Gordon's Commitment to Racial Harmony Wins Award
(originally published in Spring 2005 Stillpoint, the magazine of Gordon College)
In 2001 Gordon's long-range strategic plan made as part of its expanded vision a greater commitment to racial and ethnic diversity. In recognition of the progress the College has made toward that goal, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) awarded its prestigious 2005 Racial Harmony Award to Gordon.
"Our members are increasingly committed to diversity, and the quality of entrants for this year's award reflects the progress we're making," says Richard Gathro, CCCU's executive vice president. The award was established in 2000 specifically to recognize the member organization with the most productive practices in the areas of ethnic and racial diversity.
Gordon's President R. Judson Carlberg says, "The growing Christian Church is drawing its numerical strength from Africa, Asia and South America. As this phenomenon continues, North American Christianity will be shaped by a different Christian worship heritage and a wider spectrum of the world's needs. We have much work to do, but we are pleased at the way students from other Christian cultural and worship traditions are making the College even more vibrant. Emphasizing diversity is critical as Gordon thinks and acts more globally."
Recruiting promising faculty and administrators of color has been a top priority of the College. Today the percentage of faculty who are people of color is 12 percent of the full-time faculty and administration. The number of minority students enrolled full-time has also increased significantly.
An additional and critical achievement was improving the diversity on the College's Board of Trustees with the recent appointments of Rev. Dr. Roberto Miranda, senior pastor at Congregación León de Judá in Boston, and the founder and current president of the Fellowship of Hispanic Pastors of New England; and Rev. Dr. Gregory G. Groover III, pastor of the Historic Charles Street Church A.M.E. in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and chairman of the Education Committee of the Black Ministerial Committee.
"We're changing the profile of our student body and our leadership, and God has blessed us with the guidance and means to offer innovative programs to open new horizons for our students," says Dr. Herma Williams, Gordon's associate provost and a leader in its diversity initiatives. "This allows the students to use their gifts in bold new ways and helps us show them where to aim to fulfill their potential and find their calling. It's exciting for everyone who touches these programs to see how we can help transform the world."
Bringing Inner-City Scholars to Gordon College
The innovative programs Gordon has piloted promote diversity on campus as well as involve students directly in inner-city settings. The New City Scholars program offers full scholarships to 10 students each year from Boston and surrounding urban settings to attend Gordon, and provides support systems to encourage their success. With the program now in its second year, only one student has left the program; he was, however, influenced to continue his education at another institution.
The Scholars are identified through relationships the College has built with Boston-based organizations such as Emmanuel Gospel Center's Boston Education Collaborative. Through mentoring relationships, training and peer support, the students are helped to make the transition to college and given leadership experience to help ensure their success.
"The New City Scholars bring much more to the Gordon campus than increased numbers of students of color," says Williams. "As they embody the essential elements of racial harmony-diverse perspectives, experiences, cultures and God-given talents-they bring their personal desires to foster racial understanding and unity."
Williams also believes a key contribution of the program is that the New City Scholars challenge members of Gordon College to develop open minds as they live in community and prepare for positions of leadership and service. Although it may seem antithetical to the idea of racial harmony to emphasize our differences, to achieve true racial harmony, people of differing races must struggle together through the complexities of life.
Taking Gordon Students to the Cities
An off-campus program for involving students in diverse environments is Gordon in Lynn. This outreach integrates students into service organizations supporting the extensive number of foreign-born residents-including those of Cambodia, Greece, Haiti, Russia, Sudan, Poland and Brazil-in the city of Lynn, Massachusetts, where 66 percent of the public school children are not Caucasian and many residents are economically disadvantaged.
The program integrates Gordon students with existing programs run by capable residents of the city who are addressing their own community's needs, including the Lynn Housing Authority, the Educational Opportunity Center, Girl Scouts and Lynn Economic Opportunity. This initiative has also integrated many departments from Gordon's campus. The Spanish Department now partners with a bilingual middle school program, and many Gordon students are tutors for urban youth. The Psychology Department sponsored "Igniting the Mind," a series of workshops to excite Lynn youth with interest in science studies.
Gordon in Boston
A curricular innovation, Gordon in Boston launched in 2001. Students live together at the Salvation Army's Jubilee House in Dorchester, one of Boston's poorest and most diverse communities. The program examines the city from four perspectives: social science, history, the arts and theology. Gordon in Boston faculty and staff are an ethnically diverse team attempting to model racial reconciliation through their lives. In the program's short history, Gordon in Boston students have volunteered more than 5,000 hours and have served more than 2,000 people throughout inner-city neighborhoods. Applications for the 2004-05 academic year exceeded all projections.
East-West Institute Brings Asian Perspective
In 1995 Gordon's East-West Institute of International Studies began establishing programs to help Gordon enhance its contributions to the world community by creating greater cross-cultural and international understanding. The Institute, an independently funded program, functions within the governance and policy structures of the College.
Through the Institute Gordon students have the opportunity to learn more about Asia and its cultures from visiting professors, symposia and study in Asia.
Gordon students also embrace opportunities for studying off-campus outside the United States, including in China, Costa Rica, Egypt, Italy, France, England, Russia and Uganda. Opportunities range from highly academic settings for independent study and writing such as that of the Gordon in Oxford program, to an arts-oriented course of study in Italian Renaissance cultural history, the Italian language, and the study of studio, history and theory of the visual arts in Orvieto, Italy.
Racial Harmony—A Campus-Wide Concern
All students are given educational opportunities ranging from campus-wide programs addressing issues of diversity to a first-year seminar program that incorporates texts devoted to issues of racial and cultural understanding. One example of an on-campus opportunity is Gedney House, an intentional, multicultural residence hall whose members take the lead in forming a healthy community of diverse individuals within the Body of Christ. One of their programs includes cross-cultural small groups who study a work or text addressing racial or class reconciliation.
"We're proud of the award Gordon received for efforts to promote cultural understanding," says President Carlberg. "But this is one marker on a journey. We have not arrived at our destination. We also know that continued progress will only be possible because generous donors have a special interest in preparing Gordon students to be leaders in global Christianity. It is our prayer that these programs are only the beginning of much greater achievements ahead."