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January 11, 2019

Over the course of the last year, Imagine 2022: Asbury University’s Vision for Faithful Change has made tangible changes to the look, feel and operations of campus life at Asbury University. Those distinct changes can especially be seen through the strategic plan’s Initiative III: Embrace.

Embrace is setting the University up for success in the realm of cultural competency as faculty, staff and students ask how they can create a more culturally aware and competent University environment that not only welcomes minority students, but creates an environment where all students can learn and grow from each other, embracing the profound Biblical truth that we are all made in the image of God.

To say that Assistant Vice President for Intercultural Affairs Rev. Esther Jadhav is excited would be a colossal understatement.

“I think one of the primary ways in which cultural competency or cultural or ethnic diversity really helps us is that it enriches our lives,” Jadhav said. “It brings a newness to our own lives. Getting to experience another person’s culture, getting to engage with an individual who is from a cultural and ethnic background different from me affords me the opportunity to really see how grand God’s creation really is. I think it’s an eye-opening experience.”

Some of those palpable changes included the rolling out of several new programs from the Office of Intercultural Affairs.

Asbury hosted its first Embrace Conference on redemptive social action in November 2018. The conference featured keynote speaker Dr. Christina Edmondson, who serves as the dean of Intercultural Student Development at Calvin College. Edmonson also co-hosts the popular Truth’s Table podcast. Alongside several student and faculty speakers, Edmondson led sessions throughout the two-day conference on topics such as Biblical redemptive social action, cultural appropriation and the African experience in America. The conference received much positive feedback, with more than 300 students in attendance, and will be repeated in future academic years.

Additionally, since the start of the fall semester, 10 minority students have met weekly with local elementary school students from a variety of ethnic minorities thanks to a mentoring partnership struck between Asbury and Jessamine County Schools.

The partnership began after Jadhav received a phone call from someone in the Nicholasville community who had been looking through Asbury’s website and came across information about the Black Student Alliance, Latino Student Alliance and Asian Student Alliance, Asbury’s student groups for ethnic minorities. From there, mentorship programming was developed.

“Our students get a chance to invest in someone else’s life,” Jadhav said. “Not just invest but, they also get to be a role model for someone else. The value is both ways. There’s added value for those who are receiving the mentoring, but then the value is also for our students who are able to be mentors.”

The pilot program included 10 student pairs. Jadhav hopes to see an increase in that number over the next several semesters and is also examining ways in which to improve the program further.

Another arm of the Embrace initiative that is causing great excitement on campus is student-faculty mentoring, wherein ethnic minority, international and third culture students meet with faculty one-on-one to share their experiences of being minority students at Asbury.

“I’m grateful because our students have been willing to rise to the task,” Jadhav said. “They are wanting to be engaged in positive ways. They’re wanting to make an impact. They’re wanting to be resources for our campus community. Our international, our third culture, our minority students are wanting to be available to us. They are our students and they’re here to learn and to grow themselves, but they’re also willing to share their knowledge and their experience of being cultural and ethnic minorities on our campus. They’re willing to share their experiences with the rest of the community.”

Currently there are 10 student-faculty pairs that have been working together since the spring 2018 semester.

For Jadhav, Initiative III causes her to reflect on the Biblical passage of Mark 12:30-31, which states: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.

“The hope of the cultural competency initiative is that all students will be equipped,” Jadhav said. “It’s not just for minority students. Embrace is for all of our students, for all faculty, for all staff. As far as I’m concerned, I am very convinced that this work of cultural competency is really a Biblical expectation. That is what undergirds this entire strategic portion for me. It’s really coming out of not just a Biblical expectation, but also from a Biblical framework.”

Learn more about Imagine 2022.