Alumni News

Let Us Come and Reason Together

by Sarah Cushing - University Communications | Dec 06, 2016
Dr. Debra Brown
University of Valley Forge (UVF) Associate Professor Debra Brown, D.Min., Department of Behavioral Sciences chair and Social Work program director, is a lifelong learner with a passion for social justice and student empowerment. Known for her efforts in higher education regarding both, Brown was invited to speak at the Evangelical Missiological Society Conference at the Wycliffe Bible Translation Linguistic Center in Dallas, Texas, on Oct. 15, 2016. 

Brown presented her paper for the Black Lives Matter and the American Evangelical Church conference track. Brown's paper, titled "The Contextualization of Black Lives Matter in Christian Higher Education," discussed the necessity in today's society for Christian universities to acknowledge that racial tensions exist in their environment. In doing so, universities open a door for honest dialogue between all of the members of said community to ultimately improve it. "It's important to acknowledge that God is not colorblind," Brown said. "It is also important to listen to the voices of students to educate, equip and empower them as leaders in the process of change." The paper is solution-based, meaning that for every concern she voiced, Brown provided a possible solution. 

In her paper, Brown used UVF as a case study. As a professor, Brown teaches her students the value of ethnic/racial recognition and reconciliation. She teaches on politics, socioeconomic and social welfare policies and challenges students to utilize critical thinking, delve beyond the media and statistics and think of the people affected. There is an active Diversity Committee on campus, which creates and implements strategies to increase cultural competency in response to the growing diverse culture on campus. The committee is led by Rev. Jennifer Gale, vice president of student life, and consists of UVF faculty, staff and student representatives who work on improving the culture on campus. The goal is to cultivate a safe environment where everyone is welcome to their own opinion and can come together and reason, all the while showing the love of God to one another. "It's not just for African-American, Latino and Hispanic students, but for all students to discuss the concerns they have on campus," Brown said. 

For the last couple of years Brown, alongside other UVF faculty and staff, designed and led Black Lives Matter elective chapels, as well as chapels that explored diversity and offered open dialogue. The chapels educated students on the historical significance of student activism in the United States and provided a communication platform. Brown served as a mentor and worked to equip students to become elective chapel leaders. Students from all races and backgrounds attended the elective chapels to increase their awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement and gain a better understanding of the issues facing fellow students. Now, Brown has a supporting role, letting students lead and evaluate if and how Black Lives Matter elective chapels can help in the future. "It was a message of hope that we can talk about these things within a Christian arena, and it was also an opportunity to look at application — what we can do in our circle," Brown said. 

The conference’s Black Lives Matter tracks were some of the most highly attended and highly complimented. Attendees encouraged Brown to publish her paper, recognizing the value of her research and the change happening at UVF. “I think I gave them hope,” she said. Brown also attended other sessions in the Black Lives Matter track as well as other tracks. As a first-time attendee, she wanted to get as much as she could from the experience and felt inspired by how many universities also want to improve their campuses' diverse cultures. “There is a hunger there to try to learn and apply and try to make things better, which was very encouraging to me,” Brown said.