Diversity — it’s a powerful word. While this concept may be defined differently by people, diversity in higher education has the potential to transform a generation, bringing together a wealth of culturally relevant and historically significant backgrounds for a greater purpose. For many of us, we can get stuck viewing the world from our own perspective, and we can lose sight of the extraordinary ideas that others who are culturally different than ourselves can bring to a discussion. Creating a campus that is rich in diversity matters for many reasons, but two are particularly relevant for Christian higher education. Cultural diversity not only reflects the creativity of God, it also represents a holistic perspective of creation.
Reflection of God’s Creativity
All humans are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), and every person uniquely reflects the creativity of God. Because multicultural diversity reflects the creativity of God, people from various cultural backgrounds can work together to infuse unique and fresh perspectives on a problem. When I lived and worked in China, I led a multicultural education team that developed curriculum for higher education. Our team was composed of educators from a variety of cultural backgrounds such as Han Chinese, Singaporean Chinese, Bai (one of China’s minority groups), Canadian, and American. As we worked together, we quickly learned that diverse perspectives can draw out the best in others. Thinking about a problem from a different perspective can often spark innovative ideas.
Holistic View of Creation
Cultural diversity not only highlights the value of differing perspectives, it also reflects a holistic picture of God’s creation. The picture of heaven includes people from every people and language (Rev. 7:9), yet this ethnolinguistically diverse group comes together for the purpose of worshipping God. The picture highlights how this kind of ethnolinguistic diversity can bring glory to God. I may not fully understand this picture, but I recognize how challenging bringing diverse voices together for one purpose can be.
As we learn more about the value of cultural diversity, particularly on a college campus, I encourage us to engage in the discussion with the following three principles in mind:
One of the most powerful expressions of communication is listening, especially to those who disagree with us. Sometimes, we can become so wrapped up in expressing our own opinions that we forget to listen intentionally to those around us. Active listening requires thoughtful engagement with the person speaking. It means waiting for someone to finish expressing their thoughts instead of having a response ready to fire back.
We will probably not agree with everyone on the issue of diversity, but we can at the very least, respect people who may disagree with us. If we believe that all people are made in the image of God, we recognize that people, no matter what their opinions, are created by God and worthy of respect and dignity. Despite disagreements, we can agree to respect others through thoughtful engagement.
Despite disagreements with others, particularly on the topic of diversity, we can look for ways to affirm people, especially those with whom we disagree. In campus discussions on diversity, I have appreciated listening to students who have shared their own personal experiences with the issue of diversity. As I listen to these students, I have gained a greater appreciation for the value of their stories in shaping the narrative on diversity on college campuses.
As we learn, work, and serve with people of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, we can all gain an appreciation for the value of cultural diversity, particularly in Christian higher education.Are you looking for a college where you can grow both academically and spiritually? The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor seeks to develop graduates who integrate Christian perspectives and attitudes into every dimension of life. For more information, we invite you to visit our website.