Menno-what? … Menno-WHY?
You may have heard of Mennonites or have some idea of what you think a Mennonite is, but did you know that there are five Mennonite colleges where you would be uniquely prepared to live in – and contribute to – a complex, connected world?
You’ve got strong values. You care about serving others. You want a top-notch education. You may be interested in a Christian college experience. Mennonite colleges could be a great fit for you.
You don’t have to be Mennonite to attend one of our schools, but if you attend a Mennonite college, you should share some common interests, goals and values.
Openness to experiencing other cultures is pretty key to finding a fit at a Mennonite college. We’ve been offering cross-cultural study opportunities long before “study abroad” became trendy. We offer new experiences in the United States and around the world, usually for a full semester. Some colleges require it for graduation.
Mennonite colleges think that living, working, learning and serving outside of one’s own culture enables you to see how you are connected to people different from you. Immersion in another culture will also help to prepare you to serve and lead in a global context.
You need to be someone who’s interested in building relationships with professors who will become your mentors (no getting “lost in the crowd” at a Mennonite college). You are treated as an individual and made to feel welcome and valued. Mennonite colleges are concerned with educating the whole student – academically, spiritually, socially, emotionally and physically. They will notice and care if they see you struggling and will try to help you.
You should be interested in performing hands-on original research with full PhD professors (no graduate teaching assistants managing labs at these colleges!). As much as possible, professors include students in their out-of-classroom work. The combination of learning and doing is characteristic of all Mennonite colleges.
You should want to explore your interests and gifts in a rich liberal arts setting. The liberal arts courses at Mennonite colleges are faith-based and geared toward personal formation. You will be encouraged to think outside of your own experiences, to study other cultures, to discover the needs of the world and to consider the impact of your choices.
You should be interested in being so well prepared for graduate school or employment that grad schools and employers will seek you out. The reputation of Mennonite-college alumni for working hard and intelligently, and for being honest and caring, serves future graduates well.
And if you’re interested in “green” or peace and justice issues, Mennonite colleges have taught and modeled what this means for many years. The belief that our resources were given by God translates into actions that use resources wisely and justly, not benefitting some to the detriment of the majority. Mennonite colleges work for peace, justice and reconciliation on every stage — from worldwide issues to interpersonal relationships. Alumni are known around the world for enabling people to address conflicts with dialogue and relationship building rather than with weapons or other forms of force.
That’s really how it is at Mennonite colleges. They are small enough that professors know students by name. Miss a class and someone will follow up to find out why. Hoping to do an internship in your field of interest? These professors – most of whom have lived overseas – have connections they are anxious to share.
Virtually all faculty members, as well as many of the administrators and staffers, have done extensive voluntary service, always on the local level but usually internationally as well. They infuse the campus with their humble service philosophy and global perspective. Students are encouraged to combine service with leadership. As a result, some grads have ended up at the head of United Nations agencies in Switzerland, while others have ended up at the front of a one-room schoolhouse in Indiana or Sierra Leone. All forms of serving and leading are equally valued.
The Mennonite Church USA* colleges/universities are:
- Bethel College in North Newton, Kan.
- Bluffton (Ohio) University
- Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisonburg, Va.)
- Goshen (Ind.) College
- Hesston (Kan.) College
*Those unfamiliar with the Mennonite Church, one of the historic peace churches, may associate the word “Mennonite” with images of the plain clothes and buggies of their historical brethren, the Amish, but this is inaccurate. Most Mennonites are indistinguishable from the broader society in appearance and use of technology. Mennonites believe that persons are saved by faith and that being in the right relationship with God is tied to a transformed lifestyle.
Source: “12 Traits of Mennonite Colleges.” Crossroads. Spring 2009.