Whitworth wins national award for diversity

Rachel Ayres | Staff Writer

Whitworth University has once again earned the prestigious Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award for 2018. This honor recognizes colleges and universities across the nation who commit to and prioritize diversity and inclusion work, and is given by the magazine INSIGHT Into Diversity.

The university has received this award before, but for the 2016-2017 school year, no one filled the role of Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, so a HEED application was not submitted. Dr. Lorna Hernandez Jarvis filled that position in July 2017, and lead filling out the HEED application for the 2018 year.

The application process requires the university to provide  data and explanations in regards to programs that promote diversity and inclusion in higher education institutions.

“One of the goals of the application process is to help institutions of higher education assess their diversity efforts in order to build on their success and improve where necessary,” states INSIGHT Into Diversity’s website.

Highlighted on Whitworth’s 2018 application were programs such as Act Six and Bucs Bound, which are in place to help first generation students and students of underrepresented backgrounds with their college experiences. These programs continue to grow and bring unity to the campus. This year Bucs Bound had 100 student participants, compared to last year's 60.

The criteria for the HEED award not only acknowledge diversity and inclusion among the student body, but also within the staff and faculty.

“Having a diverse campus of students and community members with different perspectives, backgrounds, and life experiences helps others grow,” said Ayaka Dohi, the Assistant Director of Admissions who specializes in multicultural recruitment and transfer students.

Another component of Whitworth's application was the Christ-Centered Rationale for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion that was adopted by the university in 2016. This document drew the attention of the award judges.

“They [judges] were really impressed with that document because it really showed how we are very clear in integrating our Christian mission with the diversity and inclusion work, and that spoke a lot to them,” Jarvis said.

“Our world is changing; so we as a Christian school, I believe, must teaching our students to have a critical mindset and to learn how to be respectful in disagreements and discourse is part of being good citizens in the world. This is important because preparing students in a Christian institution is a way to practice our faith, do what Jesus asked us to do,” Dohi said. “We are a Christian institution that actually walks our talk.”

While Whitworth is now a two-time recipient of this award, the passion to continue improving diversity and inclusion is still alive, Jarvis said.

“It is challenging, we are not naive in any way. We live unfortunately in a very divided and divisive world, not just nation, but world. We know that our goal as Christians, and knowing the effectiveness of diversity and inclusion works, is that we need to prepare each other better and our students better to make a difference in this world.”

All of the 2018 recipients of the HEED award will be announced in the November issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity.