“I was raised in an Iowa farm town,” says Brian Gumm, 33. “The borders of my imaginative world were pretty tightly drawn. At EMU those borders exploded in a good way.”
Gumm, who graduated this spring from Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), chose the dual degree program with EMU’s seminary and Center for Justice and Peacebuilding because of their practical focus. He did not anticipate drinking in the global awareness, curriculum flexibility, and integration of disciplines offered by EMU.
“I was drawn to the strong practical focus of both programs at EMU,” says Gumm, who now holds two master’s degrees, an MDiv and MA in conflict transformation. “The seminary has this vibrant, beating, pastoral heart, and CJP (Center for Justice and Peacebuilding) has people who are involved in peace and justice work all over the world.”
Taking some of his classes in EMU’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute, Gumm was impressed with the way the institute attracts people from all over the world. He says that experience, along with studying during the year with international students in CJP and the seminary, created his new global awareness.
As part of his required practicum for CJP, Gumm and his family traveled to Ethiopia last summer so that he could teach at a Mennonite-rooted college there, Meserete Kristos College in Debre Zeit.
“I didn’t leave the country until I was 17, and that was as a tourist. My 11-year-old daughter got to spend a month on a church-college campus in Ethiopia,” says Gumm. “I couldn’t have even imagined that as an 11-year-old.”
“But the global awareness didn’t turn me into a tourist. It turned me into a pilgrim.”
Both of Gumm’s degree programs have multiple concentrations or tracks, so the combinations for study are vast if one combines the two.
“My track in the MDiv was academic, and my concentration in the MA in conflict transformation program was restorative justice,” he says. “But you could follow the pastoral-care track in the MDiv and a trauma-healing concentration in the conflict transformation program and come out with a focus that is completely different from mine.”
Gumm, a licensed minister in the Church of the Brethren, discovered EMU’s dual-degree possibilities via the Internet while he was living in Iowa. Once enrolled in both master’s programs, he ‘”was always trying to make connections between the two.”
“For example, I wrote a paper for a restorative justice class that was also trying to do some Anabaptist theological and historical work showing why Mennonites in Canada in the 1970s gave birth to the modern restorative justice movement.
“I never got tired of the intellectual inquiry. There were always more paths to follow and more connections to make.”
Family investment in EMU
Gumm was not the only one in his family wearing in a graduation robe on April 28, 2012. Brian’s wife Erin concurrently completed an MA in counseling. Not wishing to part from EMU immediately after graduation, Gumm drew upon another gift he has—computer technology—and became the distance-learning technology analyst at EMU, helping EMU’s graduate programs evaluate and adopt distance-learning software.
This article was first published July 2, 2012.