Story by
Clint Kelly

Photos by
Daniel Sheehan
and Jimi Lott

"We gleaned many excellent ideas from our fellow seekers. In fact, we were encouraged to find that many on other CCCU campuses have hearts that beat with ours over increasing diversity at our institutions."
Judson Carlberg, President, Gordon College

"I consider the time at SPU to be one of the best investments we have made this year in advancing diversity on our campus. My greatest encouragement came from listening to members of my own institution talk about their successes, failures and hoped-for futures."
Jon Wallace, President, Azusa Pacific University

"Not only was I inspired and humbled by what other institutions are already doing and grateful for what we can learn from them, I was even more inspired by the vision of becoming 'truly Christian' and 'truly excellent' in liberal arts education by becoming more diverse."
Shirley Showalter, President, Goshen College

"We learned so much in these few days about ways we can pursue this very important cause more successfully. Perhaps even more importantly, we were newly inspired to seek shalom within our community and to educate our students to pursue shalom throughout their lives."
Rodney Sawatsky, President, Messiah College

"The opportunity for five of us from Whitworth to focus on this issue in such a concentrated format proved very valuable and timely. One of the best parts of the conference was to be in a room of Christian college representatives who looked like America,an experience that's depressingly rare and that we must change."
William Robinson, President, Whitworth College

Institutions that sent a team to the Symposium included Abilene Christian University, Azusa Pacific University, Eastern University, Geneva College, Gordon College, Goshen College, Messiah College, Northwestern College, Nyack College, Oklahoma Baptist University, Spring Arbor University, Seattle Pacific University and Whitworth College.

Billy Graham calls racial and ethnic division "the world's number one problem." Last month, in what its president described as "a milestone event," 13 member institutions of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) sent teams to Seattle Pacific University to explore strategies for ensuring that students of color find a welcoming educational environment on campus.

"We want our campuses to lead the larger Church in building racial harmony," says Robert Andringa, president of the 104-member CCCU. "We want them to move beyond just trying to recruit more students and faculty of color ... to develop strategies to help those students and faculty succeed. Some Council campuses are models of good practice, but many others need to put a higher priority on these issues."

The more than 80 delegates to "A Presidential Symposium: Ensuring the Success of Minority Students and Faculty" were led by their college presidents and hosted by SPU President Philip Eaton. Teams included students, faculty, trustees and administrators. They faced a challenging statistic: Nationally, among all private four-year institutions, the non-white student population averages 26.4 percent. At CCCU schools, it averages just 13.3 percent.

Above, left to right: The Goshen College team, led by President Shirley Showalter (far right), makes a panel presentation about the campus climate for diversity. • SPU President Philip Eaton (center) talks with (from left to right) Rich Gathro, senior vice president of CCCU; Judson Carlberg, president of Gordon College; and Mark Brister, president of Oklahoma Baptist University. • The Nyack College team at work, including (from left to right) Agnia Assur, associate professor of psychology; David Schroeder, president; and Carol Awasu, assistant professor of social work.

"There is no simple explanation for this," says Eaton. "It's partly geographical, and it's also cultural and religious. The division in our society between majority and minority cultures can be seen in our churches and our Christian colleges too. The gospel calls us to do everything we can to make sure that all of God's children flourish on our campuses."

At the Symposium, stories of pain, joy and sheer tenacity punctuated two days of discussion about campus climate, student and faculty recruitment and retention, and the kind of curriculum and teaching that will make the liberal arts "the liberating arts." Delegates listened to each other's experiences in the often-difficult struggle to fulfill what they believe is their biblical mandate: to provide Christian higher education to students "from every nation, tribe, people and language" (Revelation 7:9).

Because of their core commitment to the healing power of Jesus Christ, CCCU institutions believe they are well positioned to help address racial and ethnic divisions in the country. "It is particularly exciting to me that the Symposium was not a CCCU staff idea," says Andringa. "It came from members of our board of directors, including President Eaton and Deborah Wilds of the Gates Foundation."

"My hope was that we could come together and address the challenges of ethnic diversity with honesty and openness," says Eaton. "I felt we could make real progress as a group that understands the importance of this issue."

Enthusiasm for the idea ran high from the start. There was a waiting list of colleges who wanted to participate, and talk of replicating the Symposium elsewhere in the country.

Some colleges at the Symposium have been successful at diversifying their student bodies for many years. For example, at Nyack College, just 25 miles north of New York City, 64 percent of enrollment is made up of students of color. The substantial numbers of minority students are due to Nyack opening a satellite campus in the inner city. At Eastern University near Philadelphia, 20 percent of students are minorities. Eastern offers a master's degree in multi-cultural studies and employs five administrators wholly or partially assigned to cultivating diversity.

Above, left to right: SPU Vice President for University Relations Marj Johnson (center) listens intently during an SPU team discussion with (from left) President Eaton; Joe Snell, assistant director of student programs; and Tali Hairston, assistant director of campus ministries. • Donors Gary and Barbara Ames (second and fourth from left) meet three of the students receiving Ames Minority Scholarships this year (from left): Mara Cardenas, Charisse Everett and Kathryn Chantal Tyler. • President Eaton looks on as Gary and Barbara Ames sign the check that established the Ames Initiative.

"I saw some of our schools doing a good job in this area, and I wanted to hear their stories," says Eaton, who considers Seattle Pacific's urban location an opportunity to serve many different racial and ethnic groups. He shared his commitment to build a coalition at SPU to bring about change, to raise the minority student population from the current 9.7 percent to 12 percent in the next five years, and to build bridges with ethnic churches in the city.

Most CCCU institutions are not located in urban centers, however, and it can be difficult to attract ethnically diverse students and faculty to rural Iowa or eastern Washington. Nonetheless, leaders of rural institutions discussed plans to strengthen their diversity efforts and to create a climate where a diverse student body and faculty can thrive.

By the end of the weekend at SPU, the ideas generated had provided a framework for action. Delegates from each campus focused in on a number of possible next steps, including:

Scholarships With a Student Leadership Component. Increased scholarship opportunities for minorities could include a leadership requirement that empowers these students to help promote multicultural awareness and change across campus — without requiring them to be lone spokespersons of color.

Connections Within the Wider Community. Taking tutoring and educational programs into ethnic communities and connecting with ethnic pastors and their churches were ideas the delegates supported. These efforts might also include bringing students of color on campus at a younger age so they can picture themselves as university students.

Multicultural Requirement for Tenure. Symposium teams agreed that a well-educated person is, in part, one who embraces diversity. To prepare students to live in the world and to delight in its cultural variety, professors should demonstrate some competency in integrating multicultural perspectives into their classrooms.

High Expectations. To be Christian colleges and universities of integrity, CCCU institutions must be clear in their expectation that minority and majority students feel affirmed on campus. The delegates posited that all students need to learn mutual appreciation and Christian love if they are to exercise proper leadership as adults in the world.

"At the end of the weekend, as we worshipped and shared our concluding reflections, several things became clear," says Vice President for Academic Affairs Les Steele, a member of the SPU team. "We were leaving both encouraged and hopeful. We were also leaving knowing that we had a supportive network and numerous concrete ideas as we worked together on success for ethnic minority students, faculty and staff."

Symposium participants were in agreement on that point. They emphasized that they are not looking to rationalize past failures, but to help redeem the future for all of the nation's children.

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