A (*Fairly Comprehensive) Timeline of EMU Intercultural/Cross-cultural Program milestones

First published in 2017, portions of this timeline has been updated through 2022. We thought it was a fun read, so are republishing it now.

Remember reading the Bible along the Sea of Galilee, or finding a new “brother” or “sister” when you stayed in a mud-brick dwelling, or doing research at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C.?

Those and many more like them are the experiences at the heart of Eastern Mennonite University’s intercultural program, which has been part of the core required curriculum for more than 30 years and has taken students all over the world, often led by faculty who lived and served in those locations and return with students time and time again. (For more about faculty repeat and multiple trips, look below to the final section of this post.)

Al Keim in 1997, three years before his retirement from EMU.

1955 – At age 20, to-be cross-cultural visionary Al Keim is drafted. A conscientious objector, Keim is able to satisfy the draft board by doing two years of service as a volunteer with Mennonite Central Committee, helping refugees in war-devastated Europe. This period overseas, which included a month on a kibbutz in Israel, changed his life path.

Summer 1971: French professor Emery Yoder led a group to Quebec City, Quebec, for a French immersion experience that included classroom study at Universite Laval (Yoder taught French-Canadian history) and sightseeing.  (Contributed by Dorothy Jean Weaver, emeritus professor).

1972: Education professor Esther K. Lehman led a group of four education students to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she supervised them as they did their student teaching at the Good Shepherd School with children of missionaries. (Contributed by Dorothy Jean Weaver, emeritus professor)

1972 – Al and Leanna Keim lead EMU’s first overseas trip, to the regions in Switzerland and Germany that were the headwaters of the Mennonite stream of Christianity.

1972 – From 1972 until 1982, cross-cultural program visionary, history professor, and former dean Al Keim and other faculty members lead 10 optional trips to Europe and the Middle East, laying the groundwork for the cross-cultural program.

1976 – Washington Community Scholars’ Center, then called Washington Study Service Year or WSSY, begins

1981 – First cross-cultural to New York City

Spain, 1978

1982 – Faculty-guided study in a culture different from one’s own becomes mandatory for undergraduate students

1982 – A semester-long trip led by Sharon Hostetler of nine students to Costa Rica and Mexico marks the first study-tour that is part of the general education program.

1982 – First cross-cultural to Costa Rica/Mexico

1984 – First cross-cultural to Mississippi

1984 – First cross-cultural to Mennonite World Conference in Strasbourg, France.

1984 – First cross-cultural to Middle East

1984 – First cross-cultural to Mexico

1985 – First cross-cultural to Arizona/Navajo Nation

1985 – First cross-cultural to Germany

1985 – First cross-cultural to London

1986 – First cross-cultural to China

1986 – First cross-cultural to Alaska

1986 – First cross-cultural to England

1987 – First cross-cultural to New Zealand

1987 – First cross-cultural to Kentucky/Appalachia

1987 – First cross-cultural to Quebec

1987 – First cross-cultural to Northern Ireland and/or Rep. of Ireland

1987 – First cross-cultural to Central/Latin America

1988 – First cross-cultural to Los Angeles

1988 – First cross-cultural to Southern Africa

Latin America, 1989

1989 – First cross-cultural to Oklahoma/Native American peoples

1989 – First cross-cultural to France

1989 – First cross-cultural to Bolivia

1989 – First cross-cultural to Jamaica

1990 – First cross-cultural to Japan

1990 – First cross-cultural to Navajo/Pueblo Peoples

1990 – First cross-cultural to Soviet Union

1990 – First cross-cultural to Chile

1992 – First cross-cultural to Navajo/Hopi Nations

Washington, DC, 1989

1992 – First cross-cultural to New Orleans

1992 – First cross-cultural to the British Isles

1992 – First cross-cultural to France/Ivory Coast

1992 – First cross-cultural to Russia

1992 – First cross-cultural to Ivory Coast/France

1992 – First cross-cultural to Kenya

1993 – First cross-cultural to the Del-Mar-Va Peninsula

1993 – First cross-cultural to Washington, DC

1994 – First cross-cultural to Spain

1995 – First cross-cultural to Montana

1996 – First seminary cross-cultural to Croatia and Bosnia

1996 – First cross-cultural to Netherlands

Chile, 1990

1997 – First cross-cultural to Ghana

1998 – First cross-cultural to Hawaii

1998 – First seminary cross-cultural to Israel/Palestine

1998 – First cross-cultural to Navajo Nation

1999 – First cross-cultural to Albania

1999 – First cross-cultural to Germany/Austria/Switzerland

1999 – First cross-cultural to Tanzania

2000 – First cross-cultural to Lesotho

2001 – First cross-cultural to Civil Rights Trail

2001 – First cross-cultural to Ojibwe/Cree Nations

2001 – First cross-cultural to regional transcultural contexts

2001 – First cross-cultural to Austria/Germany

Middle East, 2002

2002 – First cross-cultural to Austria

2002 – First cross-cultural to Lithuania

2002 – Washington Study Service Year (WSSY) becomes the Washington Community Scholars’ Center (WCSC).

2003 – First cross-cultural to South Africa/Lesotho

2003 – First cross-cultural to Zimbabwe

2003 – Eastern Mennonite Seminary hosts the first Learning, Exploring, and Participating (LEAP) summer program, funded by a Lilly Grant. The program, for high-school-aged youth from diverse settings, continued through 2009. It included an orientation at EMS, followed by a cross-cultural experience and then ending with a debriefing time back at the seminary. Locations were Zimbabwe (Mennonite World Conference), 2003; Jamaica, 2004; Ghana, India and the Middle East, 2005; Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, 2006; Guatemala, Mexico, Trinidad, 2007; Colombia, 2008; and New Orleans, 2009.

2004 – First cross-cultural to Switzerland/Italy

2005 – First cross-cultural to Fiji/New Zealand

2005 – First cross-cultural to Harlem

New Zealand, 2005

2005 – First cross-cultural to France/Benin

2005 – First cross-cultural to Greece/Turkey

2005 – First cross-cultural to Guatemala/Bolivia

2005 – First cross-cultural to Peru

2005 – The Washington Community Scholars’ Center moves to the Nelson Good House in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington D.C.

2006 – First cross-cultural to Argentina

2006 – First cross-cultural to Guatemala/Nicaragua

India, 2007

2007 – First cross-cultural to India

2007 – First cross-cultural to Vietnam

2007 – First cross-cultural to Mediterranean

2007 – First cross-cultural to Spain/Morocco

2007 – First cross-cultural to Guatemala/Mexico

2008 – First cross-cultural to Newfoundland/Labrador

2009 – First cross-cultural to Nigeria

2009 – First cross-cultural to Paraguay

2010 – First cross-cultural to Morocco

South Africa, 2011

2011 – First cross-cultural to Costa Rica/Nicaragua

2011 – First cross-cultural to Honduras

2012 – First cross-cultural to US/Mexico border

2012 – First cross-cultural to Bulgaria

2012 – First cross-cultural to Zambia

2013 – First cross-cultural to Honduras for the new MA in Biomedicine program

2013 – First cross-cultural to South Korea

2014 – First cross-cultural to Iran

2015 – First Collaborative MBA cross-cultural to Costa Rica.

2016 – First cross-cultural to Myanmar

2017 – This year’s Israel-Palestine trip is EMU’s 25th semester program in the Middle East since 1982.

The Costa Rican inter-cultural will become a requirement for MBA students, and continue as an elective option for MAOL students.

2020 – The COVID pandemic brought the spring Guatemala cross-cultural to a standstill. They returned home on a special flight after the borders closed.

The cross-cultural program adapts to pandemic challenges.

In 2021-22, the name of the cross-cultural program undergoes a change to intercultural program.

From the Intercultural Program website: EMU’s intercultural program is designed to develop cultural understanding and global awareness through an experience of living and learning in a different culture.  The focus of the program is to learn from and with others, which goes beyond and is more interactive than learning about others.  Across four decades of educational travel, how we understand what is required of individuals engaged in this multi-layered learning has moved from thinking about cross-cultural engagement to a more complex and mutual intercultural exchange that is relational, on-going learning that is integrated into our home identity and culture over time. Intercultural learning occurs in a dynamic and cyclical process of orientation, disorientation, reorientation and on again through disorientation, reorientation. The result is to see one’s self and the world differently because of the relationships, awareness and understanding which develop through interaction in a different cultural context.

2021 – Three Middle East cross-cultural groups from the ’90s gather for online reunions. Their travels were life-changing, members said. (*the term cross-cultural is retained in this coverage as that was the name of the program at the time.)

The first intercultural group to travel since the pandemic visits Lithuania with Professor Jerry Holsopple.

Faculty repeat and multiple trips

Many faculty have led repeat and multiple cross-cultural trips. Some of the most-traveled include (details as of 2017):

  • Spring 2017 was the 14th semester cross-cultural program led by Linford Stutzman since 2001, most of them with Janet Stutzman as assistant leader. He has also led numerous short-term summer programs for undergrads, alumni and others in Albania, Lithuania, Turkey/Greece and the Mediterranean since 1999.
  • Ann and Jim Hershberger led their seventh semester program in  2017. Ann has also led two local summer programs.
  • Nancy and Carroll Yoder co-led several trips. Nancy counts herself “privileged to assist Carroll on a number cross-cultural experiences, and we continue to reminisce about those times and special students and host families we learned to know.” The couple led summer travels in Quebec in 1972, 1974, and 1976; the semester program in France 1974-75 and 1989; and to France and Ivory Coast in 1994, 1997, and 2001.
  • Byron Peachey has led three Local Context programs, and his fifth semester in Guatemala is scheduled for spring semester 2018.
  • Deanna Durham has led two semesters in Guatemala with Byron Peachey and served two terms at WCSC, and in 2015 she led her fifth Local Context program.
  • Ervie Glick led five summer programs and a one-semester trip to various European locations between 1992 and 2004​.
  • Gloria Rhodes led her fifth cross-cultural trip to South Korea in the summer of 2013. She has also led or assisted with programs in Russia, Ireland, and Navajo Nation.
  • Harlan deBrun led five summer program trips as well as four semester cross-culturals to South Africa/Lesotho.
  • Jerry Holsopple has led six summer trips to Lithuania.
  • Jim Leaman has led three summer graduate cross-culturals to Costa Rica, and co-led an undergrad summer trip to Kenya.
  • Moira Rogers led her fifth summer cross-cultural to Peru in 2011. She also led programs to Navajo Nation, Argentina and Germany, as well as two semesters in Spain and Morocco.
  • Myrrl Byler, co-leader of four summer programs, led his fifth EMU cross-culture in China in the fall semester of 2013.
  • Spencer Cowles led his fifth trip to Jamaica. He also traveled with students to Navajo Nation and Japan.

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