Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) has announced the 2020 Yoder and Webb Scholars. The scholarships cover full tuition and include admission into EMU’s Honors Program.
The Yoder Scholars program was founded by Carol and Paul R. Yoder Jr., both graduates of 1963, with a gift of more than $1.2 million. [Read more about their reluctance for a spotlight and long legacy of philanthropy when named as 2011 Philanthropists of the Year by the Fundraising Professionals of America, Shenandoah chapter.]
The Webb Scholars program honors Ada Webb, one of the first African-American students to attend the university; and Margaret (Peggy) Webb who was the first African-American graduate in 1954.
Incoming first-years compete for the award at Honors Weekend. This year’s application included a 400-word written response to the Octavia Butler quote, “All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you.” Applicants were also challenged to create a conceptual response by communicating anything they wanted through the medium of a blank 3×5 card.
Honors faculty make their selections based on academic performance, community and extracurricular involvement, creativity, clarity of thought, and leadership potential.
Read about the 2020 Yoder/Webb scholars: Laurel Evans, Nathan Longenecker, Hebron Mekuria, and Noah Swartzentruber, below.
Laurel Evans says the second time she visited EMU, “it felt like I was coming back home.”
“Out of all the colleges I was visiting, it was the only place that seemed genuinely collaborative, like everyone on campus really wanted to see everyone else thrive and succeed,” she says.
Evans hasn’t yet narrowed down what she wants to major in, but she’s excited to try out the aikido club, EMU Explore club, and orchestra – she’s a cellist, and plays in the John A Logan Community Orchestra near her home of Marion, Illinois. Evans also teaches private piano lessons from her home.
“My career goals are to serve the Lord and to serve those around me,” she says. At the First Presbyterian Church of Marion, she serves as a deacon and Green Team member, and sings in the choir.
Evans enjoys baking, playing music, kayaking, swimming, and spending hours at the library. She volunteers as a tutor at the Boyton Street Community Center in Marion.
Evans received the Maxima Cum Laude distinction from the National Latin Exam, is a member of the National Latin Honor Society, and designed and directed her own education as a homeschool student. She’s spent the last three summers at the Lux Theological Institute for Youth in Monmouth, Illinois, where she now serves as a board member.
Nathan Longenecker attended a trivia event during Honors Weekend that convinced him “that the students here are awesome.” He also liked that faith is a core component of an EMU education.
“I also really appreciate that the professors at EMU look to not only teach but to build strong relationships with the students. This is not something you can find everywhere,” he says.
He plans to major either in engineering or math and computer science. “I’m choosing STEM because I love looking into how things work and I love how the field is always new and exciting,” he says. He hopes to someday do service work abroad.
Longenecker says he’s excited about joining intramurals at EMU, and hopes to get involved with the new disc golf team on campus. In his free time, he also enjoys fishing.
Longenecker, who attends Lancaster Mennonite School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a member of the National Honor Society, a soccer athlete, and a recipient of the Lancaster Mennonite School Alumni Association Award. He plays violin in the pit orchestra for musicals, and does sound, light, and video production.
Hebron Mekuria, of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, plans to be a computer engineering major, but she’s not stopping there. Biochemistry or psychology might become her second major, to work towards her long-term goal of becoming a biomedical engineer whose research enhances the medical field with technology.
“I believe that technology is a rapidly advancing field and has a lot of potential to contribute to saving lives,” Mekuria says. “I also am interested in studying child development or developmental psychology because there is a big gap in our country concerning this area.”
A four-year engineering program at a Christian school attracted her to EMU, as well as having two close friends from primary school enrolled. Plus, when Mekuria visited, “I noticed how the teachers seemed genuinely interested in the lives of their students, and how much EMU was focused on making a global impact.”
Mekuria dedicates much of her free time to children, volunteering at orphanages, leading Sunday school, and tutoring – which has piqued her interest in the emotional, social, and psychological needs of children.
“Right now, caretakers focus much on the physical needs of children and do not realize how much power they have to also shape the minds of their children,” she says.
Mekuria speaks English and Amharic, and is working on her French. She’s earned 16 high school honor roll awards, interned at St. Yared General Hospital in Addis Ababa, and has published two poems through the group Poets Unite Worldwide.
When Noah Swartzentruber was in middle school, his mother gave him a book about coding. Ever since, he’s been interested in developing software or some other computer-related career, so he’s looking to join the computer science program at EMU this fall.
Swartzentruber says the students and faculty drew him to EMU: “Their friendliness and helpfulness has helped me to feel at home and familiar with the campus and classes as I have visited. From my interactions with professors, I feel that the individual, one-on-one interactions will be valuable during my college education.”
The Riverside, Pennsylvania native enjoys soccer, volleyball, and rebuilding small engines. He also works for the Lancaster Mennonite School Production Crew, running sound and video equipment for events on campus.
He is a recipient of two Lancaster Lebanon League All-Star Soccer awards, the Union League of Philadelphia Good Citizenship Award, and the Lancaster Mennonite Alumni Association’s Certificate of Merit.