Mennonite education


Mennonite school leaders meet at Bluffton

BLUFFTON, Ohio –Three times a year, members of the Mennonite Schools Council meet. Every other year, one of these meetings is at a Mennonite college and for the first time in nearly a decade, that meeting was held at Bluffton University.  

“We’re very excited to be here. Only four of our administrators had been to Bluffton, so for the rest, this was their first time on campus,” said Conrad Swartzentruber, principal at Conrad Dock High School in Lansdale, Pa. “We’re using this opportunity to gather to learn more about Bluffton and what they offer so we can share with our faculty and students at our schools. It is a beautiful campus.”

During the two-day meeting, the network of Mennonite early childhood through high school leaders took part in professional development sessions given by Bluffton University faculty.

Topics ranged from “Leadership: What does your staff need from you” led by Dr. George Lehman, professor of business and director of the Collaborative MBA, to “Issues in Education” with Dr. Gayle Trollinger, professor of education and director of graduate programs in education, and Dr. Paul Neufeld Weaver, associate professor of education and director of cross-cultural programs.

Angie Petersheim, administrator at Shalom Christian Academy in Chambersburg, Pa., appreciated learning and sharing alongside fellow Mennonite educators.

“We have very similar roles,” said Petersheim. “It’s so encouraging to exchange ideas and to figure out how each of us manage the same kind of things.”

Another session, focusing on Title IX, provided needed guidance because the issue is so complex.

“While it was in my awareness, and I think everyone is aware, it was helpful to hear how Bluffton is implementing practices,” said Petersheim. “The session articulated and renewed the thought that we need to make sure we are in compliance, but we also need to be doing best practices.”

The session, focusing on issues surrounding sexual violence, was led by Dr. Julie DeGraw, vice president for student life and Title IX coordinator, and Dr. Sally Weaver Sommer, vice president for academic affairs and academic dean.

“Title IX is an area all of our schools are struggling to understand and deal with. One of our member schools has been very proactive in this area and Bluffton has also been very proactive so it was really helpful for all of our schools to learn more about this topic,” said Swartzentruber.

Council members also toured campus and learned about new and key programs at Bluffton including speech-language pathology and audiology, nursing and dietetics.

“I had never been on Bluffton’s campus. It’s a beautiful campus, and I will go back and say to our students Bluffton is a great place with great programs. You should visit it; you should consider it,” said Petersheim. “We heard about dietetics, which I was very impressed with because, for high school students, what a great career path. It’s the same with speech pathology.”

The program concluded with remarks from President James Harder as he led Forum, Bluffton’s weekly gathering of students, faculty and staff for interdisciplinary conversation and discovery. Harder spoke about Bluffton as a community of respect

“Bluffton is all about bringing people and ideas together for a greater purpose. We are about a long-standing commitment to living, learning and working together as a community of respect. This is clearly a big need in our broader society and one that we can help address.”