the city. I have said that before and I truly believe it,” she said. “You raise students here to be peacemakers and trailblazers and that is very important to the city of Harrisonburg.”
Approximately 3,600 EMU alumni reside locally, many of whom have made unique and positive impacts on the community.
Huxman noted that 70 percent of nursing graduates stay in the Shenandoah Valley after graduation and 10 alumni educators earned Teacher of the Year recognition at their schools, including the Harrisonburg City Schools’ district-wide honoree, Mary Jo Heckman MA ‘04.
EMU’s new Lead Together tagline provides a guiding and appropriate conceptualization of this collaborative effort, Huxman said. “Lead together means chiefly how we walk alongside our students to help them develop unifying leadership skills for the workplace, their places of worship and their communities, but lead together also means we, the city and this university, are better when we partner together.”
Huxman credits Reed with the idea of the new partnership. Since the two women began their new roles, each has supported the other, Reed said. Both are trailblazers in their own right: Reed as the first African American woman to be mayor of Harrisonburg, and Huxman as the first woman president of Eastern Mennonite University.