California Baptist University’s Office of Leadership and Transitions convened student leadership Oct. 18 to discuss diversity in an interdepartmental meeting.
The meeting, which covered topics such as racial recognition and belonging, assembled student leaders from Residential Life, the Office of Leadership and Transitions, ASCBU, the International Center and Community Life.
“Students have expressed that they would like to know how to listen and attend to people with different backgrounds than their own,” said Natalie Specht, graduate assistant for the Office of Leadership and Transitions and coordinator of the meeting. “We just wanted to let them know it’s OK to actually talk about these things and to be a learner when approaching that.”
Specht said the interdepartmental meeting was a unifying reminder for leaders as they reach out to students.
“My hope is that these student leaders will be encouraged to step out and have these conversations,” Specht said. “Part of their roles as leaders is to allow people to be known, and that’s what we want to send them out as catalysts to do.”
Dr. Veola Vasquez, associate dean and professor of psychology in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, presented to students how self-awareness is crucial to uniting over differences.
“We need to understand how to deal with the tensions that come up related to race, culture, and diversity, especially today where there are a lot of tensions and we need to approach that from a biblical perspective,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez said she hopes student leaders will become more aware of their thoughts, responses and feelings on diversity and to be open to learning from those differences.
“As role models on campus, we want them to think through the issues and make them personal,” Vasquez said. “We want them to be aware of their own responses to racial tension and diversity, to monitor those responses and then respond appropriately.”
Danica Kinne, senior anthropology and psychology double major and resident advisor, said she thought it was important for leaders to be at the meeting.
“Meeting together provides an opportunity to share experiences as leaders, step into challenging conversations, and come along side each other as we seek out building community at CBU,” Kinnes said.
Before ending, students discussed how to embrace diversity among their peers.
“It’s always good to have a meeting to talk about diversity, but it can’t be the last thing we do,” Vasquez said. “They need to go and learn about each other’s backgrounds and stories, to experience a sense of ‘we-ness.’ That’s how we break down walls. We start the conversation, and the goal is to keep that going.”