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Administration Profile: Vanessa Greene, Director of Multicultural Life

For Vanessa Greene, an interest in diversity has always played an important part in her life.

“I’ve always had a very strong interest in multiculturalism,” she says. “I have a passion for diversity. I believe in it. I believe in brotherly/sisterly unity across racial lines. We’re all children of God; we’re all born into the same family.”

As Hope’s director of multicultural life, Greene aims to make an awareness of diversity an essential part of the life of every student.

“Diversity is directly related to every facet of life, and I don’t think we as a society can continue to neglect the value of diversity,” she says, stating that diversity should be more than an afterthought to students’ education. “I would like to see people taking initiative to really, really get to know the experiences of other people.”

In keeping with the central importance of diversity, Greene and the Multicultural Life Office aim to provide “support to the larger campus community in terms of educating the larger community on multiculturalism and cross-cultural understanding.”

To achieve this goal, Greene thinks that students of all backgrounds need to be involved in dialogue with each other and education about their diverse cultural heritages.

“Until you’re really willing to look inside yourself and know who you are, I don’t think we’re going to be able to make the kind of progress that needs to be made,” she says.

The program works to develop collaborative partnerships with students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community in efforts to embrace and demonstrate multiculturalism at every level and in all aspects of college life. Related activity at the college includes programming built around monthly themes emphasizing the contributions of various ethnic groups as one way for individuals to become educated and reclaim their sense of identity.

Ultimately, Greene sees the Multicultural Life Office helping to build relationships and work towards cultural reconciliation.

“I think that the goal of the office is to break barriers and build bridges,” she says. “You cannot do it by making people angry and defensive to the point that they don’t have an ear and an open mind for what you have to say. You have to first create that relationship and that sense of openness for people to listen.”

Greene hopes that listening will lead to change and, she says, “the realization of the brotherhood and sisterhood -- of how much greater we could be as a country and a society if we could put aside unnecessary differences and build from similarities.”

This profile was written by Melissa Sexton, a 2005 Hope College graduate from Kalamazoo, Mich., for the 2005-06 Hope College Catalog.

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