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Autumn 2004 | Volume 27, Number 4 | Features

One Body, Many Parts

SPU Welcomes Multicultural Student Leaders

WHEN JOE SNELL TOOK A JOB AT SEATTLE Pacific University in the fall of 2001, he saw a much different SPU than he knows today. “There weren’t many programs available that were addressing issues of reconciliation on campus,” he recalls. “I was very aware of the lack of institutional support services for ethnic minority students.”

Student leaders from 29 different Christian colleges and universities gathered in First Free Methodist Church to kick off NCMSLC 2004.


But change was in the air. “You could feel it,” says the assistant director of student programs and director of intercultural affairs.

Three years later, one visible symbol of change was the National Christian Multicultural Student Leaders Conference (NCMSLC) held at Seattle Pacific this fall. In November, SPU welcomed to campus more than 400 multicultural student leaders, faculty, and staff from Christian universities across the country and beyond. Their mission was to explore the culturally diverse Christian campus of the 21st century.

“It’s easy to form a mental picture of reconciliation, but sometimes it’s hard for people to know what it really looks like,” says Snell. “This conference gave us a vision of what the Kingdom of God is like. It also gave us a vision of what this campus could become.”

A year before Snell arrived on campus, Seattle Pacific President Philip Eaton announced his commitment to a universitywide diversity initiative. A short while later, Seattleites Gary and Barbara Ames helped to establish the Ames Scholarships for ethnically diverse students. As the momentum built, a group of students came to Snell, a brand-new employee, and expressed an interest in creating a more hospitable campus environment for minority students.

That quarter, he helped them form the ASSP President’s Action Committee on Diversity. Among the group’s first decisions was to attend NCMSLC, one of the fastest-growing conferences of its kind in the nation. Together, they made trips to Calvin College in 2001, Bethel College in 2002, and Gordon College in 2003 for NCMSLC. “We came back with amazing ideas,” says Bri Clark, the 2003–2004 ASSP president.

Many of those ideas are now reality, thanks to student initiative. For instance, they helped launch the Mosaic cadre for students who want to explore the topic of reconciliation; the Bridges Floors in Emerson Residence Hall, where students live in intentional cross-cultural community; and the new 75-member SPU Gospel Choir.

It was no wonder, then, that SPU students leaped at the chance to host the 2004 NCMSLC. “We want this conference,” several students said to Snell. They took their message directly to Eaton, who quickly said, “Yes! SPU must be a leader in this area.”

The theme of the November 11–14 conference at Seattle Pacific was “One Body, Many Parts.” “The church body is composed of many diverse parts,” explains Snell. “It’s important for us to remind ourselves of the rich diversity of the Kingdom of God, but instead we continue to live in isolated havens, on campus and in our communities. It’s time to change that. As a church, we’re called to build bridges and come together.”

Mike Kitson, this year’s student body president, says that hosting NCMSLC was an important milestone for SPU. “I feel like diversity and reconciliation aren’t just buzzwords anymore,” he explains. “The conference helped put these ideas in the forefront of students’ minds.”

And tomorrow’s SPU? Snell smiles. “We’ve come a long way already,” he says. “Though it’s sometimes challenging, I know we’ll continue down the road toward reconciliation — together.”


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