Imago Dei Presents at CCCU Texas Conference
Representatives from Imago Dei presented earlier this semester at the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities' (CCCU) three-day 2022 International Forum in Dallas, Texas.
Imago Dei is a movement started in 2020 by a group of Lee students who are dedicated to starting conversations about social justice issues and recognizing the image of God in everyone.
"There were several moments during the presentation where hope came into the room," said Gloria Scott-Richmond, director of the Office of Racial and Ethnic Relations at Lee. "Our audience didn't just receive a report of what was happening at Lee, but they were able to realize this movement can be replicated to bring hope to their campus culture."
The CCCU's International Forum is a quadrennial event that gathers various collegiate administrative representatives to discuss pressing trends and issues facing Christian higher education.
"Imago Dei is first God's idea, we just get to be a part of His movement," said Scott-Richmond. "Through this movement, we are being reconciled to both God and to each other. We've had humble beginnings as a movement, and we have had the attitude of 'We don't know what will come of it if we don't try.'"
Dr. Mike Hayes, vice president for student development at Lee, recommended the group apply for the opportunity to speak and, after being accepted, they became the only student presenters at the conference. The group presented to a variety of college and university administration representatives from around the country.
"The Imago Dei workshop was a highlight of the forum, received enthusiastically by those in attendance," said Hayes. "The numerous colleges and universities represented at the workshop embraced the ideas, were eager to discuss ways to initiate dialogue in critical areas on their campuses, and were impressed by the work our students have been doing."
The presentation provided attendees with an idea of what Imago Dei is about, how it got started, and how others can practically implement the same principles and movement with the students on their campuses to develop leaders who create permanent change. These practical tools include creating video series, hosting events, and offering in-depth discussion groups.
The Lee group was able to leave their presentation materials with the CCCU to distribute, and many institutions have started to partner with Lee to implement the curriculum on their campuses.
In addition to its video series, Imago Dei's curriculum has expanded to include small group discussion guides and church resources. This curriculum has been created to help colleges and churches practically implement Imago Dei discussions and advocacy. These topics span from racial reconciliation to grief, mental health, trauma, social media, embracing culture, consent, sexual assault, and more. According to Dhuranique Ferguson, co-founder of Imago Dei and graduate student at Lee, the goal of covering these topics is to ask questions students may be afraid to ask while engaging them in challenging and respectful conversations.
"Though our presentation focused on racial reconciliation, we wanted to demonstrate that Imago Dei is much broader than that one topic, said Ferguson. "Imago Dei is about hope and awareness."
Several Lee faculty, students, and alumni were among the presenters, including Hayes; Scott-Richmond; Ferguson; Katherine Lange, co-founder of Imago Dei and graduate student at Lee; D'Metri Mattocks, director of intercultural life at George Fox University and Lee alum; and recent alum David Williams, co-founder of Imago Dei.
Other Lee representatives in attendance were Dr. Paul Conn, chancellor; Darlia Conn, director of Lee's Presidential Concert Series; Carolyn Dirksen, distinguished professor emeritus and CCCU senior fellow; Dr. Arlie Tagayuna, associate professor of sociology; and Dr. Mark Walker, president, and his wife Udella.
"The support from the president's office has been tremendous throughout this process," said Scott-Richmond. "Implementing Imago Dei on our campus has been a collaborative effort from several departments at Lee."
During post-conference consultation meetings, Alex Staup, director of student engagement at Lee, and Dr. Fijoy Johnson, director of special projects at Lee, have helped introduce Imago Dei's curriculum to other universities.
"It [the presentation] helped communicate an overview of what is happening in the world, what is happening at Lee, what it's like at a predominately white school, what it was like going through the civil unrest of 2020, and then out of that showing what was born, what we have done, and the accomplishments God has done through Imago Dei," said Lange. "We also shared how a student-led initiative can make a difference."
The leadership of Imago Dei has future goals for change and starting challenging conversations, both at Lee University and beyond.
"We want to create leaders who unapologetically stand up and speak into students' lives around them but are also willing to have these hard conversations and be ambassadors for that," said Ferguson. "We hope to continue a legacy at Lee and to cater to what the school needs at that time. For right now, it may be racial reconciliation, and, in the future, no matter the topic, hopefully Imago Dei is there as a platform."
According to Ferguson, Imago Dei "External," outside of Lee, has long-term goals such as creating a scholarship at Lee, writing a book, and starting a nonprofit. They are also in the process of finishing a Bible study for churches to use as a resource.
Since 1976, the CCCU has been an international association of now over 185 Christian higher education institutions. They emphasize public advocacy, professional development and scholarship, and experiential education while maintaining a Christ-centered outlook.
For more information about the CCCU, visit cccu.org/.
For more information about Imago Dei, including past and upcoming events, the new curriculum, or access to the movement's Instagram and YouTube pages, visit sites.google.com or contact Scott-Richmond at firstname.lastname@example.org or her assistant Jenica Alexis at email@example.com.
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