Complete education necessitates cross-cultural competency
If a university is ethnically reflecting the small hometowns students are coming from, are they really providing a full education? Such questions have been raised about the issue of college diversity at the Supreme Court level and at a local level.
North Central University recently launched a program that will work to increase ethnic diversity within the student body. Act Six, a leadership and scholarship initiative, will be joining forces with North Central to bring multicultural students to campus.
Ethnic diversity among students fosters creativity and is essential to providing cultural competency, states Forbes studies. According to the Census Bureau, more than half of children born in the United States are of color. Universities are experiencing the push to reflect those statistics and to teach students how to work in cultures different than their own.
The Act Six partnership is one branch of a bigger diversity initiative at North Central. This fall, a Multicultural and International Affairs program was created and William Green was hired as the director. New advances have also been made in the Asia Pacific Connection program, but no information has been officially released.
Act Six is an urban youth leadership program that recruits, develops and provides scholarships to ethnically diverse students to place them at faith-based institutions. The organization has been working in the Twin Cities at Augsburg College, Bethel University and University of Northwestern. Last year, it awarded 26 multiethnic students full-ride scholarships. This year, North Central has also contracted their assistance in expanding campus diversity.
Act Six functions by recruiting high school students in the Twin Cities region who are committed to excellence and passionate about community development. Recruiters travel to local high schools, advocate the program and endorse their respective universities. Students who express interest, fulfill the Act Six criteria and are accepted go through intensive mentoring and training during their final year of high school. The program inspires students to achive academic excellence and create a mentality geared toward leadership.
After graduation, Act Six sends out students to faith-based institutions. There, ongoing vocational connections and continued mentoring support the students.
Act Six relies heavily on partners who are also involved in community-based programs. Urban Ventures, an urban nonprofit, is the parent organization for Act Six in the Midwest.
With the new partnership, North Central is contractually guaranteed 7-10 new students of color, according to Green, and will also have ability to recruit from a greater pool of 300-400 students within the Act Six program.
Though North Central’s ethnic diversity rate rose one percent this year, the lack of diversity on campus is an issue North Central is committed to overcoming, Green said. With the new Act Six initiative, the institution has set a goal of admitting 70-80 new students of color in the fall of 2016. Green set a personal goal of seeing 100 new ethnically diverse students attend North Central next year.
Green believes developing a diverse community is a way to live out the mission statement of preparing students to fulfill biblical models of leadership and ministry. Coming to a greater sense of different cultures is the primary avenue of awareness and cultural competency, which must be learned before effectively ministering to others, Green said.
Green also believes broadening the ethnic diversity of the school will widen outreach opportunities. “Our message is clear,” Green said. “We are committed to broadening those [community] conversations around the message of Christ,”
Mosaic, North Central’s multicultural student association, is another way the university is striving to establish cultural awareness. Green is confident that by bringing in new students through the Act Six program and strengthening pre-existing programs such as Mosaic, cultural awareness and respect will increase among the student population.
“We should not be isolated,” Green stated. “The only way we can have community is finding what makes us one.” Green refers to this as “common unity,” which he perceives is the only recipe for a healthy community.
North Central has had diversity expansion initiatives before, but Green believes the success of Act Six are in its commitments to community and mentorship—two aspects deeply found in North Central’s DNA.
“This is an exciting opportunity for everyone involved,” Green said. “Our county, our world is challenged by creating a greater sense of democracy, a greater sense of inclusion. This program focuses on how to raise those standards. It’s very intentional. We’re saying that we’re invested and we want to obtain.”
Though the commitment of welcoming and discipling 70 new students is a large task, Green is confident that through advising, relationships, and mentorship, the student body can become broader and more balanced. “This is not my program, it’s ours,” Green said. “We have to work together to fulfill the mission.”