A Bridge to Understanding

In July, 11 Westmont faculty and staff members attended “Bridging the Divides: New Visions for Diversity and Cross-Cultural Understanding,” a conference at the San Francisco Urban house funded by the Irvine Diversity Initiative grant. Brad Berky, interim director of the urban program, convened the event, which featured guest speakers, encounters with local ethnic-minority churches and neighborhoods, and opportunities to reflect on diversity-related issues.

Lee Mun Wah, who directed “The Color of Fear” film series, led a workshop on the complex psycho-social dynamics surrounding racial division and healing.

Other speakers included Melanie DeMore, a Grammy-nominated, African-American singer, songwriter and commu-nity activist; Juana Alicia, a renowned Latina muralist and art historian; Rev. Norman Fong, an Asian-American community organizer; Rev. Glenda Hope, a Presbyterian street minister; and alumnus David Batstone ’80, executive editor of Sojourners magazine and professor of social ethics, University of San Francisco.

Participants volunteered at St. Anthony’s Foundation, a faith-based social service organization that feeds the homeless. A guided “alley tour” focused on Chinatown and the Mission District, and a service at Glide Memorial Church highlighted one of the city’s largest and most diverse faith communities.

“The week was stimulating to both the mind and the heart,” says Heather Speirs, associate dean of off-campus programs. “I was moved to see the risen Christ in so many faces, including those of my own colleagues. Rev. Norm Fong taught me how little I know about the real China-town, and the folks at St. Anthony’s and the Salvation Army reminded me of the ever-present needs of the poor.”

“I loved the range of activities and felt both inspired and challenged by each presentation and discussion,” says Mary Docter, professor of Spanish. “I want to do all I can to make Westmont a more welcoming and nurturing place for those who are different, especially our students of color.”

Other attendees from Westmont included Dana Alexander (career and life planning), Krista Caballero (admissions), Jonathan Cordero (sociology), Lisa DeBoer (art) Chris Hoeckley (Institute for the Liberal Arts), Patti Hunter (mathematics), Karen Andrews-Jaffe (Urban), Chris Milner (kinesiology), and Andrew Mullen (education).

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