Students Reflect on Jason Cha’s Departure

Kat Marquez, Staff Writer

After eight full years as Director of the Intercultural Programs (ICP), Jason Cha announced that this is his final semester in this position and plans to step down. As ICP prepares for its transition into the supposedly renamed “Center for Diversity and Global Engagement” on top of his departure, members of the ICP Community comment on how Jason Cha has impacted the institution and/or themselves during their time at Westmont.

Rebekah Beeghly, a recent Westmont alumna and former Multi-Ethnic Student Association (MESA) co-leader mentioned that “being a part of ICP leadership and learning from Jason was definitely one of the top five most growing and influential parts of college for me and that is very much thanks to Jason Cha … he stands firmly, digs deep, and speaks up for what he believes in. He has cared so deeply for this institution, and whether he gets acknowledged for it or not, Westmont is, I am, and we are better off because of [his] work, selflessness, and dedication … I have no doubt his legacy will live on [and I am] beyond grateful to be able to call him a teacher, boss, mentor, and friend.”

Likewise, senior and ICP business manager Caitlyn Wells expresses the impact Jason Cha has had on her during her four years at Westmont: “When I came to Westmont I was not racially conscious. Yet through Jason and his class, I was validated in many of my own racial experiences and gained a passion for racial and social justice. As most private Christian colleges, Westmont tends to avoid conversations on race, overemphasize ‘diversity’, and find discomfort in naming whiteness — this creates an environment that can often be hostile and isolating towards its students of color. Jason and the community of ICP honestly played a huge role in getting me through the past four years. I am both excited for Jason’s future and deeply grateful for the kingdom work he has done and will continue to do.” 

Odile Ndayishimiye, a senior and the Diversity and Inclusion Senator for Westmont College Student Association (WCSA) this year, also includes how Jason Cha has supported her through her journey at Westmont as an international student, especially as a woman of color. She states, “[Jason Cha] has stayed close to me and so many other underrepresented students who are struggling to understand their identity [at a] predominantly white college … he helped me gain an understanding of my black identity in this world, in the U.S., and especially in God’s eyes [and] I will forever be grateful for him because the knowledge he has given me, the language he has taught me, has left me more empowered than I thought I needed to be.”

His impact also goes beyond current students and recent alumni. Sarah Gowing, another Westmont alumna and MESA co-leader during Jason’s earlier years, also commented on how much he has impacted Westmont’s culture. She mentions that “Jason is someone who cares about others’ individual growth as well as justice, which is not commonly found. He’s a fantastic mentor because he cares about people and challenges them towards growth in their own identity to use in furthering God’s Kingdom … He’s just an excellent listener and remembers details about people.”

 This past weekend, several students attended the Student Congress for Racial Reconciliation (SCORR) at Biola University. Many even attended for the first time. One was James Lopez, a second-year and member of the Latinx Student Union, who mentions that “I really wanted more resources in my journey of learning more about my racial/ethnic identity. In addition, I was having trouble continuously expressing my great pride in my Latin culture. In a conversation with Jason Cha, he mentioned to me the opportunity to attend SCORR in the spring semester where I could explore my questions and emotions more in a very safe space. I’m glad I did attend.”

As a current co-leader of the Multi-Ethnic Student Association and as a woman of color, I, too am appreciative of what Jason Cha has taught me while in his Racial Justice Study Series class and leadership training. These individuals are not the only ones who have expressed gratitude towards Jason Cha and the work he has done, just as Jason taught many at Westmont about the work of justice that needs to be done within and for the Body of Christ.