Maya Walker, director of the Multicultural and International Student Services is working with Indigenous students at Point Loma Nazarene University to better understand how PLNU can support their community and visibility on campus.
In the spring of 2023, Walker began speaking to Indigenous students on campus to learn about their personal experiences at PLNU as Indigenous students and to discuss the possibility of starting an Indigenous Students Affiliation Group.
Walker said why she wanted to begin the conversation with Indigenous students at PLNU.
“I believe a big part of my role is ensuring that all who come to Point Loma feel a sense of belonging and feel a part of the PLNU community,” Walker wrote via an email interview. “With this, I wanted to identify opportunities to create additional affinity groups (if there was an interest amongst the students). Ultimately, the students are hoping for a safe space to connect with others from their community as well as provide opportunities for education for those who are interested in learning more about their culture.”
Walker also explained what she has learned from working with Indigenous students and what PLNU can learn as well.
“Regardless of who you are, everyone has a story and a particular journey that has brought them to Point Loma,” Walker wrote. “I think it’s important to take the intentional time to listen to the lived realities and experiences of others. I encourage you all to engage in dialogue that can allow us to gain an appreciation and understanding of different backgrounds and see the image of God in every person that you encounter.”
Miranda Williams, a third-year environmental studies major, is one of the Indigenous students Walker is currently working with. Williams explained her point of view working with Walker and her experience as an Indigenous student at PLNU.
“Working with Maya on this has been amazing,” Williams wrote via an email interview. “She is a very open and respectful person when it comes to these things. The work has looked like meetings that we have had every few weeks, meeting up and discussing the plans of this affinity group.”
Williams said that there have been times when she would explain that she is Indigenous and people would say things along the lines of “I didn’t know you guys still existed.” Williams said that the work she is doing with Walker will hopefully lead to the recognition of Indigenous students on PLNU’s campus and motivate students to want to learn more about them.
Williams said what she hopes for the future of Indigenous students on campus.
“I hope our work together continues,” Williams wrote. “I hope it brings in more people from the indigenous community to have a safe place and place where they feel welcome while also welcoming in people who want to learn more about the indigenous community.”
Mandy Hong, the director of undergraduate admissions at PLNU shares that although the university doesn’t factor in race during admissions, there is a scholarship for students looking to establish leadership in diversity at PLNU.
The scholarship is called the Diversity Leadership Scholarship.
On the scholarship website, diversity is defined as “a Christian community shaped by grace, truth and holiness as a way of life, Point Loma Nazarene University is committed to pursuing and reflecting the diversity, inclusion and equity of the kingdom of God portrayed in scripture. We believe that every human being is created in the image of God and that our diverse identities, experiences and abilities enrich our learning community.”