EMU legacy passes from parents to children

Story by Jim Bishop

Alumni of Eastern Mennonite University are sending their children to the school in numbers that far surpass most colleges nationwide.

Twenty-three percent of EMU’s first-year students this fall are from families where one or both parents attended Eastern Mennonite. By comparison, 8.8 percent of freshmen at four-year colleges nationwide attend the alma mater of a parent, according to the most recent available data extracted from the 2006 survey of 270,000 freshmen at 393 colleges by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program.

Even when compared to other religious colleges, EMU’s rate of alumni loyalty is two to three times higher: In 2006, 32.7 percent of the freshmen at EMU were the sons and daughters of alumni, compared to 9.1 percent at other four-year religious colleges, according to the CIRP survey.

“When you experience something that truly moves you and you are certain it has changed your life for the better, you naturally want your children to have the same opportunity,” said David Troyer, a 1987 EMU graduate of Walnut Creek, Ohio.

Troyer, who majored in business at EMU, operates successful businesses in Ohio and Florida, including restaurants, hotels and a retirement community. Troyer’s wife, Anna, graduated from EMU’s nursing program in 1999 as an adult student. Eldest son Derrick is a senior at EMU and second son Nicolas is a sophomore.

“Anna and I wanted a college experience for our sons that was Christ-centered in an atmosphere that encourages the exploration and deepening of their faith,” David Troyer said. “We also wanted them to have the opportunity to make life-time friends and form connections to the broader world through the global village requirements.”

David himself is the son of an EMU alumnus. His father, Levi, earned a two-year associate degree in 1967.

EMU has 203 first-year students enrolled the fall semester compared to 205 last fall. Traditional undergraduate enrollment – first-year through seniors – totals 900 students compared to 916 last fall.

Stephanie C. Shafer, director of undergraduate admissions, said that EMU’s first-year class represents 20 states, with Virginia heading the list with 46 percent of the class. Pennsylvania follows with 26 percent, up from 20 percent last year, she noted.

“SAT scores for new students are up by 19 points,” said Shaffer, noting that as another sign of academic strengthening, “we have 17 students in thehonors program, compared to 12 last year.”

Eastern Mennonite Seminary, a graduate program of theological studies on the EMU campus, has a total enrollment of 136 students this fall compared to 114 last fall. The Adult Degree Completion Program, an accelerated, non-traditional baccalaureate degree program, has a total of 142 students at both sites, Harrisonburg and Lancaster, Pa., an increase of four students over last year. The Intensive English Program, which prepares international students for undergraduate collegiate work, has 17 full- and 17 part-time students this fall. The students hail from 20 countries.

“This semester we are hosting the largest group of international students since the fall of 1999,” said IEP director Michael Medley. “A big factor in our increase is the partnership we have established with James Madison University, which has given us a chance to serve students from Saudi Arabia and in the future, we hope, students from other countries as well.”

The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding has a total of 60 students enrolled, with fewer foreign students this year than in the past. Thirty percent of the incoming CJP students are internationals this fall, compared with 70 percent a year ago.

“The Fulbright program is no longer sending cohorts of international students to U.S. universities to study conflict transformation,” said EMU’s Fulbright student coordinator William Goldberg. “So we are getting only individual Fulbright students from overseas. An additional problem is that more of our international students are having trouble getting visas to study in the United States.”

The M.A. in counseling program has a total enrollment of 41 students and the master of business administration program has 37 students. The M.A. in education program has 102 students enrolled in Harrisonburg and 100 enrolled in Lancaster, Pa.

The total number of students in all of EMU’s graduate programs is 340, four more than a year ago. EMU’s total enrollment of 1,597 students – undergraduate, seminary and graduate – is almost identical to last fall, according to figures released by David A. Detrow, university registrar.

“It is always exciting to welcome returning students back to campus and to get acquainted with those enrolling at EMU for the first time,” said EMU president Loren Swartzendruber. “We are pleased with the quality of students at EMU, and we look forward to a year of great energy.”


Jim Bishop is a regular contributor to The Augusta Free Press.

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