March 07, 2009 | Phil de Haan

When Michelle Loyd-Paige was interim dean for multicultural development at Calvin she decided to start a symposium based on a college document called From Every Nation (FEN), a plan for racial justice, reconciliation and cross-cultural engagement.

At the time Loyd-Paige was not sure if her interim appointment would become a permanent post, but she didn't let that stop her from setting up events she hoped would have a lasting impact, including the FEN Symposium on Race.

"I wanted something," she said, "that could become an annual event at Calvin, a place where we could bring in speakers from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds who could speak to a variety of topics. I hoped that even if I didn't continue (as dean) the symposium could become something the next person could build upon."

2009 Symposium features Hinojosa, Huyser, teaching award

Loyd-Paige did become the permanent dean for multicultural affairs. And now, this week, the third annual FEN Symposium on Race will take place at Calvin with two speakers: one, Victor Hinojosa, an expert on Latin America, and the other, Kimberly Huyser, an expert on American Indians.

Hinojosa will speak at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11 in the Commons Lecture Hall on "The Most Segregated Hour in America." At 7 p.m. the next night, Thursday, March 12, also in the Commons Lecture Hall, Huyser will speak on "Native Fruition: Inequality and American Indian Perseverance."

Hinojosa's Wednesday night talk will be preceded by the presentation of a special award, the From Every Nation Award for Teaching Excellence. "The award," said Loyd-Paige, "recognizes innovative and effective efforts by members of the teaching faculty to promote a multicultural, anti-racist curriculum."

The award, she added, is designed to reward the development and utilization of creative, original, effective teaching that reflects one or more of the three themes of FEN: multicultural citizenship, anti-racism and accountability, and reconciliation and restoration.

Dan Miller, a professor of history, was the first winner of the FEN Award for Teaching Excellence last year. Loyd-Paige is looking forward to honoring another Calvin professor this year, and also looking forward to 2009's FEN Symposium speakers.

Huyser also part of Calvin graduate study fellowship program

"In Kimberly," she said, "we have one of our own, a Calvin graduate who is part of our graduate study fellowship program. So that's exciting."

That program pays for graduate school for ethnic minority Calvin graduates with the understanding that once they complete their post-graduate study they will come back to teach at Calvin. Huyser, a Navajo and 2003 Calvin graduate, is a PhD candidate in the department of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin and will return to teach in the Calvin sociology department.

Hinojosa, said Loyd-Paige, will be exploring a topic, religion and racial integration, that has had a fair amount of attention on the Calvin campus in 2008-2009. "He'll add to the conversation," she said, "and he'll stretch our understanding of the segregated hour. It's not just a black-white thing. He's bringing another voice, but it is out of his Hispanic background."

Both speakers also will spend time with Calvin students apart from their public lectures. Huyser is scheduled to talk to two sociology classes and Hinojosa, also an expert on terrorism, will meet with political science students.

FEN review, survey of racial climate on deck

In addition to planning this year's FEN Symposium, Loyd-Paige also is heading up a review of the FEN document, to be made available to the campus in the fall, and getting a survey ready for Calvin faculty, staff and students on the racial climate on campus.

The FEN review, she said, is about looking at the goals and strategies.

"We're asking if the goals still work," she said, "and if the strategies are appropriate for the goals."

All FEN Symposium speakers, she said, get a copy of the book prior to coming to campus, and to a person they marvel at the blueprint for racial reconciliation and the anti-racism thread that runs throughout the document.

"But they often ask, 'Are you doing it?' so we're going through it (FEN) and asking that question of ourselves," she said.

Meanwhile the survey will be sent to the campus after spring break and, Loyd-Paige hopes, will reflect how the ideals of FEN play out in the day-to-day lives of faculty, staff and students.

"We've never done a campus-wide survey of this nature before," she said, "so it will be interesting to see what people are experiencing and feeling.”


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