Whitworth's commitment to diversity anchored in being Christ-centered
Lorna Hernandez Jarvis, chief diversity officer and associate vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at Whitworth University, is grateful that the commitment and collective efforts of faculty, staff, students and senior leadership mean Whitworth has been recognized in both 2016 and 2018 by the national Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award.
"The university's commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion is so strong because it is anchored on our Christ-centered rationale to seek reconciliation, peace, justice and inclusion," she said.
INSIGHT into Diversity magazine selected Whitworth based on its efforts in recruiting and retaining a diversified population.
Lorna, who has served at Whitworth since July 2017, follows Larry Burnley, who was there for seven years.
"The award recognizes us for our student life programs; for having one of our campus ministry pastors specialize in equity, diversity and inclusion; for faculty and staff professional development, and for professional development for our senior leaders," Lorna said.
She described several programs for multicultural students and under-represented groups:
• The BUCS (Building Unity and Cultivating Success) Bridge Program is a four-day program for first-year students from first-generation and/or underrepresented racial and ethnic populations. Whitworth reaches out to students in its pre-orientation program to enhance community building, multi-cultural identity and college navigation, and then mentors students through the first year.
• Act Six is a leadership and scholarship program that selects and trains students who are leaders in their communities, have good academic standing, come from low-income backgrounds, and are the first in their families to go to college. The program connects local faith-based community affiliates with faith- and social-justice-based colleges to equip urban and community leaders. For 16 years, Whitworth has selected eight students in the region for full, four-year scholarships.
• On campus, cultural-diversity advocates are in every residence hall. Through peer mentoring, they promote dialogue on race, ethnicity and other differences, including engaging different viewpoints.
• Diversity Monologues, coordinated by students, staff and faculty, showcase stories of diverse Whitworth community members.
Not only is the incoming class the largest in number, but also 33 percent are from under-represented populations, Lorna said. That figure does not include the 100 international students from 30 countries.
• The campus minister specializing in equity, diversity and inclusion not only is available to counsel with students, but also assures that there is inclusion of different expressions of Christian worship and different cultures, she added.
• For 24 faculty and staff members each year, the Intergroup Dialogue and Diversity Education program offers a three-day summer workshop that provides "knowledge of cultural issues, intercultural competency training, communication skills and social identity awareness to engage in difficult conversations in productive ways, to lean into conflict and to handle disagreement rather than avoid difficult conversations," Lorna said.
After the workshop, there are monthly meetings through the academic year.
Senior leaders, those on the president's cabinet—which is more than 40 percent women and 25 percent people in underrepresented populations—engage in monthly meetings on intercultural competency development and implement what they learn in their areas of work.
"We define intercultural competency as skills to engage people of different experiences and backgrounds than our own," said Lorna. "Those skills include 1) cognitive skills about how we frame our thinking, 2) affective skills about how we react, and 3) behavioral skills about how we act with dignity, respect and understanding of the experiences of others."
She discussed the role of Whitworth's commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion related to the university being Christ centered.
"Christianity is why we do what we do," she said. "We integrate our Christian faith and identity into our work with diversity."
A document, which was developed two years ago by the dean of spiritual life, in collaboration with members of the faculty, states that the university understands equity, diversity and inclusion to be central to its identity as a Christian institution and to its advocacy for those standards in the university and in the world.
Lorna, who was born in Massachusetts spent her childhood and youth in Mexico. Her mother is American and her father is Mexican. Her mother was raised Jewish in Philadelphia, and her father was raised Catholic. In their late teens, they each met Quakers and became Quaker. They met each other when working on a Quaker social project in Mexico.
Here, Lorna attends the Spokane Friends Church.
Lorna earned a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1988 from the University of Akron and a doctoral degree in cognitive psychology in 1993 from Kent State University.
Her first job was teaching psychology at Hope College in Holland, Mich., where she also did part-time administration work as director of diversity courses and as director of the general education program. She led a team to teach and mentor faculty, especially new faculty, on diversity.
Given her Mexican and American background, and growing up bilingual, Lorna's academic research has been in language development, semantics and bilingualism, which represents her lived and academic experiences.
Her other research has been on acculturation for adolescents, as the second generation of immigrant families, related to their psychological wellbeing as they adapt to the new culture and maintain their ethnic identity.
Lorna first came to Whitworth when her predecessor invited her four years ago to lead a workshop on intercultural dialogue.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, November, 2018