It has long been a part of EMU’s practice that students are not required to attend Convocation— 15 years, in fact. Students had the option to choose whether or not they included Convocation as a part of their education. However, starting this fall, EMU’s incoming first-year students will be required to gain 80 convocation credits before graduation. These can be earned by attending Convocation, break-out groups, church-related events, and more. This requirement will be assimilated into every incoming class curriculum until it is required for students in all four years.
Convocation is held every other Wednesday from 10:10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Alternating Wednesdays will have other activities, such as break-out groups that also can be used to earn points.
Mark Sawin is the honors program director and a proponent of required Convocation. “As our school diversifies, we had to find a center,” Sawin said, honors program director and proponent of required convocation. “It’s important to have something once a week where everyone has the same experience; to have one thing we can all talk about to make community in this environment.” The decision for this requirement was proposed by pastor Brian Martin Burkholder and the Campus Ministry team. The Undergraduate Council, made up of all the department chairs, provided feedback, and it was then approved by the President’s cabinet (made up of all the Vice Presidents as well as representatives from the Faculty Senate). This practice is not unheard of at a Christian university like EMU. Many Christian schools and other Mennonite schools have some form of required chapel or Convocation. EMU was unique in that it chose to keep Convocation optional until this year. However, this is a controversial addition into EMU’s curriculum for many. Some students feel that it should be their choice whether or not to attend. Some came in thinking they would not be required to and felt blindsided by that.
“Honestly, I think we should be spending that time taking more classes or doing homework,” said first-year Anna Paetkau. “I think a lot of people think it’s a waste of time. When you come here you’re told you don’t have to be religious at all, but requiring students to go to Convocation seems contrary to that.”
Not everyone shares this view. First-year Mary Miller- Eshleman does not mind the idea of going herself. “I think it’s good that people have the chance to experience something within the church because a lot of people haven’t been exposed to that before,” Miller-Eshleman said. “But at the same time I know a lot of people don’t like that kind of thing and it is required. So I’m both ways- I do think it’s good for everyone to have to experience that but I know not everyone wants to have it this way.” Despite all of the varying opinions, the Convocation requirement will continue to be a part of EMU’s curriculum for incoming students this year and in the years to come.
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