“This past decade (Calvin University president) Michael Le Roy really raised the profile of diversity and inclusion at Calvin University, getting us closer to our From Every Nation vision,” said Michelle Loyd-Paige, executive associate to the president for diversity and inclusion at Calvin. “We’re not there yet; we have a ways to go, but we’ve come so far in these ten years.” For decades, Calvin has been working toward that From Every Nation vision—to become a Christian community that celebrates cultural diversity and is shaped by the biblical vision of the kingdom of God, a kingdom formed “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9-10).
Loyd-Paige has been leading this work at Calvin University for many years. From 2006-15, she served as dean of multicultural affairs. Reporting to the provost and housed in the academic division, Loyd-Paige led the multicultural affairs committee, shepherded the cross-cultural engagement requirement for students, and successfully guided the college through an anti-racism institutional audit conducted by Partners For a Racism-Free Community–Grand Rapids.
But in 2015 Calvin significantly elevated that important work, and after a national search, Loyd-Paige was appointed to the newly created position of executive associate to the president for diversity and inclusion.
“I think under Michael (Le Roy)’s leadership, this work of diversity and inclusion became more institutionalized, and awareness became a higher priority,” Loyd-Paige said.
A Strategic Move
This was no accident. One of the six themes of the 2014-19 strategic plan was “Strengthen Calvin’s Pursuit of Diversity and Inclusion,” and that included adding a position to the president’s cabinet. Loyd-Paige’s position is within the office of the president, and her desk is just steps from Le Roy’s door.
“He trusts my judgment (for me) to be the senior spokesperson for the university when it comes to decisions about diversity goals or how to respond to something,” Loyd-Paige said. “I’m not just a figurehead, and I know a lot of my colleagues at other institutions can’t say the same thing. I know I can say (to Le Roy), ‘You’re off on that,’ because I have. He’s not defensive; he says, ‘Okay, help me to see where I’m off. Now let’s do the corrective.’”
A University-wide Commitment
Le Roy and Loyd-Paige also partnered in recent years to form a president’s advisory team for diversity and inclusion composed of various stakeholders from every division of the university. The team’s purpose is to support the university’s vision for diversity and inclusion and to partner with Loyd-Paige to coordinate deep, pervasive, and meaningful change in the university’s understanding and practice of diversity and inclusion. The team’s work includes monitoring the progress of the diversity and inclusion goals identified in the university strategic plan and the diversity and inclusion strategic action plan, providing updates on diversity initiatives or concerns within each division, and encouraging professional development in cultural competency through sponsorship of events.
The university’s leaders also have sought the advice of students. In 2020, the president’s office formed the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) student advisory group, which meets regularly with Le Roy and Loyd-Paige.
“Michael could enter into that space and suck all the air out of the room by saying ‘I am president,’ but he shows up as Michael. He’s the last person to speak as opposed to the first. He is there to listen,” Loyd-Paige said.
Le Roy and Loyd-Paige listen to the experiences of the students and, at the request of students, have invited both campus and community leaders into these conversations, including the mayor of Grand Rapids and the city’s police chief.
“Those conversations have gone really well,” Loyd-Paige said. “Michael leaned in to listen—not to tell, not to sell Calvin, but to listen to the student experience and to try to understand it.”
While Le Roy is leaving his position in a few months, the strategic work that’s been done over the past decade has helped Calvin lean further into its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Both the current strategic plan and Vision 2030 make clear that this remains a core institutional value.