Multi-ethnic program expands with new positions and cultural center

Biola expands cultural engagement by creating new positions in Multi-Ethnic Programs and plans to establish the Mosaic Cultural Center on campus.

Michelle Hong, Writer

Though students are gone for the summer, staff are still busy at Biola University. July brings changes to Biola staff and structure of diversity programs. These changes, announced at the end of the semester in a letter to the community, include the addition of new positions in Multi-Ethnic Programs (MEP) and the creation of a new vice-provost position. The addition of a new Mosaic Cultural Center is geared toward providing a place for students to further encourage and facilitate conversations about diversity.

New vice provost position to expand cultural engagement

Most notably, Biola has hired Doretha O’Quinn who officially began July 1 as the new vice provost of Multi-Ethnic and Cross-Cultural Engagement. This new position has been created to push Biola’s engagement with diversity beyond the United States into the wider world. This makes sense theologically, provost David Nystrom believes, citing Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 as a call to a community that is reconciled, both locally and globally.

Not only does O’Quinn have a history with Biola, having graduated from the Cook School of Intercultural Studies with a Ph.D. in Intercultural Education and having served as the director of the Inglewood satellite campus from 2003 to 2007, but she also has experience with Los Angeles and has worked internationally in Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Panama, Mexico, and Martinique.

“It’s sort of perfect,” said Nystrom, describing O’Quinn’s qualifications.

On the African continent, O’Quinn was a professor with Operation Impact, a volunteer organization, and worked with government officials, as well as non-governmental organizations, parliament leaders, private business owners and ex-patriots.

Since 2008, O’Quinn has served as associate dean at Point Loma Nazarene University at the School of Education where she has built up a network and cultivated relationships within the San Gabriel and Los Angeles counties that the administration hopes will continue to be an asset for Biola.

“I have multiple relationships in Los Angeles that [Biola] did not have, so as a result I have been able to expand our relations out here,” said O’Quinn.

Global extension of multi-ethnic relationships

O’Quinn’s goal is to help identify and enhance the visions and mission that university president Barry Corey and Nystrom have put out and looks forward to extending multi-ethnic relationships not only on and off campus, but globally as well. Another component of leadership that O’Quinn hopes to exhibit is working on a personal level with students, hearing their voice, and providing service learning opportunities for practical implementation.

“I would be working with the whole community as what I would consider a liaison for a conversation that will help us what I consider a kingdom of God focus,” said O’Quinn.

Over the past year, Biola has focused on its “return to the city,” looking for ways to reengage with LA. A significant part of the process was gaining an understanding of what’s already happening at Biola, explained Nystrom.

“[Engaging with the city is] not something that happens because of grand organizational strategy; it’s just who we are,” Nystrom said.

Establishing connections in LA

While attempting to assess the current state of Biola students’ relationship with the city, the administration has also been considering Biola’s history and current relationships in LA. They have done this through seeking advice from others in LA, including the Rev. Adam Edgerly, Pastor of New Song Church in Los Angeles, Dr. Larry Acosta, President/CEO of the Urban Youth Workers Institute, and the Rev. Andy Bales, CEO of the Union Rescue Mission.

The response included a caution against entering LA with a plan to just fix things. Instead, “in order to really be a part of the city and be a part of God’s work for the Kingdom in the city, you have to really belong and not just have the attitude that we can fix without really understanding,” said Nystrom.

Keeping this in mind, Biola has a strategy in place for their next steps. “We’re going to choose the strategy of a combination of strategic partnerships and enhancing what’s going on organically,” said Nystrom.

Michael Gonzales, professor of Cinema and Media Arts, has gotten a jump start establishing working relationships by partnering with John Glenn High School and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for the past year. Approached by Joanne Jung, facilitator of the Norwalk-La Mirada School District and not to be mistaken for Talbot professor Joanne Jung, Gonzales was asked to come to the high school once a week and teach a screen writing class for 55 students.

According to Gonzales, Ligia Hallstrom, principal of John Glenn, requested an instructor with like values and morals and Gonzales does just that.

“We are able to talk about story structure and things that matter and transformation in a person’s life instead of just chock value and raunchy horror stuff without any purpose,” said Gonzales.

Despite working at Biola as well as at John Glenn, Gonzales volunteers at the sheriff’s department teaching a group of kids who are at risk in the greater LA area. The program is called Star Leadership Academy and the students are given tours, supplies and encouragement to make their own videos and gain invaluable knowledge about the film industry.

Gonzales is currently working on both projects alone but brings in student speakers and notable alumni to speak to both the high school and the academy. Although these opportunities are not publicized, Gonzales updates his students each week on the students’ progress primarily from the academy.

Gonzales has been involved with these two sectors in LA and plans to maintain connections and further extend our involvement. “It is best to see how it works and it has worked our fine so far,” said Gonzales.

Multi-ethnic program expands

As the push to engage with the wider world in addition to the city continues, money has been allotted for a director of cross cultural engagement. This position will further Biola’s goal of every student having a significant cross cultural experience, according to Corey’s letter.

The position will be functionally comparable to the director of MEP, though on a broader level beyond Biola, said Nystrom. The director will work under O’Quinn who will be responsible for putting together a job description and overseeing the hiring process for the director of cross cultural engagement once she joins the staff.

With the new, broader reach, that the multi-ethnic program plans on encompassing, the name of the department itself is also being expanded to The Department of Multi-Ethnic Programs and Development.

In an attempt to promote the multi-ethnic program within the Biola community itself, a Mosaic Cultural Center is scheduled to be opened next Spring, after renovations are made to its future location in Rose Hall. This spot was chosen by a site location task force commissioned by Nystrom and then Associate Provost for Diversity Leadership, Pete Menjares who has since been promoted to Vice President for Faculty Development and Academic Effectiveness.

Planned location of Mosaic Cultural Center

In deciding the location for the center, campus centrality was very much a desire of those within multi-ethnic programs said task force member Ken Bascom, senior director of facilities planning and construction. There are future plans to create a welcoming entrance to the space across the street from the Sutherland fountain, said Bascom, where landscape and hardscape will be changed and a possible glass door with canopy will replace the current emergency-exit like portal.

Since the major tenants of the new Talbot building will be the entire undergraduate biblical studies of theology faculty, Bascom expects to see a shift in the undergraduate center of gravity in the direction of Talbot and said that Rose Hall will be a good location with ability to support the functional purpose of the Mosaic Cultural Center.

The center will be used to house events like poetry lounges, the student conference for racial reconciliation, and other events put on by multi-ethnic programs which have previously been hosted in areas like the SUB, mailbox lawn or the collegium.

Task force member Brenda Velasco, manager of internal communications and public relations, said that the space will be a place for people from different ethnicities to unite, interact, build community and just get to know each other.

Offices, a meeting room, space for art display, and a place for ethnic and international food preparation will all be included in the newly renovated space which will cost under a million dollars, but will likely be a six digit figure, said task force member Bascom.

Currently, the space is occupied by those in the English Language Studies Program, and construction cannot commence until faculty members are relocated.

“We ended up with three major space issues that were competing with any available spaces,” said Bascom.

Besides for the Mosaic center, space needed to be saved for the long anticipated Center for Christian Thought as well as a space to help improve the cramped science facilities while the future science building is yet to be underway.

Future campus expansion desired

Bascom said that currently Biola is pursuing the leasing of Rancho Elementary, a closed school that is located near Neff Park about half a mile from campus.

“When we do that we’re going to be moving some portions of our advancement department, and the people that raise the money for the university. [They will be] moving a number of those people from Metzger Hall and from Rood Hall over to Rancho and when that’s completed then we will be moving the ELSP,” said Bascom.

Even after all these space negotiations are made for the Mosaic center, Bascom said that its place in Rose Hall is really just a five-year home for the center.

“In the long run,” said Bascom, “what we plan to do, is build a new multi-story building where the education modelers are next to the Caf.”

This new space will have a basement and three stories, each being nearly six times the size of the current caf banquet room. Expectations are to have this new caf expansion within 3-6 years, said Bascom.

“This is a little bit of an incubator we’re giving them now,” explained Bascom. They are trying to see what the program is going to need, he said, by giving it “some good quality space with a good location.”

Between current and future construction on campus, Bascom said it is probably the busiest and most complicated set of space changes in 30 years, saying that the ripple effect of changes will likely be seen after everyone moves into the new Talbot building.

“With the additional off-campus that we’re requiring we’re making a stab at some growth issues that have been going on for a long time and every building we build helps, but this is going to be a set of changes that are going to have a lot of impact on the campus,” said Bascom.

Velasco hopes that students will understand the importance of the new Mosaic center and the fact the Corey has emphasized diversity initiates.

“The bottom line is just that they are getting their own space,” said Velasco “and that’s great; that is a huge move forward.”

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