The staff of Emmaus Bible College readily admits their school is misunderstood and overlooked, and they are working to change that.
"Humility is one of our core values and we've not done a great job of selling ourselves," said Lisa Beatty, vice-president for academic affairs, one day recently in the bustling Emmaus dining room. "We don't want to stay Dubuque's 'best kept secret.'"
Although the small college is celebrating its 30th year in Dubuque, its mission and program are still a mystery to many.
"We do much more than just teach the Bible," explained Jesse Lange, director of marketing. "We prepare service-minded Christian professionals for a variety of contexts," including nursing, business administration, computer information systems, music education and primary and secondary education, he said.
True, every bachelor's degree program requires 45 credits of Biblical Studies, more than at most Bible colleges, but that sets the stage for graduates to "be actively engaged in ministry as a lifestyle," Lange said. That focus has helped Emmaus rank regularly in the top tier of small Bible colleges.
Both Beatty and Lange struggled to describe what they call "the Emmaus experience," listing several important features of life on campus:
* All class programming is infused with Biblical content.
* Faculty and staff are provided with free lunches in the college dining room to encourage them to interact with students. "Conversations started in class just carry on into the dining room," Beatty said. Flags from the many countries where Emmaus graduates live and minister hang from the ceiling around the spacious dining hall. Emmaus was named a "winning Christian workplace" in 2010.
* Students have open-ended access to their teachers and other staff, including visits to staff and faculty homes, and small classes, with a
10-to-1 average student-to-faculty ratio, allow for interpersonal connections,
* "We create an environment conducive to spiritual growth and talk about it freely," said Beatty, the only faculty member born and raised in Dubuque.
Dubuquers interact with Emmaus students more often than they realize, Lange said.
"Our students have an excellent reputation among Dubuque employers for being ethical, responsible and disciplined," he said, "and many of our graduates are part of the community socially, culturally, in religious organizations and in businesses."
Lange graduated from Emmaus in 2000.
Julie Umsteter is a senior at Emmaus from California majoring in business administration. She talked about her school in its dramatic marble chapel during a Christian ministries job fair recently.
"It is a very friendly, welcoming campus," she said. "When I came here I didn't know a soul, but I got involved right away."
Umstetter appreciates the "affirmative, family-oriented" campus culture where the staff "really wants you to grow in your faith."
Lange summed up the hope of those who both teach and learn on the Emmaus campus.
"We are an excellent choice for Christian education," he said, "but we also want to be seen as a viable option for professional education in Dubuque's higher-education scene."