Diversity Initiatives Transform Hearts and Minds

by Evan R. Cain

As division, strife, and injustice become increasingly evident on college campuses and throughout our nation, Christians are called to a different standard. Azusa Pacific University implements programs and provides resources promoting access, opportunity, and equity in all aspects of university life. A leader in this effort, APU’s Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence (CDEIE) trains staff and faculty to pursue cultural proficiency through diversity-sensitive student engagement, research, and professional development. The center’s purpose aligns with APU’s 2017-18 university passage, Micah 6:8, which impels the APU community to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

The Diversity Ambassadors Program, developed and facilitated by the CDEIE, educates campus staff and faculty on key issues such as perspective, bias, and microaggressions, creating open conversations and rich learning opportunities. Participants become diversity ambassadors by completing customized programs addressing the unique needs of schools, colleges, and departments. By engaging the APU community through their unique roles, program graduates change the campus from within as voices for mutual respect and reconciliation.

“Our mission is to transform hearts and minds through faith, education, and justice,” said Richard S. Martinez, Ed.D., executive director of the CDEIE. “Without collaboration and intentional connections, an institution cannot effectively foster a space for life-changing conversations.”

The growth in participation in CDEIE’s programs and events, including workshops, trainings, and luncheons, demonstrates the cultivation of these kinds of relationships. By December 2017, the CDEIE estimates a total of 160 diversity ambassadors, with 40 candidates already registered for spring. Attendance at diversity workshops is increasing as well. The average number of participants more than doubled from 23 during the 2012-13 academic year to 54 in 2016-17. “Enrollment for upcoming workshops such as ‘Strategies for Hiring Diverse Personnel,’ ‘The International Student Experience,’ and ‘Successful Practices for Women Leaders’ reflects a deepening investment in diversity as an institution,” said Susan R. Warren, Ph.D., director of diversity programs in the CDEIE.

The center's message extends beyond APU’s campus. The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, which represents 121 universities and colleges in North America and 60 affiliate institutions in 19 countries, invited the CDEIE to present at its Diversity Conference in 2015 and 2017. The center also presented for the Southern California Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education in 2016, and the National Conference on Race & Ethnicity—the most comprehensive national forum on issues of race and ethnicity in U.S. higher education—in May 2017. Since these presentations, regional institutions of higher education have contacted the center seeking advice in order to kick-start their own diversity programs focusing on staff and faculty.

“We are not only striving to bring like minds in higher education together, but hope to bring the entire APU community together,” said Warren. “God is calling APU’s campus toward deep transformation informed by the principles of justice, kindness, and humility. We strive to honor that call.”

Evan R. Cain '18 is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. He is a biblical studies and humanities major in the Honors College.