Cutting Edge

By Sheree King, Director, Student Success and Retention

The staff consistently desires to exceed the global, multidimensional needs and expectations of our students. Recently, representatives from thirteen university departments ranging from Admissions to Student Development to Auxiliary Services participated in two professional development workshops. The first focused on sensitivity to diversity and the second on how to effectively communicate across generational lines. We thought that you as parents might enjoy hearing the highlights of these presentations.

Sensitivity to Diversity Workshop

Presenters: Dr. Kim Boyd, Dean, College of Education; Dr. Sherri Tapp, Associate Professor, Graduate Education; Dr. Evie Lindberg, Special Education Coordinator, College of Education; and Dr. Even Culp, Director, Center for Faculty Excellence.

The workshop began with defining diversity and reminding us that the founding mission and vision of ORU includes the mandate to go into every man’s world. In order to fulfill this mandate, we must be culturally competent.

An ice breaker activity underscored the “unexpected” level of diversity in our workshop attendees, which suggests the high level of diversity in the University community and hence the world. We were unable to find anyone in the room who met the same five distinguishing characteristics that each of us had independently written about ourselves. With this reality in mind, emphasis was placed on strategies to create a safe place for our diverse community. Bringing the point even closer to home, we were challenged to make our “individual” space a safe place. Listening more, asking questions, being more patient, not making assumptions, learning about and being more sensitive to cultural backgrounds, anticipating possible questions/concerns, being sensitive to language barriers and being familiar with resources on campus were among the suggested strategies for creating a safe space and place.

The presenters stressed that becoming and staying culturally competent is a lifetime pursuit, therefore, our professional disposition (inclination) to appreciate diversity should be assessed on a regular basis. A Disposition Evaluation was distributed during the workshop. This questionnaire assesses caring, fairness and respect, interactions with students, peers, and authority, dedication to our profession, our ability to reflect on how we serve and how we incorporate individual worldviews into our work. One of the concluding scriptures was found in Leviticus 19:33-34 which states that when a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.       

Generational Communication Workshop

Presenters: Dr. Connie Sjoberg, Associate Professor, Behavioral Sciences, and Michelle Taylor, Director, Counseling Services

Navigating the “white water” of communicating with individuals of different backgrounds and generations is paramount. Depending upon one’s birth period and life experiences, there may be differences in perspectives and those differences should not only be recognized and acknowledged, but valued and respected. John Maxwell, a well known motivational speaker, states that “The ability to connect with others begins with understanding the value of people.” Connecting takes time and energy. Listening with care, confirming what is being heard and not taking things personally are surefire tools for effective communication no matter the audience. This reminds us of the wise counsel from the Word of God to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath, and to as much as possible live at peace with all men and above all to remember that love never fails.