The Rev. Gregory Dyson, director of intercultural leadership at Cedarville University, said he wants to change how diversity is perceived on Cedarville’s campus. Cultural diversity has been, and continues to be a divisive and controversial issue for both Christians and non-Christians to address. Dyson said he believes that while all people have different and unique backgrounds, skin pigmentation is just one element of that.
To raise awareness about multiculturalism and teach students how they can get involved on campus, Dyson began an intercultural update blog in November 2015.
“I’m trying to make sure that people know what is happening with connection to our school,” Dyson said. “I feel like there are amazing things happening that most people have no clue about.”
The blog provides students and staff with a window into multicultural events happening both on and off campus. Dyson views the blog as more of an update point for individuals interested in what is happening, not as a tool to create dialogue, he said.
“This is really just a massive multicultural FYI,” Dyson said.
Dyson said he hopes his blog will allow its readers to learn what is happening near them, since college students are often uniformed about diversity matters.
“I want to make sure students stay informed,” Dyson said. “Next, I want to broaden the students mind to say, ‘I’m not just here to go to a class.’ I want them to take everything they get from the classes, praise God for them and learn a lot, but come out of that class and be willing to engage and get involved,” he said.
Dyson said he wants the readers of his blog to look at multiculturalism uniquely but still see it as part of the big picture.
“That even means helping diversity stay in its lane, keep its place. It’s not the most important thing,” Dyson said.
A need for change
Dyson said he focuses on personal communication when he is trying to raise awareness of intercultural events happening on campus. Rather than send a flood of emails, he roams halls and offices at Cedarville and hands out printed invitations to intercultural events. He said he uses this method as a way to start conversation, draw interest and cause people to think about their own cultural background.
During last summer, Mark Mazelin, director of web development at Cedarville, convinced Dyson it was time for a digital change. Dyson said Mazelin told him he needed an online presence where people could quickly access information about diversity at Cedarville. Assisted by Mazelin and digital marketing manager Michael Pells, Dyson’s diversity page began.
The page provided a place for Dyson to post a diversity statement and share ways to get involved and find resources to learn more about diversity. It was during this process that Dyson said people started suggesting he create a blog. Dyson said he quickly rejected the idea.
“I said, ‘No, I don’t want it, everything but the blog,’” Dyson said. “But then people started asking me questions about different things, and I realized I need a place where I can share some thoughts and give people a chance to ruminate about it.”
Dyson said Bill Rubosky, a web and mobile application developer at Cedarville, was instrumental in setting up and teaching Dyson how to use the blog as an effective tool.
Rubosky said, “What I told (Dyson) was, ‘Be yourself and act like you’re talking to one person,’ because only one person at a time will read what you write.”
While Dyson said his blog would not be what is today without Rubosky’s work and advice, Rubosky praised Dyson’s vision.
“He just has a passion for what he does and what he believes, and it shows in what he writes,” Rubosky said. “I don’t make him do that.”
Dyson’s passion for multiculturalism started at an early age.
His mother was from Jamaica, and his father was an American who served in the Air Force. Dyson’s parents met and married in England and had four children. Dyson was born in Massachusetts, and his three sisters were each born in a different country. Dyson met his wife, Gina, at Word of Life Bible Institute in New York in 1985, and they got married in her home country of Canada in 1986.
Dyson’s mother taught him that when choosing a home church, good theology was more important than the color of the church members’ skin. Dyson said his mother would go to predominantly Caucasian churches that she felt had sound Christian theology, and she trusted that God would teach her family how to interact with people of other ethnicities.
“So, I grew up in mostly Caucasian churches and so often people would say, ‘Man, Greg you really get it,’” Dyson said. “But it’s only because they didn’t understand I was them with a dark tan.”
Dyson first got involved in educating people about cultural diversity as a student at Cedarville in 1995 when a fellow student, Tim Ware, asked him to help minority students adjust to Cedarville. As a 30-year-old, married college student working full time with one child, Dyson said he was not eager to add to his responsibilities, but he eventually agreed to help.
“What I realized was no one, not the students, nor the administration or faculty were comfortable with (the diversity) conversation,” Dyson said. “Everybody 20 years ago was really uncomfortable. They didn’t know what to do with it.”
Dyson said that experience was the heartbeat to him coming back to Cedarville almost 20 years later.
When Thomas White offered him the position of director of intercultural leadership in 2014, Dyson said he was happy to take the job.
Dyson said he refers to cultural diversity in America – and in Cedarville – not as a melting pot but as a salad.
“It’s a tossed salad. You’ve got all these different things in there,” Dyson said. “You’ve got the tomatoes and the cucumbers and the mushrooms and the bacon bits, and they all have flavor points, they all matter. They are just all different. We want people to enjoy those differences.”
Check out the blog at www.blogs.cedarville.edu/interculturalupdate
Keegan D’Alfonso is a freshman journalism major and a reporter for Cedars. He was a sergeant in the Marines and enjoys learning about and experiencing other cultures.