Diversity Ambassadors Transform Campus from Within
Among the Northern Natal tribes of South Africa, people greet one another with “Sawabona!” It means “I see you” and expresses well the aim of Azusa Pacific’s Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence to foster an environment that respects and honors each individual’s uniqueness while celebrating collective commonalities. The center creates space for authentic engagement and enriches the cultural proficiency of faculty, staff, and students to ensure that every member of the APU community is respected, successful, and thrives.
As part of this endeavor, the center created a Diversity Ambassadors Program that empowers and educates faculty and staff on diversity-related issues so that program participants can use this knowledge to spark change by fostering cultural awareness within their own areas of the university. Ambassadors design curriculum, facilitate community engagement, implement action plans, bolster professional development, collaborate with experts, incorporate service-learning in classrooms, and develop support networks for faculty and staff from culturally diverse backgrounds. Certain ambassadors also serve as speakers at the center’s diversity workshops and develop projects which impact the entire university.
Ambassadors operate by transforming the campus from within. “Most schools have a diversity center or office with limited staff and resources,” said Susan R. Warren, Ph.D., director of diversity programs. “It takes a network and a unified effort to see the needs of a community and advance effective training.” The Ambassadors Program marks the first time APU has partnered with faculty and staff to expand awareness and promote inclusion. “Through this program, a growing number of like-minded people are learning to have conversations—engaging coworkers, students, and loved ones about diversity and reconciliation,” said Alexander Jun, Ph.D., diversity ambassador and professor in the Department of Higher Education.
From its inception in 2013, the number of ambassadors has grown from 13 to more than 80, and the level of interest is also reflected in a significant increase in attendance at diversity workshops on campus. “It is rewarding to know that faculty members from different disciplines care about promoting diversity in their own areas of expertise,” said Jun. “I am reminded of the C.S. Lewis quote about how friendships are formed when one person says to another, ‘What, you too? I thought I was the only one!'” Cabrina Alviar, MFA, associate art director in the Office of University Relations and adjunct professor in the Department of Art and Design, recently joined the Diversity Ambassadors Program. “It is so beneficial for students, faculty, and staff to know there are ambassadors in their area of the university who can listen to them and address their needs,” she said. “No one can facilitate diversity on their own—you need a team.”
APU’s Diversity Ambassadors Program has captured the interest and attention of other schools and organizations. “Dr. Richard S. Martinez, executive director of the Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence, and I presented on the Diversity Ambassadors Program to the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities last year,” said Warren. “The audience was eager to hear about the program and many contacted us afterward, sharing that they were going to try our model.”
To learn more about the Diversity Ambassadors Program, contact Susan Warren at [email protected]
Posted: December 5, 2016