Johnson University has opened a Multicultural Student Affairs center on its Knoxville, Tenn., campus to serve as a gathering space for minority and international students, as well as provide office and/or meeting space for the Urban Alliance, Future of Hope, and Students Promoting Social Unity.
“We’re trying to create space for students on campus to feel comfortable and to be able to pursue God, and pursue their calling, and pursue their ministry, and to do it while fully being themselves,” Matthew Best said via Facebook during a video tour of the new center at 7903 Brown Drive. Best is director of multicultural student affairs at Johnson and also leads Future of Hope, part of the Urban Alliance initiative.
The Urban Alliance works with organizations in urban Knoxville “to engage and empower emerging community leaders through inspiring educational experiences,” according to Johnson’s website.
Future of Hope offers a nine-month program for high school students “to engage their city by inspiring them to think theologically about the challenges of living in a contemporary urban context.” Participants “engage with proven community leaders, explore possible careers, [and] dive deeply into biblical reflection and cultural analysis.”
The new center includes an on-campus meeting room for Students Promoting Social Unity where that organization can discuss issues, campaigns, and matters “they want to bring to light on campus,” Best said.
Over the weekend, SPSU organized a prayer event stemming from the civil unrest in Kenosha, Wis., after the shooting by police that seriously injured Jacob Blake on Aug. 23.
The center also includes an area “for international students and folks working with international students” to gather. There also are lounge and study areas.
“It’s one thing to be a diverse campus, it’s another thing to be an inclusive campus,” Best said on the video. “We’re working hard to allow spaces for students to grow together to build community, but also to just really feel comfortable with who they are.
“We also want to do a good job of training even our students who aren’t minorities . . . in how to be inclusive in the way that they do ministry and the way that they live and exist in this community.”
Johnson University has used “Uncommon Community” as one of its themes, Best noted.
“We know that ‘uncommon community’ only comes by the work of the Holy Spirit, and it only comes when we create spaces where people can feel loved, cared for, appreciated, and where they are given the room to be uniquely who they are,” he said. “That’s what really blesses the world around us, and that’s what we’re hoping to bring here to Johnson.”