“We embrace diversity in God’s creation. We lament human brokenness. We reconcile with one another. We embody shalom.”
These four core statements in Northwestern’s Vision for Diversity are meant to lead the faculty, staff and students in a diversity initiative. Recently there have been crucial conversations and steps forward regarding NW’s reality when it comes to diversity on campus.
“Scripture is clear that the kingdom of God will include people from every tribe, tongue and nation,” President Greg Christy said. “We long to see Northwestern College look like and more fully represent his coming kingdom.”
Steps have been taken over the years through various positions added on campus. Martha Draayer’s position of Hispanic Community Liaison was created to reach a part of the surrounding community that NW had found it was lacking outreach in. This year, two positions were added on the Diversity Resource Committee (DRC) that did not exist.
Rahn Franklin will become the director of strategic diversity initiatives, leading campus-wide diversity efforts, promoting the thriving of multicultural students and working with students and faculty to develop cultural intelligence. Dr. Valerie Stokes will start as director of academic diversity initiatives that will work to promote diversity initiatives within the academic side of NW, particularly with representation and curriculum. Both positions will come into effect fall 2021.
“Over the past twenty years, I have seen Northwestern make intentional efforts toward inclusive excellence,” Dr. Stokes said. “This work has been incremental over time; so even though at any given point, one might not see the change, it is happening. I have seen it happen.”
Like Stokes, Franklin recognizes the need for these changes on campus.
“This is relational work that touches all of us both personally and professionally but most importantly it is missional toward God’s redemptive work in the world and extending what it really means to stand out,” Franklin said.
The DRC has existed long before either of these positions were instituted. The difference now is that the DRC will be receiving funding. This allows for the Multiethnic Resource Committee to have resources that will make a stronger and lasting impact.
The long-term goals of the committee are to increase recruitment and retention of faculty of color, create improved campus climate survey results and teach and learn that which supports NW’s Vision for Diversity.
Recently, conversations have been held on campus between some students and faculty regarding inclusion. Overall, the meetings were set to discuss the feelings from BIPOC, LGBTQ and other students that have felt that NW was not creating an environment that retains and embraces students who are diverse.
“In having this call to action at NW, we are creating change that can create ripples throughout our community,” freshman Linsy Gonzalez Marcelo said. “Many do not like change, but change is necessary for growth and reparation.”
Students are filled with passion and a drive to create change on campus.
“Some of us are angry. Some of us are hopeless. Some of us are scared. All we want is to come here and learn, make friends, have fun, and do all the things normal students do,” junior Maria Lopes said. “But right now, with things the way they are, we either assimilate to the culture and go quiet or accept that we have to be in a constant battle to defend our existence and justify why we deserve to be respected.”
The group of around ten students have all seen NW fail in various actions or instances regarding inclusion on campus and in the media the college posts.
“The feedback from these meetings will greatly inform the focus for my work,” Franklin said. “Interestingly enough, their feedback has frequently overlapped with the work my position intends to do more of.”
Diversity work on campus will never end, but has been and will continue to be something that NW strives for.