SEU’s Multicultural Department
SEU has taken many positive steps in recent years to further the diverse culture on our campus. This year a new department has been established to continue that momentum. The Department of Multicultural Affairs will ensure that diversity is continuing to be embedded throughout SEU, and that these conversations continue with everyone in our community.
“We value all of our students and believe that it is essential that they are heard,” said Ray Allen, Director of Student Conduct, who also heads up this new department. “We are committed to celebrating the different backgrounds of those in our community, while being unified around the message of the Gospel.”
Allen has a vision to continue to develop a culture of educational, cultural and social programs. Through promoting dialogue, awareness, advocacy and respect for diversity, his aim is to help students understand and appreciate a multitude of perspectives and people.
“When a student comes to college, they’re in a new environment, and that can be uncomfortable,” Allen explains. “But through that transition they also learn that there’s a greater world to explore, more ways of thought, and more types of people than they may have known before. Over time, they become comfortable embracing people of all cultures and backgrounds.”
Places and Spaces
The goal of the Department of Multicultural Affairs is to raise the level of awareness of how different cultural perspectives impact our society. Allen and his team, which includes the student group Diversity & Inclusion, work to ensure that there are times and spaces where conversations can happen, voices can be heard and actions can be planned. “We have a responsibility to share in conversations with people who may have a new perspective,” Allen explains. “It’s so important and beneficial to everyone involved.”
Some of the topics that have been discussed include women’s rights; women in leadership; athletics and the National Anthem; the representation of multiple cultures in worship; DACA and immigration; gender issues; disabilities and much more. These topics are discussed in a healthy, respectful way and within a Christian context.
It’s not only students who share in this desire for wider perspectives and conversations. The faculty diversity committee, which originated in our provost’s office, participates in these on-campus discussions and also attends diversity conferences. These faculty members are also working to ensure that the perspectives and curriculum that are being presented at SEU are coming from diverse backgrounds, and ensuring that they have the resources to effectively address the topics that students feel need to be discussed in the classroom.
Bringing the Community Together
While Allen’s team remains responsive to current events and is prepared to provide resources and conversations for situations as they arise, many events from Allen’s team are planned in advance such as a monthly “table talk” in our on-campus restaurant, Tuscana, where students can meet, share and listen.
In February, activities were held in honor of Black History Month. These included the Black Men’s Awards (BMAs) and Hues of Beauty.
The BMAs honored African American men of the SEU community (students and faculty/staff) who excel in areas such as academics, innovation, music, leadership and charitable giving. Students nominated and voted on the winners. “National statistics show that African American men have the lowest retention rate in higher education,” Allen shared. “One of the goals of the BMAs is to encourage these men and keep them engaged in our campus community.”
Hues of Beauty, which is now in its second year, is a series of events that celebrate women of all races & ethnicities. The event welcomes inspiring speakers from SEU and the Lakeland community. The February event was held with a focus on Black History month; future events will celebrate topics such as Hispanic heritage, women’s history and more.
To continue to raise the level of education & awareness on campus, this month the department hosted a series of roundtable discussions called A Seat at the Table, which were opportunities for students to be made aware that cultural conversations are happening and encourage their involvement in them. Student ambassadors also made in-class presentations.
Allen also collaborates with the International Student Services & Enrollment department (ISSE) to discover the needs of international students and to be mindful of those needs. The multicultural team works alongside ISSE to showcase the value these students bring, and help them feel at home while they are here in the U.S.
Allen says that the overall goal is to continue to move to a place where we are taking full advantage of the perspectives and knowledge that are available at SEU through strategic and ongoing conversations.
“Diversity is a very fluid and ongoing conversation, and that’s the whole point,” he said. “We want our students to graduate with the knowledge of topics that are relevant in today’s society, and ultimately, shine Christ’s light wherever they go.”