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AfterWord: Whitworth alumni in their own words

Whitworth University: A Community of Courage Committed to Diversity
by L. Denice Randle, '07

It doesn't take a genius to recognize that the demographics of our nation are shifting. According to the 2010 Census, the United States is becoming more diverse as Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian and Hispanic populations steadily rise. Consequently, the White population is projected to decrease from 72 percent to less than 53 percent by the year 2050. This information suggests that my children and grandchildren will live in a far more diverse America than the America we know today.

In spite of our nation's progression in diverse populations, you might be surprised to find that the contemporary definition of "community" is a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locale, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage. Unfortunately, there are universities across the nation whose campuses too literally reflect this archaic definition of community.

For whatever reasons, these universities seek out and recruit students, faculty and staff who are similar in appearance, socioeconomic background, cultural heritage and political perspectives. Outside of a small group of international students and the occasional urban superstars, these campuses lack diversity in all meanings of the word. Who can blame them for being wary of keeping up with the changing times? Isn't it easier to live in a community where individuals look, act and think the same? Face it: In a diversity-free community, there would rarely be any debates, any worries, or any problems.

The truth, however, is that these communities are extremely dangerous for their inhabitants. For where there is a lack of diversity, there is also a lack of potential for spiritual, mental and social growth.

As an institution, Whitworth has made great strides in building a community that reflects the changing demographics of our nation. Whitworth has implemented programs such as the Act Six Leadership & Scholarship Initiative; trained student Cultural Diversity Advocates; has hired outstanding professors of color; has engaged in challenging dialogue in its classrooms; has invited visiting professors to campus from across the nation; supported students from a variety of religious faiths; and has traveled with students around the world, all the while integrating faith-learning as a complementary rather than a competing value to inclusion and diversity.

Yes, there have been tears, misunderstandings and challenging conversations, both in and out of the classroom. But -- more important -- Whitworth's community members have grown in their faith, sharpened their grace, and learned the power of forgiveness. We would be foolish to expect there would never be adversity when one lives in a community that reflects diversity. As long as we are growing and recruiting more and more students who represent the true demographics of our nation, there will be differences of opinion. It is vital to remember that as we pursue an education of mind and heart, we must also learn, evaluate and consider the differences of opinion presented by those who make our communities diverse. It takes a community of courage to make this goal a reality.

Because Whitworth acts courageously when faced with challenges, develops the resources to empower all individuals, and yearns for the spiritual, mental and educational growth that diversity provides, the university is embracing God's standard of community. In the years to come, Whitworth will continue to operate at its mission-focused best when it embraces open intellectual inquiry from a variety of perspectives, and is inspired by, seeks out and invites those from historically underrepresented communities into our community. We do not invite these students, faculty and staff because it is a popular multicultural trend or the up-and-coming fad in higher education. We take on the challenge because it is a God-appointed calling that empowers the members of our community.

By collaborating with those underrepresented in higher education, we will have an impact upon the members of the Whitworth community, the residents of Spokane, the population of Washington State, the nation, and the world at large. Our graduates will take the lessons they learned at Whitworth and go to the ends of the earth as agents of change, and they will serve as witnesses to the audacity and wisdom that diversity brings to a community of courage.

L. Denice Randle graduated from Whitworth in 2007 with a B.A. in English/language arts. She earned a master's degree in education and movement studies from Pacific Lutheran University in 2008. She is an academic instructor and program coordinator for the TRIO College Bound Program for grades 10- 12 at Henry Foss High School, in Tacoma. Her "AfterWord" essay was adapted from a presentation she gave at the banquet following the inauguration ceremony for Whitworth President Beck Taylor, on Oct. 15, 2010.

 

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