Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Collage of scenes around SPU, downtown Seattle, and various campus events.

Position Opening at Seattle Pacific University

Summary of the Opportunity

Seattle Pacific University seeks a creative, strategic, and results-oriented leader to assume the new position of VP for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (VPDEI). The VPDEI will report to the president and serve as a member of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT).

At the core of SPU is our Christian identity, which forms the foundation for this critical role at the University. The very nature and person of Christ, his teaching and exemplary life as God’s son, and his death and resurrection provide for us the possibility of living as a community where God has “torn the veil” by removing all divisions. In addition, the Holy Spirit, as revealed through the Holy Scripture, instructs us as to the value and prioritization of embracing, fostering, and living into the call to be reconcilers.

Reconciliation is a gospel mandate. Dr. John Perkins, namesake for SPU’s Perkins Center, reinforced this thought in a 2009 Winter Response magazine issue, where he said, “An understanding of the biblical mandate for reconciliation should begin with Jesus Christ. Without his suffering and subsequent victory over pain and death, there would be no reconciliation of God to humanity. Christ’s agony was far beyond our comprehension, and yet without it, we would still be separated from God. We are called to enter into Christ’s pain by taking up our own cross and following the Great Reconciler.”

We are to be a community where “all the members of the body, though many, are one body” (I Corinthians 12:12). That is, seeing the beauty and need for one another’s differences just as reflected in the character of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is a call to appreciate and respect each person’s humanity and uniqueness in the image of God, thereby reflecting the Kingdom of God while pointing us to God as we also see ourselves. Therefore, any aspect of racial or ethnic bias or exclusiveness is a breakdown in the community we are called to be. 

Our own Free Methodist tradition, with its founding mission and consistent proclamation of class, race, and gender inclusion, is a direct contributor to our University’s identity in regards to reconciliation.

With the strong support of the president, other SLT members, and the campus as a whole, the essential duties of the VPDEI will be to provide vision, leadership, coordination, and strategic planning in a collaborative manner for the design and implementation of institution-wide efforts to ensure diversity, inclusion, equity, respect, and the promotion of reconciliation in the SPU community. The primary goal is that SPU will model inclusion and equal opportunity for achievement for all members of the University.

The decision to hire a VPDEI reflects the next phase in the continuing development of diversity and reconciliation work that has been ongoing for nearly two decades at SPU. The successful applicant will serve to facilitate and lead this ongoing work, rather than start with a clean slate. The University is seeking someone with the expertise to coordinate and deepen the work of racial reconciliation more fully in the core of University life. Current efforts are identified in a 12-step framework announced by President Martin earlier this year. 

Examples of ongoing work include:

  • Opportunity Hire: Led by the Faculty Diversity Committee, the University leveraged the potential to hire a new faculty member to encourage academic departments to conduct surveys of the cultural climates of their departments. Five departments participated and, while only one department was authorized to make the hire, all five departments have implemented changes designed to make their cultures more welcoming and supportive for faculty of color. The VPDEI could not only provide critical leadership in both faculty recruitment and retention, but also in guiding departments to shape healthy cultures of preparedness.
  • Cultural Engagement Requirement: The faculty adopted a new graduation requirement that involves, among other things, each undergraduate student successfully completing one course designed to teach cultural understanding and engagement. The learning objectives for these courses have been identified, and the classes are currently being designed. Faculty training will begin during the 2016–17 academic year. The VPDEI could provide critical leadership in ensuring that these courses effectively engage the student population and that training for faculty reflects current best practices. 
  • Faculty Development: The University has been piloting a two-year “community of learners” program with faculty to help them develop the competence and commitment needed to deal sensitively and effectively with issues of reconciliation, diversity, equity, and inclusion. The president’s framework envisages the extension of this training to all faculty, and early efforts are underway to design such a program. The VPDEI could facilitate effective engagement with faculty and help design training programs that will secure widespread faculty buy-in and effect meaningful change. 

The following provides an overview of duties:

  • Develop resources, trainings, and programming to support University personnel and departments as they incorporate racial diversity and reconciliation initiatives into their respective areas. Our goals are to ensure these initiatives are incorporated throughout all areas of University life as framed by the University’s mission, signature commitments, and strategic goals, as well as to foster an understanding of diversity that is integral to a holistic liberal arts education within a Christian context.
  • Foster and encourage a vibrant, diverse academic community that will engender a sense of belonging. Provide leadership to vision development and implementation of diversity in academic life through faculty and staff recruitment, retention, and advancement, utilizing data collection and analysis. This data will be used to inform systems, as well as shape institutional processes and curricular enhancements.
  • Facilitate and organize faculty training opportunities focused on inclusive pedagogy and intercultural intelligence, and serve as a resource for teaching strategies that prepare students for success in a diverse and global workplace. This effort will be in collaboration with the provost and faculty leadership.
Students in Downtown Seattle
  • Resource and collaborate with VP of Enrollment and Marketing in connecting the University with secondary educational institutions and community organizations to develop incoming pools of well-prepared, pre-college students from underrepresented backgrounds.
  • In concert with University general counsel and Human Resources, ensure systems and mechanisms are in place to receive confidential and other reports of concern, with the goal of establishing a safe, welcoming, and positive environment where all members of our community can flourish. Recommend and/or initiate corrective action in compliance with laws, regulations, and/or University policy. Conduct periodic University climate assessment through surveys and other mechanisms to guide policy development and action plans.
  • Develop a comprehensive racial diversity, equity, and inclusion action plan for the University that informs the direction and scope of the institution’s strategic plan, academic objectives, and program plans. Utilize data-driven indicators to recommend improvement and accountability related to composition, engagement, inclusion, and achievement. Work with the Office of University Communications to design and maintain a racial diversity, equity, and inclusion web page to identify current efforts, progress, and results. Provide an annual (or other regular) report on the state of the University related to these efforts, and recommendations for improvement.
  • Collaborate with Human Resources and faculty governance to shape recruiting practices related to gender, racial, and ethnic diversity. Design and implement onboarding and ongoing training for personal growth and professional development to increase intercultural awareness and competence.
  • Identify, develop, and nurture community relationships for the purpose of resourcing the University’s racial diversity, equity, and inclusion action plan. Support and extend key University racial diversity-building partnerships.
  • Partner with the University chaplain and the vice president for student life to develop a plan to support racial diversity and reconciliation through co-curricular and residential programming.
  • Research, promote, and implement best practices as they relate to racial diversity, equity, and inclusion in pursuit of the highest standard in meeting desired objectives and shaping the University to more fully reflect the Kingdom of God.
  • Supervise professional and support staff to assist in accomplishing the stated goals and objectives.

Overview of the Institution

Seattle Pacific University’s Mission

Seattle Pacific University is a Christian university fully committed to engaging the culture and changing the world by graduating people of competence and character, becoming people of wisdom, and modeling grace-filled community.


Seattle Pacific University was founded in 1891 by Free Methodist pioneers. The founders valued a non-sectarian approach to education that welcomed all those seeking scholarly excellence rooted in the Christian gospel, and who sought to take the gospel into the world in order to bring about the flourishing of God’s children. Today, that tradition continues in a clear line from our founders. In our “DNA,” so to speak, is the desire to engage the culture and change the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Students in Classroom


SPU’s 43-acre city campus is located in a residential neighborhood on the north slope of Queen Anne Hill, only 10 minutes from the heart of downtown Seattle.
SPU also owns and operates a wilderness campus and field station on Blakely Island, and a seaside campus/retreat facility on Whidbey Island.

Enrollment (Autumn Quarter 2015 statistics)

  • Total enrollment: 4,175
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 3,202
  • Post-baccalaureate enrollment: 26
  • Graduate enrollment: 947

Academic Programs Offered

  • Undergraduate majors: 60
  • Master’s degree programs: 24
  • Doctoral degree programs: 5
  • Graduate certificates: 12


  • Men: 31%
  • Women: 69%

Retention Rate:

  • 87% (based on first-year persistence)

Six-year Graduation Rate:

  • 71% (reported Autumn 2015)

Undergraduate Ethnic Diversity:

  • 36%

Incoming Freshmen Ethnic Diversity

  • White: 61%
  • Hispanic of any race: 11%
  • Asian: 10%
  • Two or more races: 10%
  • Black or African American: 3%
  • International: 2%
  • American Indian or Alaska Native: 1%
  • Hawaiian Native or other Pacific Islander: 1%
  • Race and ethnicity unknown: 1%

Racial Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Reconciliation at Seattle Pacific University

The institutional journey of pursuing ethnic and racial diversity as a defining theme at Seattle Pacific University dates back to at least 1991, with the implementation of intentional undergraduate enrollment policies. This focused strategy outlined a 10-year plan for purposefully increasing the number of ethnic minorities within the SPU campus community. This initial plan for increasing the percentage of ethnic minorities was then followed by a new enrollment plan, “Plan for the 21st Century.”

This enrollment plan was proposed by the Enrollment Planning Committee and helped to shape and guide the growth and direction of student recruitment. The plan included both undergraduate and graduate students, students of color, transfer students, and gender diversity. In addition, this strategy also served to unify the mission statement, selection process, campus culture and ethos, and economics as foundational to the University’s identity. In 2000, the Ames Scholarship for ethnic minority students was established.

In 2001, SPU launched an initiative that prioritized racial and ethnic diversity, which included a comprehensive enrollment strategy. The University Diversity Initiative would become the vehicle for addressing not only the number of students that would increase SPU’s racial diversity, but also the need to hire staff and faculty of racially diverse backgrounds. 

During this same time, there was also an ongoing commitment in the Campus Ministry and Student Life departments to recruit and hire racially diverse personnel. Furthermore, based on a recommendation by the Dean’s Strategy & Operations Team, the first delegation of SPU students was able to attend the National Christian Multicultural Student Leadership Conference (NCMSLC). They went in an effort to learn how to engage the Associated Students of Seattle Pacific (ASSP) regarding the vision and the changes they hoped to realize related to racial diversity. These efforts would eventually infiltrate all areas of campus life at SPU. In the same year, a group of students went to Jackson, Mississippi, on a mission trip as a part of Seattle Pacific Reachout International (SPRINT) program, where they met Dr. John M. Perkins.

As the vision and mission for racial diversity at SPU continued to grow and take shape, the role SPU played in the greater Seattle community and nation as an institution supporting reconciliation increased. SPU hosted the National Christian Multicultural Student Leadership Conference (NCMSLC) on campus. The SPU student government (ASSP) also launched a new student leadership position, the intercultural director, as the point person for undergraduate students regarding intercultural affairs.

Accompanying the Admissions department’s work to increase the enrollment of racially diverse undergraduate students, in 2001, Intercultural Programs in the Office of Student Life launched the Early Connections orientation to help students from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds who were first-generation college students to make a successful transition to the University. In addition, the Office of Residence Life launched the “Bridges Floor” in Emerson Hall that became one of the most racially diverse living quarters on campus. The SPU Gospel Choir also began during this time period.

John Perkins

In 2004, Dr. John Perkins was the keynote speaker for the Day of Common Learning, an annual campus-wide event when classes are cancelled so that the community can gather for a keynote speaker address and an afternoon of breakout sessions. In that same year, the partnership with Dr. Perkins also led to the establishment of The John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development, based at Seattle Pacific University.

In the same year (2004) that SPU hosted the NCMSLC, the Admissions office developed strategic recruiting relationships with ethnically diverse churches, schools, and communities. Additionally, the first Urban Preview experience was launched, an overnight event for high school seniors from underrepresented groups. This opportunity gives high school students the chance to engage with the current campus community, visit classes, and get a sense of what SPU is like.

In 2005, SPU also sent a group of faculty and staff to Chicago to attend the Ignite Reconciliation Conference. This annual collaboration was facilitated by Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil, a reconciliation specialist, for groups from Christian colleges and universities to receive training and share best practices regarding successful reconciliation initiatives in higher education. Consequently, later that year, Dr. Salter McNeil was invited to lead a reconciliation training seminar for the staff at SPU. In 2006, Dr. Les Steele, academic vice president at SPU, began the academic year with a lecture called “The Wall, the Cross, and a New Humanity.” This strategic address called SPU to tear down the walls of racial and ethnic divisions and to foster a new humanity through the work of the cross. Furthermore, reconciliation efforts continued in 2007 with Dr. Salter McNeil returning to conduct additional diversity training on campus.

In 2007, the work of Dr. Stephen Newby as a musician and composer helped to increase the visibility of SPU’s commitment to racial diversity and reconciliation beyond the University community. In partnership with students, Dr. Newby hosted a “Reconciled Symphony” on campus and also held performances at Rolling Hills Community Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church, and the National Association of Music Education — Northwest Division Conference. SPU’s etc magazine published an article on the Gospel Choir and Response magazine published a feature article on the “Reconciled Symphony.”

Stephen Newby Conducting

In addition, Dr. Newby and SPU hosted a Church Leaders Forum and Gospel Symphony. The conference focused on worship and reconciliation of all people. “Step Up in Faith” was a performance for the SPU community that presented groups like Mike Silva International, The Katinas, and Dr. Newby in worship and prayer. In 2008, a final program was presented by Dr. Newby, who focused his attention on honoring the “mother of the civil rights movement,” Mrs. Rosa Parks, through music.

The John Perkins Center (JPC) was also working on leadership development and racial diversity training at this time. By 2008, racial diversity became more ingrained in the identity of SPU and the University experienced an increase in the number of ethnic minority students enrolled on campus. Although there had previously been staff committed to supporting ethnic minority students, in order to support the increasing number of students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, in 2008, the Multi-Ethnic Programs (MEP) office was developed as a separate office within the Student Life department. The office focused primarily on creating programs for minority students, providing a safe place of emotional and academic support and cultural affirmation, and advising and providing leadership development for intercultural clubs. This work continues today.

In 2008, Residence Life developed “Born Identity,” an exhibit that focuses on raising awareness regarding the history and impact of white privilege. This exhibit is a visual and interactive experience that seeks to highlight the nature of white privilege in our society, how it came to be, and what we can do in response. Many faculty bring their classes through the exhibit or include visiting and reflecting on the Born Identity exhibit in their course syllabi.

In addition to other significant discussions, activities, and racial diversity-related initiatives, there were also three musical performances at SPU in 2009:

  1. GospelFest ’09 — A Celebration of African American Heritage (and in honor of the legacy of Abraham Lincoln).
  2. A Memorial Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  3. “The Kingdom and the Gospel,” presented at The Triple Door, a professional music establishment in downtown Seattle. In addition, “The Kingdom and The Gospel” was performed by the Worship Arts Ensemble and was sold as a CD, as well as made available for purchase on iTunes.

As of 2010, in an effort to contribute to a comprehensive academic focus, the Reconciliation Studies Minor was created. In 2011, Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil was hired as an associate professor of theology and the director of Reconciliation Studies to oversee this minor at SPU. Rooted in God’s mission to reconcile the world, this interdisciplinary minor prepares students to work effectively as agents of reconciliation in a diverse and global society.

In 2012, Dr. John Perkins continued the practice of returning to SPU for the annual Perkins Lecture Series. Other special guest speakers were invited to campus, such as Dr. Bernice King, daughter of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In addition, the intercultural sirector position for ASSP was changed to become a vice president position.

Portions excerpted from Seattle Pacific University Ethnic Diversity Assessment; final report submitted by Salter McNeil & Associates, LLC, November 2014.

Since 2012, SPU has continued its efforts to place the work of reconciliation at the center of the life of our community. While this list is not exhaustive, here is a summary of events and initiatives in recent years:

  • Hosted a forum on “Race in America after Ferguson.”
  • Hosted a gathering of church leaders in a prayer and worship service focused on issues of racial justice.
  • Hosted the conference, “Asian American Ministry: Past, Present, and Future” as well as the symposium, “Reimagining Ministry to the Next Generation” with Dr. James Choung.
  • Secured grant funding for and launched the Reconciliation Initiative.
  • Hired 10 faculty of color.
  • Completed a lengthy “opportunity hire” process and funded a new faculty position through that work.
  • Diversified Board of Trustees (currently one-third ethnically diverse).
  • Commissioned a task force to consider and identify unique challenges faced by staff of color on our campus.
  • Hosted international scholars to discuss the theme of reconciliation at the “For Such a Time as This” conference
  • Regularly hosted Dr. John Perkins for an annual lecture on issues of reconciliation and community development.
  • Focused the 2015 faculty retreat on the theme of racial reconciliation.
  • Selected reconciliation as the theme for the 2016 Winter Quarter Chapel series.
  • Adopted the Cultural Understanding and Engagement curricular requirement. This significant addition to our undergraduate curriculum is the direct result of student action. Several years ago, approximately 500 students signed a petition to support the addition of such a curricular requirement. This request was met with broad support from both the faculty and the administration and, after winding its way through our faculty governance processes, this requirement will “go live” in 2016–17.
  • The 2015–16 academic year has been one of learning and growth for our community as we have listened and discussed our campus climate and experiences related to racial diversity, equity, and inclusion in both open forums and small-group settings. Based on these conversations and the resulting insights, the campus is currently working through action steps focused on developing and nurturing a campus environment where everyone is safe, respected, and valued.
Students Smiling Outdoors


The VPDEI will preferably possess:

Professional Characteristics

  • Professional work experience in higher education.
  • PhD or other terminal degree from an accredited institution.
  • The ability to express the reconciliation mandate/philosophy in Christian/theological terms.
  • A thorough understanding of contemporary racial diversity, equity, inclusion, multiculturalism, and social justice concepts and issues, especially as they relate to application and attainment of educational excellence within the higher education context.
  • Possess a results-oriented focus on ensuring that the shared agenda of racial diversity fulfills the University’s mission and achieves academic excellence.
  • A deep and longstanding commitment to engaging, leading, managing, and advancing racial diversity, equity, inclusion, and reconciliation efforts that contribute to a positive and lasting change in culture and climate within a complex organizational setting.
  • An understanding of the culture of higher education, including shared governance.
  • A demonstrated understanding of the elements and dynamics of organizational change. Experience leading or participating in significant organizational change.
  • A drive to pursue best practices supported by the ability to utilize professional research methods in discovery and assessment. Further, an ability to communicate with University personnel and stakeholders about key information for broader personal and professional growth in this area.
  • Demonstrated success in developing educational programming with and for racially diverse audiences.
  • Demonstrated ability to serve as an internal resource and consultant, working collaboratively with multiple stakeholders.

Personal Characteristics

  • Display a personal commitment to Christ and a life of faith, including a commitment to SPU’s Christian mission and vision for engaging the culture and changing the world.
  • Demonstrate cultural awareness and flexibility, be comfortable building relationships of trust with the various communities and constituencies that comprise the University, and be astute at navigating a complex landscape.
  • Exhibit excellent interpersonal and communications skills and the ability to inspire and influence others.
  • Be an innovative and strategic thinker with a broad vision for achieving institutional excellence within the realm of racial diversity.
  • Possess well-developed problem and conflict resolution skills and be adept at finding win-win solutions to difficult problems, building consensus and support, and reconciling competing interests.
  • Have a passion for creating a racially diverse and inclusive university and be willing to challenge and engage in weaving a web of support for all constituents.
  • Model creativity, resourcefulness, resiliency, trustworthiness, active listening, and a sense of humor. 

Search Process

Nominations and questions can be sent in confidence to Applications should be submitted online no later than October 1, 2016 in order to assure full consideration by the Search Committee.  The Search Committee will begin a comprehensive review of applications at the start of SPU’s 2016–17 academic year. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.