augusta free press news

EMU now offering new undergrad majors in peacebuilding, environmental sustainability

Eastern Mennonite University is offering two new undergraduate majors, “peacebuilding and development” and “environmental sustainability,” that draw on EMU’s core values in these areas.
Both programs will provide hands-on opportunities for students to be agents of change in their local communities and around the world, combining a concern for the earth and its people and a commitment to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). 

The peacebuilding and development major is a combination of the justice, peace and conflict studies major and the applied sociology program. Studies are geared toward intentional social change around issues of conflict, poverty, inequality, sustainability and social justice. The new major combines the theories of social justice and peace and conflict studies with the practice of peacebuilding and sustainable development in communities far and wide.

“Peacebuilding and development go hand in hand,” said Gloria Rhodes, associate professor of conflict analysis and peacebuilding, who will lead many of the classes, along with Terry Jantzi, associate professor of international and community development.

Dr. Rhodes and Dr. Jantzi will also work closely with biology professors Dr. James A. (Jim) Yoder and Dr. Douglas Graber Neufeld to offer a new major focusing on forward-thinking sustainability practices. Students who major in environmental sustainability will choose between two tracks of study:

* The environmental science track is focused on “traditional” environmental science courses from the disciplines of ecology, chemistry and physiology. Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of environmental research and issues, it also includes coursework within sociology, economics, and development and a substantial practicum. Existing courses have also been revised and expanded to address local and global sustainability issues and offer hands-on research projects. Students will work with a local environmental organization such as Shenandoah National Park, The Nature Conservancy or the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

* The newly-formed environmental and social sustainability focus, combines traditional environmental science coursework with revised applied sociology courses emphasizing international and community development and conservation. Students will have hands-on opportunities to work in areas of personal interest, including peace education, legislative and foreign policy advocacy, community organizing, restorative justice and mediation, social justice and peace advocacy, human rights and immigrants’ rights.

Practicum examples include Faith and Politics Institute, Africa Action, Amnesty International and Multi-Door Dispute Resolution in Washington, D.C., and the Community Mediation Center and Habitat for Humanity in Harrisonburg.

“There’s an enormous amount of international development and environmental sustainability experience on campus,” Jantzi noted, such as Ann G. Hershberger in the nursing department; Peter Dula, Bible and religion; Jim Leaman and Chris Gingrich, business and economics; and Doug Graber Neufeld in environmental studies.

Students can also draw from the faculty and program resources of EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and its graduate-level conflict transformation program.

“The peace tradition is already one of the core values here on campus,” added Rhodes. “We feel strong support for this new program. Peacebuilding and sustainability are both already a big part of life and conversation here on campus.”

For more information on either major, go to or contact Rhodes at; phone 540.432.4270.

augusta free press
augusta free press