In the early history of The Seattle School, students engaged with culture by focusing on film, literature, arts, and artifacts. At that time, only certain stories, identities, and histories were emphasized and promoted in the culture at large. People expressing, imagining, or representing a wider range of stories and identities did not find their experiences acknowledged in the arts. Students, especially those identifying as part of underrepresented groups, began meeting together to share and affirm their different experiences, and to discuss the challenges they experienced in the classroom and in the school community. In 2005, Dr. Nancy Murphy chaired a diversity task force seeking to address institution-wide concerns. From these early years in the beginning of The Seattle School, students, staff, and faculty sought to co-create ways of engaging with cultural differences and diversity for transformational growth.
In 2007, the Culture Tomorrow2010 survey quantified the felt differences in student, staff, and faculty experiences based on categories of race/ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and theological/political perspective. These categories, along with ability and gender identity, would eventually come to define the categories of underrepresentation currently supported through the Office of Students & Alumni (OSA). These categories also served to expand our capacity to define culture and differences in more nuanced ways.
In response to the findings from the CultureTomorrow2010 survey, The Seattle School established the Humanity Through Community annual conference to explore the challenges of community in a changing demographic context. Starting in 2009, these trainings gathered together a unique cross-section of leaders, advocates, and organizations in order to create and form a broad coalition of diverse people of faith. All members of The Seattle School community, along with the general public, were encouraged to attend these full-day trainings that included speakers, panel discussions, and breakout conversations. Here are a few examples of the keynote speakers and panels offered through the Humanity Through Community conferences:
Humanity Through Community Keynote Speakers
|Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter-McNeil: Healing the Racial Divide
|Dr. David P. Leong: Bridging the Cultural Divide
|Jimmy McGee: The Myth of the Single Story
The Narrative of Testimony: Humanity Through Community Panel Discussion
|Robin Di Angelo & Nikita Oliver: A New Take on Resilience, A Call to Dignity: Humanity Through Community Panel Discussion
Intercultural Credibility Task Force (ICTF)
In 2012, President Keith Anderson formed the Intercultural Credibility Task Force (ICTF) to “develop movement towards intercultural credibility.” In his announcement, Dr. Anderson stated:
Intercultural credibility is defined as the continual movement as an institution to inspire belief in people from various cultural perspectives that we “train people to be competent in the study of text, soul, and culture in order to serve God and neighbor through transforming relationships.” Rather than a set of competencies to achieve, intercultural credibility implies an ongoing dialogical reality in which we are dependent upon those we have or desire relationship to say, “I can believe what you say about yourself is true.” We will never “complete” the task of cultural credibility, check it off the list and move on to the next agenda du jours. But we will take steps together to grow as a place and people of intercultural credibility. It is not just something we want to do with our students as a curricular issue; we want to learn a certain way to live with each other–all of us–faculty, staff, students, administration, alumni, and board.
The task force, later renamed the Intercultural Credibility Resource Team (ICRT), supported the mission of The Seattle School to prepare future practitioners to meaningfully engage in an increasingly diverse, complex, and changing context and also to solidify the culture, values, and practices of intercultural credibility within The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology.
ICRT representatives from administration, faculty, staff, students, and alumni focused on two primary purposes: (1) facilitating the intercultural credibility of faculty and staff at The Seattle School, and (2) serving as a resource in our movement toward intercultural credibility. During Dr. Anderson’s time, the ICRT identified four essential elements of the work:
- Creating critical self-awareness within our community.
- Leading us into an increasingly nuanced conversation in curricular and co-curricular content and institutional policy and culture.
- Developing a shared vocabulary around terms like culture, difference, racism, and reconciliation.
- Continuing development of a shared strategy of steps needed to move toward intercultural credibility.
With President Anderson’s retirement in 2017, the task force also was sunsetted with both grateful acknowledgment of the movement the ICRT had made in intercultural credibility, as well as an emphasis on the need to continue this work with eager anticipation, answering our ongoing call to be agents of reconciliation, people of justice, and followers of Jesus.
Intercultural Credibility Advisory Committee (ICAC)
In June 2020, President J. Derek McNeil authorized the formation of the Intercultural Credibility Advisory Committee (ICAC) to steward and assess the practice of intercultural credibility at The Seattle School. The ICAC strives to engage a collaborative, inclusive, and transparent approach to its ongoing work as it seeks to advise the president on strategic goals at The Seattle School. With regard to intercultural credibility, these goals include the institution’s three-year strategic plans, as well as annual objectives in the areas of curricular and co-curricular programming, institutionalization and assessment, support and advocacy, and collaboration with external partners.
“May we be people of faith who do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. May our prayers not only be words—may our prayers move into our hands and feet in service to our neighbor. May our cries for justice extend into our relationships and the fabric of our communities.” – President J. Derek McNeil, PhD