Diversity: From where we have come to where we are going

In response to last year’s student-led Activate movement, which demanded the university’s support in creating racial awareness and consciousness for students of color, APU has made changes in efforts to better equip students with platforms to discuss diversity.

“I think our experience last year was ‘Activate—that group helped us learn a lot about activism and leadership around activism,’ and we thought, ‘The Mosaic Caucaus would be a good way to capture the momentum of Activate, but at the same time include a broader student perspective within the ethnic groups,'” said Chair and Assistant Professor of the Department of Leadership and Organizational Psychology Edgar Barron.

In June of this year, Barron joined the School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences as the chair of the Department of Leadership and Organizational Psychology.

“It’s such an exciting opportunity because leadership and organizational dynamics have been a passion of mine for years,” Barron said.

Prior to his promotion, Barron held a five-year position in what was then the Multi-Ethnics Programs Office and is now the Student Center for Reconciliation and Diversity (SCRD). Under Barron’s leadership, the SCRD sought to expand its outreach in order to address primary issues that students of color have faced as the population of traditionally underrepresented people at APU increases.

“Aaron Hinojosa, the director under my leadership, is now acting executive director and he is so amazingly suited and gifted for this position because of his understanding of student development, his passion for equity and for justice,” Barron said.

Hinojosa describes his new position as being different, in some respects.

“I have a lot more meetings to go to, which are good,” Hinojosa said. “The executive position is more visioning, there are more meetings and more collaborating, whereas the director position [was] kind of taking all those things and putting the wheels on it to make the programs run and do different things. Directing the office from a programming standpoint to all the services we do in the office, the executive role oversees all of that, but then is part of more of the campus.”

Prior to the creation of Dr. Kimberly Denu’s new position as the vice president and chief diversity officer, the SCRD reported directly to Dr. Terry Franson in Student Life.

“Reporting to Dr. Denu elevates our office in the sense that we have a direct line to the President and administration on diversity matters,” Hinojosa said. “I’m happy that we have this direct link and I think it’s going to be great for the office.”

The SCRD, Center for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence and Chief Diversity Officer Denu work together to oversee all campus issues regarding diversity.

“There is no change in what we are doing for students,” Hinojosa said. “Our primary charge is to uphold the greater mission of God-honoring diversity in how we implement that for students.”

A major result of this mindset is the Mosaic Caucus, which was conceptualized a few years ago by Barron and Hinojosa to serve as a method of communication and address diversity issues on a broader scale than before.

Held a few times a semester, the Mosaic Caucus is designed for the leaders of ethnic organizations on campus— Asian Pacific American Student Association (APASO), Black Student Association (BSA), Latin American Student Association (LASA) and Pacific Islander Organization (PIO), as well as leaders from the Student Government Association (SGA)—to have a direct conversation with the university president and the administration about the climate of APU in regards to diversity.

“I always had a desire to create opportunities for the leaders of those organizations to come together and talk about common challenges, lessons learned and best practices,” Barron said. “I was excited to find out that the initial meeting of the Mosaic Caucus took place last month at our acting president’s house, Dr. David Bixby. It raises the level of responsibility, I think, for a student group that now has to consider not only the needs and concerns of a part of the group they represent, but really be intentional and assessing the overall institutional needs around the groups they represent. [These leaders need to be] able to exchange ideas with other ethnic organizations and come up with solutions that benefit the whole.”

The offices hope that conversations with faculty and students in the Mosaic Caucus will lead to change on campus.