Friday, September 6, 2013


On a recent Sunday afternoon, the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College hosted the hundreds of incoming 1st Year students on its lush trails. The sun beamed, the cicadas buzzed, and the students broke down the barriers of unfamiliarity and began forming relationships that will grow over the next four years.
One student remarked, while hiking toward the station with wetland muck and creepy-crawly macroinvertebrates, “This is awesome. If my high school did something like this, everyone would have run away screaming.”
And thus begins the Goshen College transformation. Here at GC, we seek to engage students with the natural world – to help students understand the intricate ways in which the Creator has linked us all to the people, plants, and animals with whom we share the earth.  We use the core values of Christ centeredness, passionate learning, servant leadership, compassionate peacemaking, and global citizenship to inform and guide the education we provide and the actions we take. These ethics have led Goshen to become a leader in creation care and sustainability.
The proof of this is evident at both campuses: main campus in the town of Goshen, and the 1,189-acre satellite often referred to as Merry Lea. In the newest example, GC committed to purchasing 100% green electricity which will be supplied primarily by solar and wind sources. That single action has cut the college’s carbon footprint by 45%. Other main campus initiatives include solar water heaters on The Roman Gingerich Recreation-Fitness Center (a.k.a. “Rec-Fit”), a student-run composting facility that turns food waste into a fertile soil additive which is then used to grow more food for the dining hall, and native prairie plantings that have greatly reduced rainwater run-off and gasoline use by the Physical Plant’s lawnmowers. For more, visit
College President Jim Brenneman, Sustainability Coordinator Glenn Gilbert, as well as numerous other GC faculty and staff have unquestionably made exemplary strides in promoting and practicing creation care and sustainability at the main campus. Serving as a perfect complement to these efforts, Merry Lea provides opportunities for students to learn and practice such skills in a unique, intensive, and hands-on way. Most recently, Merry Lea initiated a fall semester program that takes an interdisciplinary look at sustainability issues – the Sustainability Semester in Residence (SSR). Another residential program takes place during the summer months, focusing on sustainable agriculture – the Agroecology Summer Intensive (ASI). Of course, Goshen College hopes that each and every student gains skills that simultaneously serve God and foster a sustainable future, so both of these programs are open to students from any major. For more, visit

So, 1st Year students, welcome to GC. May the next four years bring enrichment, enjoyment, and positive change. Admire and be inspired by the forward-thinking actions that you see daily on campus. Visit Merry Lea, whether it be to learn, or simply to retreat and reconnect with God and nature. It supplies the kind of spaces and opportunities that few college students have access to. Make the most of it.

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