By Taylor Provost, Staff Writer
“I did not grow up in the church, did not come from a Christian background, so when it comes to diversity of backgrounds we have a wide array of experiences,” Dr. Woody Webb, Vice President for Student Development, said of the administrative team at Olivet.
The administrative team, also known as the “A-Team,” is made up of five members. These five members include Dr. John Bowling, University President; Dr. Brian Allen, Vice President for Institutional Advancement; Dr. Dennis Crocker, Vice President for Academic Affairs; Dr. Douglas E. Perry, Vice President for Finance; Dr. Ryan Spittal, Vice President for Strategic Expansion; and Dr. Walter “Woody” Webb, Vice President for Student Development.
These five members share common ground in a few areas. They all share Caucasian race, male gender and Nazarene denomination. And all five are alumni of Olivet.
Olivet is not the only Nazarene school to lack gender and racial diversity in administration either. Dan Boone, who also is a Caucasian male, heads Trevecca Nazarene University as university president. The rest of Trevecca’s administrative team includes three Caucasian males and one Caucasian woman.
MidAmerica Nazarene University’s president is David J. Spittal, and Point Loma Nazarene University’s president is Dr. Bob Brower, both of whom are also Caucasian males.
“Olivet’s student body does seem to be mostly Caucasian, so perhaps racial representation [of the student body] is more present [amongst administration] than gender-wise,” Daneli Rabanalez said. “There are more female students here than males, so having more of a female presence in the administration makes sense.”
Rabanalez suggested paying closer attention during the hiring process in order to add diversity to the administration. Webb explained that the hiring process is not always conventional, though.
“I was an admissions counselor full-time and a part-time Resident Director for six years, so I was involved in Student Development, served on committees and that sort of thing,” Webb said.
At the end of those six years, Webb received a call from Dr. Bowling asking if he would consider an interim position as Vice President of Student Development. Webb accepted the position as an interim immediately after the previous vice president left, and shortly after was appointed as the full-time vice president. Webb was offered the position without ever applying and going through an extensive hiring process.
“If there’s a need to recruit someone to fill a position, why not branch out and look for candidates with a wide variety of backgrounds?” Rabanalez said.
However, Dr. Woody Webb pointed out that the “A-Team” is already diverse in other aspects.
“I think backgrounds of the individuals are quite diverse,” Webb said. “We have members [of administration] who grew up in a Christian home; they’ve been a part of the Church of the Nazarene for generations,” he said. “But that’s not my story – it’s kind of just the opposite. And because of that, I come to the table with a different perspective than some of the others.”
Webb said the “A-Team” also has “diversity of thought.”
“I wouldn’t want to be part of a team where there’s this groupthink, where everyone just agrees and thinks the same about everything; that’s not healthy,” he said. “If we all grew up in the Midwest and we all had similar family and church backgrounds, there wouldn’t be a lot of diversity there. We all have different stories.”
Former Olivet student Lydia Nelson described her year and a half experience at Olivet as a biracial woman as “very strange.”
“Olivet, as a whole, handles things as best they can,” Nelson said. “But when the system is run by cis-white men and women from, generally speaking, traditional backgrounds, it’s hard to not view things as racially motivated. I had experiences with professors who, it seemed, had little regard for me as a woman of color.”
“Diversity in any context is beneficial. It opens us up to new ideas and a variety of takes on a subject. Diversity is something we should embrace,” Rabanalez said. “When it comes to the administration of a university with ever-increasing diversity in its student body, wouldn’t it be wonderful to see that same diversity represented in the administration?”