Diversity Conference in DC

by Cynndie Hoff and Heidi Rogers '05

This spring, Azusa Pacific University assembled a diversity training team committed to the advancement of this Christ-centered approach to thinking, being, and doing. The 15 members, representing a cross section of faculty, staff, and students, attended Promoting Leadership in an Evolving Multicultural Landscape, a conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, May 27-June 1.

Sponsored by the National Multicultural Institute (NMCI), the conference equipped university members with pragmatic skills to promote racial and ethnic awareness. Through seminars, workshops, and cultural immersion outings, including a visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, they delved into topics such as cultural patterns, stereotypes, management of diversity, affirmative action, and valuing differences.

During the four-day conference, attendees assembled into groups with others of similar diversity experience, and attended training seminars and workshops together. Topics focused on two main objectives — increased awareness and skill development. Cross-cultural communication was explored on multiple levels in an effort to train trainers to identify prejudices in themselves and others, and effectively apply and impart techniques that foster successful multicultural workplaces.

Friday evening’s program featured Francis Bok, a former Sudanese slave who currently works to free others in bondage. Highlighting statistics about slavery in the world today, Bok emphasized that slavery did not end in 1865 and still exists in the United States. His inspiring testimony illustrated some extreme byproducts of rampant prejudice and the resiliency of the oppressed. For more information on this subject, visit www.iAbolish.com, the American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG).

Jane Elliot, creator of “Blue Eyed,” surprised conference attendees with her arrival on day four. The “Blue Eyed” video series takes viewers through a role-playing exercise in which public employees are divided into blue-eyed and brown-eyed castes. In this experiment, Elliot creates a regime of intimidation against the blue-eyed people and demands that they walk in the shoes of the minorities. Elliot’s videos (www.newsreel.org), which work to fight against discrimination by forcing people to experience it firsthand, are among the most acclaimed and widely used diversity training tools.

In addition to the rich experiences afforded by the conference agenda, specially arranged breakfast speakers brought further insight to the issue. The president of Coalition for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), Bob Andringa, spoke about the relevance of diversity on the national level, and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church of College Park, Maryland, Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., addressed the authenticity of diversity in the Church.

“The full weight of the experience will come with the team’s and the university’s reflection and application, at the personal, organizational, societal, and global levels,” said Maureen Taylor, APU’s director of strategic communication and diversity team member. ”The team felt blessed to be part of an organization that refrains from providing token lip service to a politically correct effort and instead embraces God’s call to love one another.”

“The campus community can expect transformation as they examine the diversity of the Kingdom of God and meaning of equity within Christianity” said Pamela M. Christian, Ph.D., special assistant for university diversity. “As we explore diversity within the context of Christian higher education, it is our sincere hope that the hearts as well as the intellect, and ultimately, the behaviors, of our community of disciples and scholars are informed, challenged, encouraged, and changed for the better.”

Team members met again June 16-18 and August 15 and 18 to develop the diversity training curriculum for APU, which will begin fall 2003.