After finishing five years as the Chief Diversity Officer at SNU, Dr. Lena Crouso will be retiring effective August 31, 2023. Dr. Crouso is a beloved member of the SNU community and will be greatly missed by the administration, faculty, staff, and students. She leaves behind a great body of work as a champion of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.
Five years ago, this reporter had the pleasure of writing an article announcing the addition of Dr. Crouso to the SNU Cabinet. When Dr. Newman became president of SNU he believed it was important to create a cabinet-level position to oversee efforts in the area of Intercultural Learning. Having worked with Dr. Crouso at Indiana Wesleyan, he believed her to be the perfect person for this new area of leadership for our campus.
In the five years that followed, Dr. Crouso has guided all areas of the university as we seek to be a more inclusive institution. Her efforts have helped us make tremendous strides and she has persistently coaxed us to be individuals and a collective body who live out the calling to be like Christ.
I asked Dr. Crouso what she was most proud of as she looked back on her time at SNU. She responded, “I take the greatest joy in two things: the way our SNU community, across faculty and staff, chose to partner and collaborate with the ILE work and believed in it…and still do. To achieve such widespread integration of the ILE work in all areas at SNU is truly something I count as a highlight of my service in Christian higher education. And, the way our students across CUGS and PGS led the way for the successful ILE work. They courageously pursued belonging for all. Some students were allies and had to speak for the voiceless, and some spoke through their own empowerment as well, even when hard and at a cost. The culture of belonging was emerging through our students because SNU chose to prioritize the work of ILE as a strategic missional goal.”
When asked about Dr. Crouso’s contributions to SNU, Dr. Newman had this to say: “My initial response would be the relationships she built and the inspiration and encouragement she has provided to students and leaders. Lena has a great gift of investing in others and helping them believe God has more for them. From a more global perspective, I would say that her Taxonomy of Cultural Responsiveness (moving from compliance to awareness to sensitivity to competency to responsiveness) has provided SNU with a framework to build upon now and in the future.”
Faculty member, Dr. Gina Weaver praised Dr. Crouso saying, “Lena’s contribution to both SNU’s culture and infrastructure has been profound. She has taught us that change can’t be instantaneous, but requires thoughtful, long-term planning. Under her leadership, rather than ILE being something that a few passionate people are working towards, intercultural learning has been strategically built into SNU’s infrastructure at every level, so that outcomes of all departments and parts of campus are required to reflect ILE, and all areas are being asked to assess and improve on reaching those outcomes.”
Dr. Weaver added a personal reflection: “She has been an incredible role model for me personally–she straddles that line of being passionate but measured, thoughtful, and patient, and she always has what’s best for each student as her ultimate goal. She has truly been a model and example of Christ’s reconciling love, and I really appreciate her giving me the framework and language to articulate that caring about DEIJ is an essential part of the message of the Gospel.”
The work of ILE has always belonged to God and always will. I have simply been a humble servant of this work. My wish and prayer will be that as long as we declare our mission of making Christ-like disciples through higher education, we will ensure that discipleship in ILE is included as a core value in that mission. Therefore, to stay the course and to not grow weary in doing good, as the scripture tells us.
–Dr. Lena Crouso
With Dr. Crouso’s departure, we must remain diligent to ensure the efforts she started persist. I asked Dr. Newman how he hoped that work might continue. “My hope (and our plan) is to see the work of ILE grow and mature as each unit of the university has incorporated the work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice into their strategic plans. Lena leaves us with a road map for moving from charitable and hospitable to belonging, and it will be critical for administrators to stay diligent on this journey which is not always easy. The model of Christlikeness in the midst of criticism is another lasting contribution that Lena leaves with the SNU community.”
When asked about the challenges that SNU faces going forward, Dr. Crouso shared, “I believe the greatest challenge for SNU will be if SNU lets the ILE work get lost, and therefore left, in the culture of our national divisions and ideologies that polarize and label God’s love into opinions and politics. God’s love is transcendent and cannot be owned by any side. The ILE work stands rooted in the Triune God with the biblical underpinnings of the gospel message in reconciliation. If we stay true to the origin that we brought the ILE work into SNU with, then it will stand timeless as God intended, and we will love God and love all of our neighbors as ourselves without fear, discomfort, or dislike of each other.”
Dr. Crouso is joining her husband who retired recently and they plan to remain in Oklahoma. She is looking forward to being able to spend more time with her family.
Photo by SNU Creative