EMU sees growth across undergrad, grad programs

Innovative new undergraduate and graduate programs and a strong showing in retention across the undergraduate classes have helped Eastern Mennonite University report favorable gains in student numbers this fall despite considerable challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The Class of 2024, numbering 202, is the largest in four years at the Harrisonburg campus.  The cohort is further strengthened by 16 additional new first-year students in the leadership and organizational management degree with an aviation concentration at EMU’s site in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

“These numbers illustrate EMU continues to offer a unique and rigorous academic experience with the added value and marketability of unique skills, knowledge and practical expertise that make our graduates sought-after in job markets,” said Jason Good, vice president for innovation and recruitment. 

The figures were released by the registrar’s office on Sept. 10. The data is collected as a traditional “snapshot” of enrollment trends, according to university registrar David Detrow.

EMU reports a total undergraduate enrollment of 918, inclusive of adult degree completion and RN-BSN programs. Graduate enrollment, which includes graduate certificate, master’s degree and doctoral degree programs, is at 468. Eastern Mennonite Seminary has 63 students enrolled.

 “Despite a challenging year with documented COVID-related impact, we are very optimistic about EMU’s future and growth,” Good said.

Strong reputation attracts students to nursing, biology, engineering

Though many universities across the country reported dips in first-year enrollment due to uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Good said. “While our prospective students and families were deeply impacted by COVID-19 affecting enrollment plans for many, thanks to a student-centered approach from admissions, faculty, athletics and student services we were able to enroll a strong and resilient class,” Good said.

The Class of 2024 comes to EMU from 15 states and seven countries. Close to 30 percent identify as first-generation college students. The average GPA is 3.67. The top five majors, among 36 represented, are nursing, biology, business administration, computer science and engineering. Included in that is a large percentage of students who were offered admission into EMU’s Honors program.

At EMU at Lancaster, 16 additional new first-year students comprise the second cohort in a growing undergraduate program that combines a leadership and organizational management major with a concentration in aviation

This is the second year of more than 100 percent growth in program enrollment, according to Mary Jensen, provost at EMU Lancaster.

“It is gratifying to see the success of this program and student progression,” Jensen said. “It has clearly met a regional need for those who wish to become aviation leaders.”

Graduates finish with a bachelor of science degree and several commercial aircraft ratings, enabling a smooth transition into a variety of aviation careers. The program partners with Aero-Tech Services, Inc., an FAA-approved pilot school to provide ground and pilot training. 

Innovation in graduate programs

Building on its strong reputation in specialized fields of conflict transformation, restorative justice and trauma and resilience, EMU continues to develop academic programs that attract students who need skills to help them succeed in challenging times. 

“Many professionals in a variety of fields are seeking further specialized training with an integrated interdisciplinary approach,” Good said, “and our academic programs, with their emphasis on both theory and practical skill-building, are increasingly sought-after in fields such as health care, nursing, peacebuilding and education.”

The MA in Transformational Leadership, a new online graduate degree program at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, has attracted 13 students in its first full semester from across the United States and the world. The program is helping to meet a growing demand for leaders in all professional fields who can promote positive change, manage crises, analyze problems and transform conflicts. 

CJP moved all of its courses online this semester, which resulted in the largest class of first-year graduate students in program history.

The new graduate Certificate in Trauma and Resilience in Healthcare Settings began its first semester with six students. EMU’s graduate nursing program, with a reputation for excellence among many healthcare employers, continues to attract high numbers, with 53 students rolled. Notably, EMU will award its first doctoral degrees this academic year to six graduates of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program. 

Additionally, 130 students, teachers and educational professions in the Rockingham County Public Schools are enrolled in a course about online learning tools.