APU Leadership Conveys a Commitment to Diversity

This article was originally published on apu.edu.

This summer, all 22 members of Azusa Pacific University’s President's Council and Administrative Cabinet are participating in the Executive Diversity Ambassador Seminar Series (EDA), led by the Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence (CDEIE). Cabinet members, including President Jon R. Wallace, DBA, are learning how to best serve all students and faculty at APU.

The training is spearheaded by the directors of the CDEIE, Richard S. Martinez, Ed.D, executive director, and Susan R. Warren, Ph.D., director of diversity programs. "There is a growing excitement among APU faculty and staff surrounding our diversity initiatives," said Warren. "Now, this commitment from our upper administration adds momentum and support for our campus diversity efforts."

Martinez said that APU is a pioneer in offering training to university leadership and serves as an example for other universities. “The EDA provides strong support to the APU Strategic Priority #4––cultivate a Christ-centered inclusive institutional culture, which intentionally values people, diversity, and mutual understanding in community,” Martinez said.

"Richard and I began our careers as K-12 educators. It made a significant difference when principals would go through training alongside their faculty," Warren said. "When leadership rolls up their sleeves and comes alongside faculty and staff, it sends a powerful message."

The diversity training began in April and continues through August. Top administrators will meet four times for group training sessions. They will also read two books written and edited by APU faculty: White Out: Understanding White Privilege and Dominance in the Modern Age by associate professor Chris Collins, Ph.D., and associate professor Alexander Jun, Ph.D., and Diversity Matters: Race, Ethnicity, & the Future of Christian Higher Education edited by Karen Longman, Ph.D., director of the Ph.D. program in the Department of Higher Education, and articles by APU faculty.

These cabinet members join 212 faculty and staff as part of the Diversity Ambassador Program. The program provides extensive training on topics including cultural proficiency and diversity awareness. Participants create action plans alongside of their leaders, in order to promote inclusive excellence across campus. The program added more than 50 faculty and staff in each of the past two semesters, doubling the total number of ambassadors since its inception in 2014.

The Diversity Ambassadors Program was designed to meet the changing needs of the student population at APU. In 2010, the student population was 31 percent students of color, but in 2017 that group represented 53 percent of the student body. “It’s important for APU leadership to go through diversity training because we espouse God honoring diversity as one of our core values,” said Diversity Ambassador Chris Olson, Ed.D., the executive director of institutional research. “Diversity training can increase cultural competence by moving diversity from a mere talking point to an internalized value.” Olson said that he learned a lot about bias that was ingrained in his mindset, but through the training, he is working on improving his cultural competence. “One of my biggest epiphanies during the Diversity Ambassador training was finally beginning to understand what implicit bias was and what it looked like in my life. This has opened my eyes to how much more work lies ahead of me,” Olson said. “However, I believe that with intentional effort I can continue moving along the cultural proficiency continuum.”

Kenberly Ferguson ’18, served as president of the Black Student Association for the 2017-18 school year. She stressed that diversity training benefits the entire APU community.“Diversity training can enhance the cultural competence of administrators, increase their knowledge of other cultures, and inform their approach when interacting with students around campus and inside the classroom,” Ferguson said.