The Diversity Imperative: Insights on Racial and Ethnic Diversity from the ATS Cultivating Educational Capacity (CEC) Initiative and Resources for Member Schools
Porter, Jodi L.
ATS shapes the industry of theological education, and this quality improvement project engaged with two values that ATS and its schools hope to embody: diversity and justice. Porter studied the Cultivating Educational Capacity (CEC) initiative, ATS’s most recent effort to support theological schools in their work regarding racial/ethnic diversity. Porter utilized D. G. Smith’s (2020) four-fold framework for institutional capacity for diversity, describing concerns with success; and Fernando Cascante-Gómez’s (2008) Model for Advancing Racial/Ethnic Diversity (MARED), assessing concerns with justice. Of the 18 schools involved in the CEC initiative, the study emphasized the nine located in the United States that still identify as predominantly white theological institutions (PWTIs) according to the 2020-2021 ATS Annual Data Tables. Analyzing final reports written by the CEC schools, surveys, and focus groups, Porter offered findings that showed both evangelical and mainline CEC schools are engaging broadly in diversity and justice work but could use more support to do that work intentionally and measure it well. Porter constructed an integrated organizational improvement resource to illustrate how ATS can encourage schools to connect their diversity work with justice concerns and improve that work iteratively, specific to their unique contexts, aiming not only for inclusion but for belonging for all. Porter encouraged ATS to develop such resources and incentivize their use through workshops, webinars, and new grant initiatives. Because the CEC initiative involved only those ATS schools who chose to participate, and because the study did not follow a generalizable design, findings and recommendations do not represent theological schools broadly. However, the CEC schools who contributed to the study and other ATS schools in the U.S. that identify as PWTIs may find this study helpful for ongoing diversity efforts.