By Sondra Rodriguez, Page Editor
More countries are represented by the ACU student body than states in America. According to a document that records each country’s representation from the Registrar’s Office, 220 international students reflect the population of minorities on campus.
Minorities represent different nations, faiths and orientations.
Such representation did not exist 10 years ago, but now has forced the administration and ACU students to develop a vision that will lead toward cultural awareness.
George Pendergrass, director of Multicultural Enrichment, said about 25 percent of the student body is either international or domestic minorities, “which is incredible,” he said. “That’s a very decent percentage for a school of our size, and it definitely wasn’t always that way.”
Ten years ago, that 25 percent was 2 percent.
Laza Johany Razafimanjato is a graduate student in higher education from Antananarivo, Madagascar, and said he has even seen this change since he arrived at ACU in 2004.
“There’s a lot of activities, organizations and events that promote cultural awareness of racial and ethnic experiences,” Razafimanjato said.
Changes in the number of minorities on campus throughout the past 10 years have come as a result of the campus-wide concern to become more culturally inclusive, as well as the determination of the administration to implement awareness about people from other nations, Pendergrass said.
“You cannot make a difference unless you have top-down support, and our administration has been champions in that,” Pendergrass said. “As long as we have an administration that puts diversity at the forefront of the school’s priorities, we will continue to grow and diversify, and I believe our international and domestic minority population has pushed the school to re-examine some of its age old traditions.”
These traditions were prominent in Abilene and remain a struggle in the entire United States.
“When you’re self-sufficient, you don’t think you need to pay attention to anyone else,” Pendergrass said. “We feel like we don’t have to learn about other cultures’ geography or background, so we end up losing out.”
To avoid this, Pendergrass said the administration is constructing a co-curricular piece that will incorporate the importance of diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism to ensure every ACU student will receive the same type of cultural indoctrination.
Razafimanjato said he has experienced the effects of such efforts, including multicultural and ethnic events.
“This feels like a much more global place than it did four years ago,” he said. “As Texan as it is, it’s a pretty global place.”
The overall goal of global awareness reflects how God has called Christians to interact with one another, Pendergrass said.
“If the only kinds of Christians we can relate to are the ones who live on our block and speak Jesus the way we speak Jesus, we will have a very limited faith,” Pendergrass said. “I doubt very seriously that a God who made the entire world wants us to focus on only one corner of it.”