Associate Dean of Students, Student Life Sarah Ocando, is forming a committee to examine how we “invite outside voices into the community to stimulate conversation.”
She is researching who has spoken on campus to avoid leaving blind spots in the campus conversation. “Inviting outside voices into the community” is one of the seven objectives of the 2014-2017 Covenant College Strategic Plan that are being focused on during the current school year.
Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students Brad Voyles appointed Ocando to work on this in August 2015. In October, she began with an initial group of people as a sounding board composed of Resident Director of Founders Isaiah Barnfield, Associate Dean of Students and Residence Life Jonathan Ingraham, and Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies Hans Madueme. Now she is in the process of forming a new committee to continue the work.
Ocando said, “It’s good for any institution or community to think about what voices they get to listen to, so it’s not just hearing ourselves talk.” She said that Student Development wants to look at who is in the majority and who is heard most often to ensure that other voices can be heard. “When you engage with people who are different, that can help you know who you are and what you believe, and some of that can come from listening to different opinions,” she said.
Voyles also said that bringing in outside speakers is a priority: “We have a rich resource of faculty and staff” to draw from “but we don’t want to become insular.” Student Development wants to hear from people from a range of experiences.
Although she’s still in the information-gathering stage, Ocando said that long term, she wants to get an idea of what is going on currently and in the past, to make sure that “we’re not missing opportunities.” Student Development, Student Senate, the Chapel Department, and Academic Affairs, among others, could use information gathered to determine what has been happening and if they need to improve anything.
Voyles said that bringing in outside speakers “doesn’t fall on any one office.” The Chapel Department, Student Development, the Center for Calling and Career, academic departments and even student-led clubs invite speakers. Sometimes speakers ask to speak at the college, as did Michael Gerson who spoke on predatory lending in November 2015.
Voyles said that having this objective in the Strategic Plan makes it a priority. Although bringing in diverse voices is one of the special focuses of the 2015-2016 year, it will probably continue to be a goal next year like most of the other goals of the plan.