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The next day, Ernie and I stood at the church entrance door waiting to greet people as they arrived. Eight people came and seemed very glad to see us. They were all members of the two families who had made the decision to remain and support the Brethren in Christ Church. That Sunday, Ernie went behind the pulpit and honored that tiny congregation and the Lord with a simple and inspiring sermon.

I, along with the eight people seated in the two front rows, was moved and inspired. We sang and prayed together, and we felt bonded with a purpose. Ernie and I understood that God had placed us at this church to serve Him, and we undertook the task determined to give our all regardless of how many — or how few — people were in attendance on that first Sunday. According to a report filed with the Brethren in Christ Home Mission Board at the close of their term of service, the Boyers managed to increase average Sunday school attendance from 26 July to 97 April Their record attendance high for Sunday morning service was compared to 8 that first day!

Your email address will not be published. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. It can impact student retention, health, academic success, and many other issues.

Renee Boyer receives Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension

This report represented the work of a number of individuals who were seeking to address contemporary challenges colleges and universities were facing—many of which persist to this day. An the abstract of the report reveals, it was:. Shared meals at the dining commons provide opportunities for building relationships that sustain community. Messiah College has been a dynamic institution since its founding in The founders shared a vision for preparing people of faith for service in the world Sider, This core purpose has remained central.

A strong focus on the theological emphases of the The author expresses sincere appreciation to Messiah College and its former and current members who developed the ideas, programs, and practices described throughout this chapter. Special thanks to Kim Phipps and Rodney Sawatsky for inspiring both the content and completion of the chapter. The author is sincerely grateful to Donald Kraybill for his careful editorial assistance. As size, scope, organization—even the name of the college—has changed substantially over the years, the institution has struggled to readjust the notion of community to its contemporary environment.

Changing demographics, increasing enrollment, and growing specialization have raised a host of issues about the meaning of community on campus. In many ways Messiah College has not changed. The college has retained its core purpose. It has remained predominantly residential and fully undergraduate; the student body is made up of mostly traditional-aged college students. The college has not entered the arena of distance learning. All academic programs are delivered through personal interaction with faculty. Shared living and learning spaces have provided a cornerstone for building campus community; students and employees share a common Christian faith commitment.

These characteristics have functioned as baselines for the institutional understanding of community but have proved meager in times of dynamic change. Community has been embedded in the greatest aspirations for Messiah College, its founders, its leaders, and its constituency.

This chapter presents the narrative of an institution reclaiming its commitment to and ownership of educational community. About Messiah College Messiah College is a residential institution serving 2, undergraduate students; 90 percent live in college residence halls, campus apartments, and special interest houses.

The college offers over McDonald. Messiah College is located in Grantham, Pennsylvania, twelve miles south of the state capital, Harrisburg. Soon it was renamed Messiah Bible College, which coincided with the establishment of a junior college. In , the college was renamed again—Messiah College. In , the college transitioned from having legal ties with the founding denomination to entering into a covenant relationship.

Messiah College is the only institution of higher education associated with the denomination. Connections are strong through interpersonal relationships, as well as governance-dictated representation on the board of trustees. Messiah College is a member of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, representing a shared commitment to Christian higher education and to the shared commitment of Christian faith for educators, administrators, and students. However, the ethos of the college is ecumenical; its faculty and students come from dozens of different traditions.

Only 5 percent of the student body in is drawn from the Brethren in Christ denomination, whereas 62 percent were Brethren in Christ in The life of faith and related expectations for service associated with the theology of Brethren in Christ, however, are interwoven throughout the college experience. The challenge has been to maintain this commitment as declining percentages of educators and students enter the institution with shared understanding of this heritage.

If the distinct theology of the institution was to remain vital in teaching and learning, new means of ensuring understanding of this distinctiveness and related commitments were necessary. The theological heritage of the college underscores the importance of community. Shared faith commitment is a gift to community building. Our theological diversity provides a challenge to building community. The description of this value expresses the Christian foundations for community of the college. Although community is central in college literature, rhetoric has not always resembled reality. A shared experience of community has been challenged in times of transition and change.

Messiah College has experienced rapid growth that has stretched our former understanding of community. Current enrollment exceeds 2, students, representing a two-fold increase since Numbers of faculty doubled as well from 76 in to in This rapid growth disturbed the former, shared understanding of community that depended on small campus size.

With each new class now exceeding students, it is impossible for everyone to know everyone else on campus. Enrollment growth has not been the only major shift. The college offers a broader range of academic programs now than it did in the early s. More educational programs in applied disciplines complement the former, predominantly liberal arts curriculum.

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Community based on common academic disciplines and personal acquaintance is no longer feasible; the parameters for building community have had to shift. The critical foundations for community-building efforts at Messiah College center on using the lens of community to clarify the rhetoric, program, and practice of existing community-building efforts.

Shared purpose, identity, and common experiences support a deepened experience of community. Four frames represent arenas in which the college has worked toward building community: 1 institutional mission and identity, 2 ethos education, 3 partnership, and 4 celebration. Building Community Through Clarifying Institutional Identity The principle of educational purposefulness is foundational to campus community Boyer, The central function of a college is for teachers and learners to join in a common intellectual journey.

Faculty and students must take the educational mission of the institution seriously in order for the discourse about strengthening community to be meaningful Palmer, Mission and Identity Presidential transition provides a time to refocus the overarching purpose and vision of an institution. This was the case in the early s when the Messiah College board of trustees, anticipating a change in presidents, refocused the questions of institutional identity and mission. Sawatsky, a broad representation of the college constituency 49 McDonald. This identity statement balances the liberal arts with professional programs in communicating institutional distinctiveness.

The identity statement knit unity together from the diverse strands of institutional heritage personal communication with R. Sawatsky, The statement articulates intended outcomes for student learning and development, as well as a commitment to serve the larger world. The college is united by a commitment to serve the commons, in church and society. In its earliest days, service to the world took shape through ministry and missions. Although ministry and missions remain viable vocations for Messiah graduates, service to the world takes shape in scholarship, engineering, and public service as well.

Boyer graduated from Messiah in and served the college for many years as a trustee. The community-building efforts of Messiah College are nurtured by a shared commitment to educational mission. These remain core values of the college. These values also profess the importance of community. Each person has responsibility, as well as the freedom, to pursue truth and develop an academic course of study within their experience of Christian faith.

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The calling to be agents of reconciliation to God, to persons, and to the world is a central assertion of the experience and intended outcomes of community for Messiah College. Service is a central means and expression of the work of reconciliation. Service both contributes to community and constructs it. Building community at Messiah College is a direct extension of the mission, identity, and foundational values of the college itself.

Being in community extends from our shared historical understandings of community and the narratives that in turn shape new understandings today. The holistic education of intellect, character, and faith requires cocurricular educational opportunities to augment 51 McDonald. Messiah College adopted a provost model for education in The provost is responsible for the whole educational program and administers the efforts of the faculty, as well as educators in Student Affairs and College Ministries. The provost model and the Community of Educators model do not insulate our institution from the challenges of bridging in-class and out-of-class education.

The models do provide an avenue for reaching our articulated goals for holistic education. Their intention and potential lie in their direct relation to the pursuit of mission through the delivery of a seamless education. This reorganization provides yet a new opportunity amidst a dynamic institution to reshape a common experience of community. A shared understanding of mission and core institutional values is nurtured by developing a common understanding of these commitments.

Ethos education has been an important avenue toward building community at Messiah College. Community Covenant A central dimension of a disciplined community is nurturing the commitment of all community members to the common good Boyer, The covenant outlines a balance between personal freedom and corporate responsibility; it articulates a commitment to searching for truth and promoting learning.

The covenant outlines the central aspirations for Messiah College as a Christian academic community and addresses the general expectations of both students and employees. A second component of a disciplined community is a set of clearly stated standards of behavior in both the civic and scholarly realms of campus life. The college has been intentional in developing and articulating mutual expectations between the institution and students. The college has nurtured a disciplined community in an effort to foster a campus culture consistent with our educational mission.

The covenant has been a meaningful document to the Messiah community since its adoption in As the college grew in size, the meaning of the covenant was less well understood and at times even misunderstood. On recognizing these challenges, the Division of Student Affairs sought new avenues for reclaiming shared meaning for the covenant. As the college grew in size, it became apparent that beginning our educational efforts during matriculation was too late. Therefore, we worked to create an ethos of learning to ensure that students understand policies and standards upon their introduction to the community.

Admissions counselors articulate the values of community and interpret the literature of Messiah College as they express the educational experiences prospective students can expect. Given the importance of the admissions process to orienting prospective members to community values, the covenant is integrated into admissions materials.

Thus each prospective student can learn about the covenant through admissions literature. In open houses, parents of prospective students also learn about the covenant and are encouraged to discuss the document as their son or daughter completes the admissions application. The covenant provides a means for students to enter into the obligations and opportunities of community membership that accompany enrollment About Messiah, pp. Beginning our educational efforts during the admissions process has allowed students to commit to the obligations of the community as they commit to the opportunities afforded them through a Messiah education.

The admissions process then sets in progress a seamless orientation process for incoming students. Welcome Week Matriculated students receive a comprehensive introduction to the college community through an expansive Welcome Week program. Welcome Week provides a holistic orientation to social, academic, and spiritual life on campus. Students and their families participate in the service. The event underscores the commitment of the Messiah community to students and allows parents and educators McDonald. Convocation celebrates excellent teachers through public recognition of Teaching Excellence Award recipients and the honoring of distinguished professors.

Many programmatic elements of Welcome Week involve immersion into the community ethos. This initiative also facilitates college connections to the local community and has provided a foundation for ongoing college-community partnerships. Incoming students also rotate through peer-facilitated educational sessions. Two of these sessions address community. Focusing on unity and diversity within our community, one session focuses on racial justice and cultural appreciation.

Another session provides students a richer understanding of the central theological and educational themes of the covenant. Upper-class students facilitate this session, as peer education communicates the shared commitment to the covenant. These sessions have created a better understanding among students of the covenant as a shared commitment.

These peer-facilitated sessions have increased the critical mass of students who have an in-depth understanding of the covenant as well. A peer education session on academic integrity is being planned for future years. The programs that make up Welcome Week are merely one element of the educational contribution to community. The process 55 McDonald. Purposefully designed peer groups are a cornerstone of the Welcome Week process.

A partnership between the Orientation and General Education departments shaped the selection process for upper-class students to serve as leaders for these peer groups. Campus educators nominate these peer leaders, who are selected for their ability to facilitate group process and also for excellent writing skills.

The peer leaders and faculty are able to participate with their seminar participants in the Welcome Week service experience. This directly contributes to not only the experience of community-at-large but also the experience of these classrooms as communities of learning. Welcome Week is successful because of the involvement of faculty, out-of-class educators, student organizations, and campus leaders.

While new students are introduced to the values of the community, the partnerships of the community itself are stretched and strengthened as hospitality is extended to new members. Common Learning The college environment is a critical element of educational community. The introduction of the common learning theme provided a connective thread to several existing activities. Each of the residence halls provided passive education on the learning McDonald.

Residence hall decor and fall events not typically viewed as relevant to learning contributed to the campuswide theme and thus to the learning environment itself. The Student Handbook included notable quotes and college photographs from the twentieth century. Developing connections among college experiences enriched our learning environment.

The common learning themes helped connect the out-of-class curriculum, including lectures, theater productions, and the campus radio station and newspaper to the coursebased curriculum. The intellectual, aesthetic, social, and spiritual dimensions of campus life are advanced through contribution to the whole. The common learning theme was an opportunity to capitalize on the potential afforded a residential college by integrating the learning environment. Educational purposefulness and common learning are at the center of the curriculum.

Students are provided interdisciplinary connections and encouraged to apply knowledge to their personal experience. Connections to self and others construct community. Examining general education through the lens of community provides a critical opportunity for colleges and universities to build community on campus and in society. Educational community in higher education frames vocation and shapes values.

Provost Seminar Students are not the sole constituency for building community. A Provost Seminar was introduced at Messiah College in the Fall of to orient faculty and out-of-class educators to the mission, 57 McDonald. The weekly, semester-long seminar advances community on campus by orienting new members of the community who are responsible for advancing the mission both in and out of the classroom.

Seminar content includes an overview of the theological heritage of the institution, an exploration of its mission and identity, and the realization of mission in educational programs. The Provost Seminar has proven a crucial element of introducing educators to the heritage and educational foundations of the college. With few faculty representing the denomination, the seminar encourages an understanding of the Brethren-in-Christ theology. Cohort groups from the Provost Seminar also build a strong sense of community and camaraderie.

Student Affairs educators and teaching faculty are able to build relationships that provide a foundation for educational partnerships. Educator Development The ongoing development of educational community depends on the professional growth and development of faculty and out-of-class educators. Relationships between teaching faculty and out-of-class educators provide space for a seamless implementation of education. Several initiatives have been instituted to enhance these relationships and the ongoing development of educators in recent years.

This informal initiative encourages creative teaching by bringing campus educators together for conversations on teaching and learning. Seasoned as well as newer faculty have been able to share what they have learned about good teaching in our context. Sessions have addressed teaching techniques, learning environments, and ways to understand students. Each session provides opportunity for small-group dialogue and personal application. Part of the theological heritage of the institution places a unique emphasis on scholarship of engagement and practice.

The integration of faith and learning is critical, as is the understanding of faith in practice. A senior faculty member supports this ongoing initiative in which campus educators read current and classic texts that apply to scholarship. Dialogue about the text and its application furthers a shared understanding of scholarship, encourages shared ideas, and challenges assumptions. Building Community Through Partnership Community on campus is centered on mission and depends on an understanding of the distinct expression of community by its members. Programs shaped by educational partnerships sustain community.

Community is enriched as students become engaged members of a community of learning. Residence-Based Academic Learning Community In the fall of , the college piloted a residence-based academic learning community.

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Academic and Student Affairs leaders considered learning community models. Examining the literature on academic learning communities, as well as researching other institutional models, provided opportunities to understand both the contribution and the potential pitfalls in the development and implementation of the program. The partnership was 59 McDonald. This living-learning community created some strong community experiences for participating learners and teachers. Program assessment included feedback from residence education personnel and faculty. Community engagement outcome comparisons were made for students involved in the learning community and those in similar courses without the learning community component.

Classroom engagement was also assessed. Early assessment data have not indicated a strong difference in how students perceive their relationships with faculty. Faculty feedback indicates that students were generally more engaged in class discussion and that relationships outside the classroom generally enhanced course conversation. The pilot has continued for a second year. The extension of the pilot has allowed us to assess potential as well as real outcomes, as we consider the future of the program.

Wittenburg Door An open community balances personal freedom with corporate responsibility. Open dialogue is critical to educational community. The Messiah College student government encourages this discourse through the Wittenburg Door—a public space in the Campus Center that encourages members of the community to post their opinions. Students post their ideas and questions about the college community, current societal events, and international concerns. Other members of the community are encouraged to respond and continue the dialogue.

Students, educators, staff, and administrators are often found gathered around the Wittenburg Door, discussing issues of importance to the community. These verbal exchanges advance the dialogue of the Wittenburg Door. The Wittenburg Door has emulated the many challenges of open community. The initiative began as an actual wooden door on which notes were posted. This door has been removed from the center twice. The responsible parties communicated anonymously to the student government that the door was not being administered responsibly.

It was absent from the campus for two years. A senior proposed its reestablishment. The student government association spent a semester engaged in conversation about the parameters for its return. The Wittenburg Door today exists as a bulletin board in the Campus Center with distinct categories of feedback: campus, country, and international concerns.

The Wittenburg Door remains a delicate balance between personal freedom of expression and care for others. The debate is often heated, whether about campus issues, government policy, or global poverty. Micah Partnership for Racial Justice and Multicultural Education The essence of a just community is predicated on two mutual ideas—the sacredness of each individual and the value of pluralism. Strengthening campus community involves commitment to 61 McDonald.

Messiah College has committed itself to equality of opportunity by establishing goals for enrollment along with a commitment to the success of students of color. Messiah College instituted the Micah Partnership to advance our identity as a just community. Theologically, the partnership of faculty, students, administrators, and staff centers on the sacredness of each person and the Christian calling to be ambassadors of reconciliation.


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Racial justice focuses on underlying systemic challenges on campus and in our world. Multicultural education focuses on the appreciation of difference. A foundation of the Micah Partnership is that racial justice and multicultural education must occur concurrently for authentic reconciliation to be realized. Accomplishments of the Micah Partnership include the development and approval of policy and response protocol for incidents of racism on campus.

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The policy and protocol were constructed to connect with theological foundations, mission, and college governance. The distinct application of curricular and cocurricular learning environments was also incorporated. Challenges in the partnership have been many. The balance of short- and long-term goals that sustain energy as well as demonstrate real progress has been tenuous. Four years at a college is a small portion of the experience for most employees. For students, these four years are the whole of their experience.

The work of racial justice and multicultural education must not only transform McDonald. We have learned many lessons. We have valued the contribution of an external consultant in guiding our work and decision making. The most important lesson has been that the relationships within the partnership create space for bridging understanding across cultures and are the foundation of ongoing progress. Multicultural Council One avenue of college support for students of color has been the formation of the Multicultural Council.

The council was formed as a part of student government to build collaboration among student organizations that advance the goals of a diverse community. The council provides collective representation of several student groups. The integration of leadership of the council provides a strong voice at the student government leadership table. An elected student government leader has responsibility to chair and maintain the involvement of the council in student governance. The individual organizations maintain their distinct ethos and focus on supporting a particular population of students.

La Alianzia Latina and the Asian Student Fellowship were developed in recent years to support these student populations. The International Student and Mu Kappa Association supports international students and children of international missionaries. In addition to these organizations, two residence units have formed in recent years on campus. The Unity and Perspectives Floor is a thematic residence community in which students have a roommate from a different culture and participate in activities that advance cultural awareness.

Each of these organizations, individually and collectively, provide support to individual students and contribute events that 63 McDonald. Our international student community invigorates our campus by celebrating the many cultures among us.

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Agape Center for Service and Learning The essence of caring community is that service is encouraged Boyer, Agape, a Greek word for love, communicates the foundation of care that is at the core of service. Messiah College develops the mind, heart, and soul, as well as the commitment to use these to serve the commons. Community is advanced as individuals see themselves as part of something larger than themselves.

The Agape Center for Service and Learning was founded at Messiah in to enable students to channel their intellect toward service. The Agape Center develops collaboration among students, faculty, and members of the community who have a common interest in service and learning. The partnership provides a central, interactive place for the coordination of local and global service initiatives.

The center enables the college to be intentional in building reciprocal partnerships with community agencies and to ensure excellent praxis in service education. The Agape Center provides a community within the community that advances the goals of service and shapes the practice and understanding of service within the college community. Service Day is an institutionwide initiative coordinated by the Agape Center during Spring term. Service Day is built into the col- McDonald. On Service Day , over 62 percent of the eligible student population participated; faculty, administrators, and staff participated as well.

In addition to hosting one thousand Special Olympians for their spring games, over forty different local community service agencies were served. Multiple campus and community partnerships were necessary to the implementation of Service Day. Reclaiming Community Through Celebration A celebrative community remembers institutional heritage. A celebrative community shares rituals and traditions that connect individuals to the campus and its history.

Rites, ceremonies, and celebrations unite the campus and provide students a sense of belonging in something meaningful and enduring. The development and sustaining of campus traditions at Messiah has been challenged by campus growth. Maintaining a strong commitment to institutional heritage and also advancing contemporary expressions of community has been critical.

Koinonia Week In spring , the Division of Student Affairs initiated a theme week to renew and advance our collective understanding of and commitment to community. The student government planned their annual banquet to coincide with Koinonia Week. A weekly common chapel kicked off the celebration by focusing on community.

These bulletin boards were displayed throughout the remainder of the week.

The Journal of Higher Education

Each initiative was shaped to uniquely highlight the contribution to community. The inclusion of athletics in Koinonia Week highlighted their contribution to community spirit on campus. Students, employees, and alumni are united behind a common passion for Messiah athletics.


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  • In , the Music Department formed a college pep band that has contributed to community spirit and celebration at athletic events. Koinonia Week celebrated both tradition and innovation. The planning partners for Koinonia Week include representatives from each of the class councils. Koinonia Week has been incorporated into existing student governance structures. This event will continue on an annual basis, allowing us to pause and celebrate who we are every year.

    New ideas for sustaining Koinonia Week in the future include a Scholarship Showcase, where students can publicly share their academic work, as well as photo collages illustrating the lives of members of the Messiah Community. Nonetheless, the lessons for building McDonald. Every institution of higher education has a unique purpose that led to its founding.

    This purpose remains the central narrative of the institution over time, even as the mission is reshaped and rearticulated in light of the environment. This mission is the cornerstone of community. Composing a common community experience begins with creating a common understanding of mission. Building community requires implementing the values and practices of community in concrete ways. Messiah College leaders have learned to recognize ongoing, existing programs and practices for their contribution to campus community.

    Examining current rhetoric, programs, and practice through the lens of community has supported our efforts. Several of the initiatives outlined in this chapter were not developed with the idea of building community but were nonetheless expressions of campus community and values. One lesson Messiah College can provide for other institutions is to examine current programs and practice for community prior to developing new initiatives.


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    An informal environmental scan provides a baseline for community efforts. Claiming these efforts as expressions of community is a valuable task for an institution. Viewing these initiatives collectively provides a foundation for the assessment of current programs and direction for the development of new initiatives. Examining current programs for their underlying values offers an opportunity to examine what is communicated regarding community on campus. It is an opportunity to discern espoused values that are not fully and intentionally advanced.

    Boyer , p. Brensinger, T. Focusing our faith: Brethren in Christ core values. Retaining the legacy of Messiah College. Address delivered at Messiah College. Bucher, G. The new quest for common learning: Boyer, Berkeley, Bloom, and beyond. Palmer, P. The recovery of community in higher education: Focus on teaching and learning. Sider, E. Messiah College: A history. Nappanee, IN. The following story will include our successes and failures, struggles and achievements, and present to the reader at least one possible approach to leadership in the context of a college or university environment.

    Understanding Leadership Context Oregon State University is a state-supported land-grant institution. The university is situated in a predominantly white community with a population of 50, About 20 percent of the students were graduate students, primarily in the sciences. The Division of Student Affairs has more than four hundred full-time employees. More than six thousand students live in university-supervised and approved housing.

    In , the university was in the midst of several years of successive budget cuts and a ten-year declining enrollment trend. Generally, the staff members showed an absence of hope for the future; there appeared to be an inability to engage in trusting relationships; there was widespread isolation within Student Affairs units; and there appeared to be an unwillingness to take risks on behalf of themselves or others. These behaviors arose because of—and may be partially attributable to—a series of dramatic budget cuts that resulted in massive staff decreases and program reductions.

    The struggle was not successful. After a number of discussions about possible approaches to achieving engagement and alignment, the department heads agreed that the vice provost should open the leadership and visioning process to others in the division beyond the department heads group. The department heads had previously agreed that the most compelling principles on which to base our efforts was the work of Ernest Boyer. The department heads agreed that the principles outlined by Boyer in Campus Life: In Search of Community were the most promising foundation on which to build our future.

    The letter offered everyone the opportunity to participate in 71 McDonald. Ernest Boyer offered the term campus compact to describe leadership action that he believed was essential to advance campus community. The condition of our institution was such that a campuswide conversation at this time was not feasible. As we were beginning this effort, our institution was undergoing a leadership transition; we were searching for a new president. Our challenge at this time was to initiate a process that was responsive to the institutional climate while also acknowledging our own organizational challenges.