This past week I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the CCCU Diversity Conference at George Fox University in Newberg, OR. This was my first time attending a conference that wasn’t discipline-specific, and I very much enjoyed being able to hear from speakers who work in a variety of disciplines and roles in Christian higher education.
Tara Sirvent, Amanda Lebrecht, and I gave a talk called, “Diversity In and Outside of the Classroom: A Holistic Approach to Pedagogy at a HSI and MSI.” We discussed how Vanguard has embraced its identity as an HSI and MSI and the various initiatives and programs, such as the STEM and Humanities Bridge Programs and the Academic Resource Center, that have allowed us to serve our diverse student body. Though various conference speakers lamented the lack of diversity at many CCCU schools, our presentation was able to discuss all the ways in which Vanguard has embraced diversity as a part of our identity. The presentation was well-received, with many in the audience staying afterword to discuss more of what is happening at Vanguard.
Thanks to the networking skills of Tara Sirvent, I was introduced to Shirley Hoogstra, president of the CCCU. We were able to discuss the fact that Vanguard was the recipient of the Humanities Initiatives Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support our new Humanities Bridge Program. President Hoogstra was impressed with our achievement and is hoping to hear more from us about our successful pilot year.
As a conference attendee, I enjoyed going to various workshops and plenaries. As a historian, I appreciated that plenaries by Sarah Visser of Calvin University and by Edwin and Jessica Estévez of the Estrategia Group focused on the history of whiteness in institutions as a critical foundation for understanding issues with racism in higher education. As Jessica Estévez said, racial healing “all starts with an accurate recounting of history.” Accurate is the key word in the sentence. Too often we sugarcoat history so we don’t have to face guilt, shame, or grief. But unless we have accurate knowledge of the past, we can’t have the understanding necessary to have real conversations, empathy, forgiveness, and change. As several panels discussed, these conversations can be uncomfortable, but we have to have them or we will—consciously or unconsciously—continue to support structures that enable and support a hierarchy of human value.
I also appreciated attention to “diversity” that went beyond questions of race and ethnicity. I attended a breakout session that discussed support for student who need accommodations in our classes. I was inspired by the story of “accessibility ambassadors” at George Fox University: faculty who receive special training on how to support students with disabilities, practice various techniques in their own classes, and then are able to teach their colleagues how to adopt their curriculum, presentations, and more to these students. I was struck by the philosophy that it is better to set up the entire class from the beginning to be accessible to the most students possible rather than coming up with ad hoc adaptations once you get that accommodations letter from Disability Services. The proactive rather than the reactive approach was one I honestly hadn’t considered, but it makes so much sense, and I am looking forward to thinking about how I can use it in my classes.
Finally, whenever I go to conferences, I like to jot down readings that other scholars mention. It’s a sort of “further readings” list, if you will. I’m sharing mine here. I hope you find them helpful as you consider how to celebrate and support diversity at Vanguard!
Allison Ash, Alexander Jun, Tabata Jones Jolivet, and Christopher S. Collins, White Jesus: The Architecture of Racism in Religion and Education (Peter Lang, Inc., 2018).
Nolan L. Cabrera, White Guys on Campus: Racism, White Immunity, and the Myth of ‘Post-Racial’ Higher Education (Rutgers, 2018).
Gail C. Christopher, “Racial Healing Circles: Empathy and Liberal Education.” Diversity & Democracy 21.3 (Summer 2018).
Christopher S. Collins and Alexander Jun, White Out: Understanding White Privilege and Dominance in the Modern Age (Peter Lang Inc., 2017).
Mari Luna De la Rosa, “The Need for Cultural Humility in These Challenging Times.” About Campus: Enriching the Student Learning Experience 24.2 (May-June 2019): 18-22.
Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (Beacon Press, 2018).
Diane Lynn Gusa, “White Institutional Presence: The Impact of Whiteness on Campus Climate.” Harvard Education Review 80.4 (December 2010): 464-490.
Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (Bold Type Books, 2017).
Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism (Zondervan, 2019).
Craig Steven Wilder, Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Institutions (Bloomsbury, 2014).
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion (IVP Books, 2018).