After eight years of racial justice education, Jason Cha, director of the Intercultural Programs (ICP), included in his weekly email that this will be his last semester at Westmont in this position. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing him to ask about his reflections and where he plans to go on from here:
A: How do you feel about this being your last year at Westmont? What is your plan after Westmont?
Q: “As I finish my eighth year in this role, I have much gratitude for the good work that God has called me to here at Westmont. I’ve learned so much professionally and personally especially as I sought to bring together my values of the gospel, justice, and commitment to higher education in my work. After having moved around a lot earlier in my career, I came to Westmont in 2012 telling myself that I was committed to this job for a minimum of four years and that it would be a good sign if I made it to eight years. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to serve in this role this long. The plan, for now, is to finish my last semester here, be present in my marriage, and focus my efforts this upcoming year on finishing my doctoral program.”
Q: As the Director of ICP, how would you describe the vision or purpose of the Intercultural Programs?
A: “I think ICP provides a unique opportunity for any interested students to grow in their racial consciousness and literacy in a way that unfortunately many Chrisitan colleges struggle to provide in more homogenous and monocultural learning environments. I often say that too many students can easily graduate from college without learning racial literacy and avoid these opportunities during their four years at Westmont. They then go into their world with an underdeveloped understanding of both themselves and the world. So many of our students need to essentially unlearn colorblindness and post-racial thinking that is unfortunately ingrained into much of the evangelical church’s mindset.”
Q: What are your thoughts on the search for a new director?
A: “I am hopeful that we find someone to carry on the good work that ICP has been doing during and before my time at Westmont. The reality is that diversity and equity work is often positioned to not only support students but also advocate for change and equity on college campuses. Westmont will need to find someone that can challenge our institution productively and healthily. All organizations have blind spots and areas of growth and racial equity is certainly one challenge for most evangelical organizations.”
Q: In brief, what are some of your reflections of your time at Westmont working alongside students?
A: “It has been such a privilege to walk alongside students as they discover themselves and transition into being adults at Westmont. In particular, seeing students awaken to their racial identity and develop the language to speak about their lived experiences has been priceless. I just sent an email to over 90 of my former ICP student leaders, and it made me reflect on how many students I’ve been able to work closely with and support in their journey. I’ve also learned so much with them and from them.”
It’s worth mentioning that to work closely with his student leaders, he also taught the class, “Racial Justice Study Series,” a course that helps train ICP leaders, as well as additional students who are willing to opt-in to the discussion, to facilitate their respective organizations, which include the following: Asian Student Association (ASA), Black Student Union (BSU), Global and International Student Association (GISA), Multi-Ethnic Student Association (MESA), Latinx Cultural Organization (LCO), and White Students for Racial Justice (WRJ). Cha shares that it’s worth reading books such as “Why Are the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Beverly Tatum and “The Trouble I’ve Seen” by Drew Hart to begin the developmental process in discovering the intersections of racial identity and faith.
During his time at Westmont, he started and collaborated on outreach programs such as ICP Connect, The Next Step, and Voices, to encourage Westmont students to get involved in the conversation surrounding race and ethnicity. He also participated in conferences such as the Student Congress on Racial Reconciliation (SCORR), where he has taught students, specifically those who attend Christian Colleges, in workshops surrounding stereotypes and historical contexts.
As the end of Jason Cha’s eight years as Westmont’s Director of ICP nears, the transition to a new director is underway and is expected to be decided in April.
Thus, in his update to the Westmont community and his friends, he ended with the following: “Thanks for your support and partnership over the past several years together./ Much Love,/ Jason”