If there is certainty, said Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Sandra Mayo, there is a loss of a reliance in God.
Because of this, Mayo does not want a sense of certainty. But this does not mean people should be paralyzed, unable to move forward confronting issues of race and diversity.
Let us contend with our history, with our calling, with our brokenness. Let us contend with the things we don’t understand, with the things we rather not understand,” Mayo said. “Those are the very things that require our reliance on God.”
As the new, and first ever, VPDEI, Mayo describes the diversity journey, in many ways, is patterned after the spiritual process of salvation. It is an invitation to salvation that necessitates that people address various areas of sin and woundedness that would keep them separated from God.
To Mayo, diversity is transformative and “cuts to the heart” of people; it is defined as in a way that is nuanced enough to accommodate the scope of God’s vision for wholeness and unity. She hopes that “our work together would be based on a model of shared leadership and accountability.”
It is with this mindset that Mayo spoke in Upper Gwinn at a meet-and-greet on Oct. 10 to convey her vision of her work here at SPU. The event began at 3 pm with an informal networking session followed by Mayo’s talk on her vision for the school, which began around 3:30 pm.
To be “cut to the heart”, Mayo explained, is to be overcome with a powerful conviction, to completely undone and radically transformed by “a truth and a reality greater than own.”
“If you’ve ever been confronted by a truth so overwhelming, a love so powerful, then you understand,” she said. “My vision for our diversity work is that, individually and collectively, we would be cut to the heart . . . that we would come to experience diversity in a way that is transformative.”
But Mayo finds general diversity definitions frustrating, yet on a personal level, she does not find it very difficult to create one. Diversity is an ethos, she said.
It “compels us to behold and embrace the unique expressions of God’s image reflected in each person,” she defined.
For her, this understanding of identity in Christ does not mean people take a color-blind approach or deny the influence of social identities. Instead, a diversity ethos should help people deepen their ability to see those aspects of identity more clearly and truthfully.
In a community characterized by differences, it is necessary to respond in a way that honors human dignity and equality of status, and interrogate ideologies and structures that justify group-based inequalities.
But it is not easy work. Too often, in working with institutional diversity, the idea of diversity has been defined so broadly that it does not lead to concrete actions, or it is defined so narrowly that it helps facilitate a silencing of diversity efforts.
Designed to serve as a process to enhance SPU’s institutional capacity, the diversity framework includes four overarching goals. These goals are intended to guide the school in unit-level diversity plans.
“In order to create a structure for us to do this work in community, and to focus our efforts around a set of unified goals, I am proposing the following strategic framework, which is based on principles of shared responsibility and accountability,” Mayo said.
The first is to establish diversity-aware recruitment and hiring processes. The second is to ensure that students, faculty, staff and administrators develop the competencies needed to facilitate diversity and reconciliation.
Goal three includes fostering a supportive and inclusive campus community. And the fourth goal is to identify and address outcome disparities.
According to Mayo, these goals have emerged from “the numerous existing reports and documents, including SPU’s diversity assessment report” and more.
These goals are meant to be a means to organize efforts and help assess progress. As the community and campus moves forward in this work, Mayo asks that each school and unit on campus develop a diversity plan with an emphasis on concrete actions, advancing these overarching goals.
She encourages anyone who wants to talk to her about this initiative to contact her office and set up a time to talk, including setting up meetings with departments and student groups.
“The work of diversity is less about devising a perfectly packaged plan. Diversity work is unpredictable, reliant on trial and error, and wholly dependant on the will and capacity of the community,” Mayo said.
She is convinced that this work is about allowing God’s grace to enter in, to meet people where they are. This, however, does not let people off the hook or gives people permission to be passive in the pursuit of transformational diversity.
“I am overwhelmed and quickly falling in love with this community,” Mayo said. “I look forward to getting to know you more and to walking with you through the messiness of this.”