Dr. April Harris Akinloye has served Vanguard University as Director of Diversity and Inclusion for about a year. The people of VU welcome students from a wide array of cultural backgrounds, and have succeeded.
Now that students of many different ethnicities, socio-economic status, and religious backgrounds are here, how do we move from simply sharing space on campus to the mutual love, respect, and unity that models the love of Christ? April’s task is to help the campus live out this reality.
Since this is the task of the local church as well, we turn to April to ask about insights that guide her in her work. Here are some of her core principles.
- The key is LOVE! If we are living a life that radiates the love of Christ we treat others with respect, we lend a helping hand, or extend a welcoming hug to our community members.
- Showing the love of Christ through hospitality can significantly impact those around us. As we see throughout the Bible, simply inviting someone to sit, eat and talk increases fellowship between neighbors and strangers.
- Unity comes by working together, standing side by side focused on something other than ourselves. Students who work together in teams learn to appreciate each other’s skills and gifts. When we focus on projects that bring people together, and events that provide an opportunity to serve others, relationships tend to naturally blossom without the effort of trying to get to know someone.
- The Bible instructs us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. We never get done teaching active listening skills. I can only love to the extent that I know. I can be challenged to learn better.
- In some cases, some may claim “I don’t know what I don’t know.” It pays to make available workshops or surveys that help us discover biases or offenses in us that we don’t even know we have, or communicate. At VU, a “Diversity Retreat” last year featuring intercultural communication skills and cultural intelligence, proved to be so enlightening several dozen students have already requested a spot in the Retreat this coming year!
For additional conversation with Dr. April Harris, contact her at April.Harris@vanguard.edu