Lee University introduces intentional programming to celebrate diversity in chapel

Lee University introduces intentional programming to celebrate diversity in chapel

From left to right: President of Leetinos Angelica Alvarado and President of the Black Student Union Vanelissa Cadet.

Photo by Ashley Smith, Staff Reporter

Lee University is actively prioritizing diversity through intentional programming decisions—starting with the Conn Center stage.

Lee’s Vice President for Student Development Dr. Mike Hayes worked with students and staff members to ensure an effective and diverse chapel lineup for the Spring 2019 semester.

“We have looked for people who fit with our campus culture as a Christian liberal arts institution,” Hayes said. “Knowing that the person can communicate effectively with young adults is critical. We definitely want to provide a variety of speakers, perspectives, experiences and ideas.”

Now, more than ever, women and ethnic minorities are taking to the Conn Center stage during chapel and Convocation services.

“We consistently look for speakers and artists from diverse perspectives in terms of race, ethnicity and gender,” Hayes said.

According to Hayes, he selects chapel speakers from the suggestions of others while keeping in mind the importance of representing all students.

“We rely on students, staff and friends to recommend chapel speakers,” Hayes said. “I think students want to see people with whom they can identify in terms of background. Students definitely want to know that we take key aspects of their identities seriously.”

“We believe that God’s kingdom is comprised of people from various backgrounds and want to make sure we make chapel look like the kingdom,” Hayes said.

President of campus club Leetinos Angelica Alvarado believes that representation is essential to the success and engagement of minority students.

“It’s very important to have that representation because if not, we’re going to feel left out,” Alvarado said. “That’s what is going to get us motivated, when we see someone that looks like us.”

Leetinos is a Hispanic organization on Lee’s campus that serves to represent and connect the Latino community with students who are passionate about Latino culture.

“Our goal is to have members that are influenced by our culture and passionate about Latino culture,” Alvarado said. “You don’t have to be Latino to be in Leetinos. We get to show off a diverse group just within our club.”

President of the Black Student Union (BSU) Vanelissa Cadet said that students and staff of underrepresented groups feel seen when their ethnicity is represented in chapel or Convocation.

“I think that if your student population is diversified, your chapel should be diversified to reflect that,” Cadet said. “The more diversified chapel is, the more we actually see diversity in the crowd.”

The Black Student Union strives to unite Lee’s African-American community and inform students of every race about racial issues.

“The BSU is a safe space for melanated individuals and a learning space for those who are not,” Cadet said. “We strive to let the black minority on campus know that we are here for them.”

Alvarado, Cadet and other members of the Lee University Diversity Council are committed to speaking up for underrepresented minority groups.

The Office of Student Development and the Office of Campus Ministries strive to work together to provide meaningful chapel and Convocation experiences, according to Hayes.

“The purpose of chapel and Convocation is to expose students to the claims of the Gospel in a community setting,” Hayes said. “The core of the university’s mission statement is to prepare students for responsible Christian living in a complex world. Ultimately, chapel is aimed at this as well.”

Students and faculty can look forward to guests such as Sam Chand, Katelyn Beaty, Jordan Easley and the introduction of a new theme, titled “Real Life @ Lee,” where students are encouraged to engage in hard but necessary conversations, including discussions about racial justice issues.

Students are welcome to refer speakers and artists to Hayes and the Office of Campus Ministries.

“I’d love for students to submit recommendations for speakers and artists,” Hayes said. “I’d also like to encourage students to approach chapel with an attitude that amounts to more than just going as a requirement.”

Hayes can be emailed at mhayes@leeuniversity.edu, or contacted by phone at (423) 614-8406.

The Office of Campus Ministries can be reached at campusministries@leeuniversity.edu or at (423) 614-8420.

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