In the spring of 2018, it was announced that Dr. Lena Crouso would serve in the new position of Vice President for Intercultural Learning and Engagement at Southern Nazarene University (SNU). This change has prompted discussions of diversity, Dr. Crouso attempting to create an intercultural community at SNU. The idea of interculturality is the heart of Dr. Crouso’s new position, attempting to celebrate diversity and educate faculty, staff, and students on how to unify SNU’s campus through differences.
Dr. Crouso’s definition of intercultural is more than simply interacting with diverse cultures; rather, it is posturing oneself to live in intentional community with one another, allowing for mutual reciprocity in relationships to thrive between cultures. Dr. Crouso is attempting to “inspire cultural transformation, that we would reflect the kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven, doing that together.”
Inspiring cultural transformation is a massive task; Dr. Crouso has developed the idea to “create bridges of cultural affinity, working through four lenses: diversity, inclusion, equity and justice.” These four lenses will act as the foundation of her work, attempting to foster diversity, include the outcasts, develop systems that treat each person with equity and incite justice throughout the community.
It is evident that Dr. Crouso’s job description is difficult to explain concretely as changing a culture is not only a large hope but also an abstract one. The question that Dr. Crouso has adopted as her defining job description is, “In the embodiment of God’s love, how do we really translate that into a culture?”
In order to work on this translation, Dr. Crouso spends her time in a multitude of different conversations, getting to understand the current culture of SNU and build relationships with staff, faculty, and students. These relationships are crucial to her daily work. As she stated, “This work cannot be accomplished by one person… It is an inspiration of the body of Christ…”
Community is the focus of Dr. Crouso’s mission, focusing on the collaboration of students, faculty and staff to achieve a unified community. A community cares for one another, listens to one another and respects one another, and in many ways, this idea of a relational community is the core of interculturality. In order to be an intercultural institution, we must interact in mutual love and respect for one another despite our differences.
Dr. Crouso discussed the importance of relationship building and community, saying, “Every day for me is waking up thinking about bridges. It’s beautiful. It’s overwhelming, too… bridges are important because they require movement from each side to come to the center of the via media where Christ is. That’s what I love about bridges. They can’t just go halfway– they’re either going to go across the chasm or not. That’s why bridges are so important.”
Through the metaphor of the bridge, Dr. Crouso challenges the SNU community to begin moving towards Christ in the way we think, speak and respond. It matters how we think about one another; it matters how we talk about one another; it matters how we treat one another. Intentional community is difficult to achieve and cannot be done alone. Dr. Crouso is attempting to facilitate change and start important conversations about the culture of SNU.