Do I need to be Mennonite to attend EMU?

While EMU has a strong Mennonite student presence on campus, more than half of our student body comes from a variety of other faith traditions. Some come from other Christian denominations, some from other faith traditions, and others with no specific religious affiliation. More than 30 religious groups are represented on campus from all over the world.

Mennonites at EMU and peace-oriented Catholic and Protestant groups have much in common. Mennonites are distinctive among followers of Christ in being among the group of “historic peace churches,” along with the Church of the Brethren and Quakers.1

Regardless of faith or heritage, students do normal college things here. This includes intercollegiate and intramural sports, study abroad, student clubs and activities, enjoying the local area and more. Our academic programs, in education, business, digital media and STEM majors like computer science, pre-med, and pre-engineering, boast thriving communities of engaged students.

Do people dress differently?

While you may occasionally see a “plain” dressing Mennonite on campus, you won’t be able to tell most Mennonite students by their clothing choices. Since EMU attracts a diverse student body, especially with our Intensive English Program and our world-renowned Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, you may also see people with distinctive clothing from other cultures and parts of the world, including Muslim women in veils.

A bit more on Mennonite plain dress… People in conservative branches of the Mennonite traditions often wear distinctive clothing – for women, head coverings and dresses and, for men, white shirts and dark, loose slacks with special suit coats, especially on Sundays. Some use horse and buggies in order to remain “separate from the world.”

EMU, however, is an institution of Mennonite Church USA, whose members generally cannot be identified by their appearance. These church members live in modern homes, drive vehicles, and pursue higher education and careers as do other Americans. Many Mennonites do, however, embrace “simple living” in order to respect God’s earth and consume fewer resources. This “more-with-less” lifestyle can include common sense reusing and recycling in addition to growing vegetables to preserve for use year-round, alternative transportation (bicycles!), and thrift shopping.

Peacebuilding and Eastern Mennonite University, a Christian university in Virginia

The general public often considers “Amish” and “Mennonite” in the same category. While the two share a commitment to community living, service to others, non-violent peacemaking and some historical roots, there are also significant differences.

Peace and restorative justice are regular topics of conversation here, in the classroom and out. Peacebuilding and development majors explore the complexities of working for social change, and student groups like Peace Fellowship organize campus activities and regularly invite special speakers to spark meaningful dialogue.

Things you will likely find

Eastern Mennonite University graduates take photos during commencementWhile the use of technology is limited in plain Mennonite communities, it’s not here. We’ve all got our iPads and smartphones, and our computer science and digital media programs enjoy a new advanced media lab with top-quality equipment. Among Christian colleges, EMU is one of the few to offer a major in photography.

  • Campus worship with music. Mennonites are renowned for their mastery of four-part a cappella singing, but campus also bustles with instrumental music (both classical and contemporary), global music sparked by international travel and students, and contemporary worship events.
  • Class discussions on policies and issues pertaining to peace and conflict, service work, sustainability, Godly relationships, care for each other, pledging allegiance to a nation (or not), and ethics in the workplace. EMU is committed to preparing students for life, not just for a job. Exploring your faith and listening respectfully to the viewpoints of others are part of the campus ethos.
  • Students working in the field, getting real-life experience. On-the-job experience and internships are required for many majors. Internships in all subject areas are available year-round through EMU’s Washington Community Scholars’ Center in urban D.C.
  • Students having fun! Athletic events (NCAA or intramurals) occur throughout the year. The campus activities council shows movies each weekend, organizes midnight bowling, skiing at nearby Massanutten Resort, hiking/camping in the mountains, and more. You won’t want to miss the barn dance in the fall and the semi-formal in the winter!

To learn more about EMU’s supporting denomination, Mennonite Church USA, visit or For further explanation on the role of Mennonite higher education read this news release from the presidents of Mennonite Church USA colleges, universities and seminaries.

1. Historic Peace Churches. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online.