Dear Vanguard Community,
A century ago, Southern California Bible School was founded with a single purpose: to prepare women and men in heart and mind for church leadership and international evangelism. For 100 years, Vanguard University has been committed and engaged in the work of reconciling fallen human persons from all nations, ethnicities and races to God and to one another. I am especially proud of the work that has taken place in the last 10 years as we have become a minority-majority university, recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and acknowledged by our peers to be a premier Minority Serving Institution that has invested heavily in student success infrastructure and in culturally competent teaching strategies through our Institute for Faculty Development. And we are as committed as ever to learning and growing into all the Lord has called us to be.
Over the past two weeks, I have met with Black students—including many who are part of our Black Student Union—alumni, and campus leaders, to listen to their experiences, hear their recommendations, and process input and feedback on action steps to further demonstrate the biblical vision for racial justice and reconciliation in our life together. In addition to listening sessions and dialogue, much time has been spent reviewing university policies and programs to inform our action framework. During this process, a number of themes emerged that will be the framework of our plans going forward. These themes include: recognition, curriculum, institutional learning, professional development, employment practices, student success, and spiritual formation.
What you read below is not intended to be an exhaustive list. In some cases, it represents a new initiative. In others, it is a fuller or deeper expression of work already underway, and the category framework maximizes creativity and flexibility in addressing opportunities and challenges as they arise. In all cases, we certainly will not get this right all the time—but together we will embrace the work with unwavering faith in the call and grace of God and good faith in our common task.
- Recognition. Above all, recognition means that we will not turn away from what is painful or problematic. Pathways for expressing concern and grievance will be clarified. Recognition also includes celebration. Graduates will now have the option to wear cultural and ethnic stoles at Commencement ceremonies.
- Curriculum. Our academic leadership is currently developing a Comprehensive Academic Plan to inform the University’s programs and offerings. The important themes of racial justice, equity and peacemaking will be woven into the fabric of this Academic Plan. In addition, beginning this upcoming fall semester, all incoming freshman students will go through training and discussion on racial justice through the “Community Cultural Wealth” paradigm in the required Cornerstone course.
- Institutional Learning. As educators, we understand the power of learning together. With the input of our diversity leaders, I will choose a book on racial justice for our faculty, staff, administration and the Board of Trustees to read. Book discussion and topics will then be a part of Trustee meetings, faculty gatherings, student life meetings, Cabinet meetings, and full community meetings with faculty and staff. We will also prioritize Courageous Conversations on racial justice, equity and peacemaking for all University employees and students.
- Professional Development. The University will fund and prioritize the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) assessment to increase cultural competence and understanding across University departments. In addition, the Institute for Faculty Development will continue training in culturally responsive teaching as we prepare for the upcoming fall semester.
- Employment Practices. It is important that students see themselves represented across every level of the University: faculty, staff and administration. We have made progress in this area and remain committed to this end; making hiring decisions from qualified and diverse candidate pools.
- Student Success. I am proud of the highly effective academic support and student development services that Vanguard University provides. As a new initiative, beginning this fall semester, Dr. Terrelle Sales, assistant professor of Graduate Education, will launch a mentorship program for Black men on campus. Similar programs will follow with a view to ensuring that every Vanguard student can navigate the complexities of college and life with support and confidence.
- Spiritual Formation. As we continue to develop the formatting of our chapel experiences in the fall, we are preparing to lean into discipleship and small groups in the context of COVID-19 precautions. The Spiritual Formation Department will offer the racial bridge building “Be the Bridge” curriculum by Latasha Morrison to small groups.
Every university has a responsibility to its community of students, faculty, staff and alumni to excoriate prejudice and discrimination and champion racial justice, equity and peacemaking on its campus. How much more so at a Christ-centered university seeking to embody the core values of the Pentecostal tradition! For us, this is a Kingdom mandate of Scripture; grounded in the Two Greatest Commandments and carrying us inexorably toward the day we all stand together before the Lamb—every nation, tribe, people, and language. This is our call. We will act, and we will lead.
Grace and peace,
Dr. Mike Beals