360° VR Walk Through Southern’s Promenade. Click and learn.

By Paola Mora Zepeda

Southern is a bustling school, and it happens often that life becomes too busy. If you don’t have a class with someone, it’s sometimes difficult to intentionally see them during the week.

That’s unless you’re taking a stroll on the Promenade, of course.

For those unfamiliar with that legendary stretch of campus, the Promenade is more than just a walkway. It is the location of most of Southern’s academic and administrative buildings.

It has become the location to meet all kinds of people  — art majors, biology majors and history majors, for example. You also will find students from every background — white, black, Hispanic and Asian students — all gathered in one one place.

I recently used information from Southern’s fact book to document ethnicities represented in each area of study.  To report those findings, I decided to use a 360-degree camera to show what the Promenade is like.

The video captures, from end to end, the walkway students take almost every day. Buildings are labeled with their names and departments.  Additionally, the tags show the distribution of ethnicity by department.

Southern Adventist University (Southern) is a school whose history traces back to 1892. Growing from 23 to 3009 students, it has not only increased in number but also in diversity. According to U.S. News and World Report, Southern is the third most diverse university in the South.

The demographic breakdown according to the area of study is as follows:

Moving Around

By Zailin Pena

Southern Adventist University’s very own Samir Khalil talks about how he grew up in various countries and how that allowed him to see different cultures and learn more about them. He has interesting thoughts on diversity and speaks about them. 

Humans of Southern

Southern is notorious for its large population of international students. The photos below help paint a picture of just how diverse our campus is, providing information on all of the cultures represented at our school and a list of the top 5 most common ethnicity’s on campus.

It takes courage to sell books door-to-door. These students welcome the challenge.

By Paola Mora Zepeda

As I grabbed my camera and jumped into the car, I did not know what to expect. Growing up in the Seventh-day Adventist church, I had heard of ‘canvassing,’ a practice by which students go do-to-door selling books. However,  I had never actually taken the time to learn much about it.

Now, I was ready to record the “canvassers” and their activities, not knowing how the day would unfold. But right away, I was pleasantly surprised.

First, I noticed that participants in the Literature Evangelism Adventist Discipleship (LEAD) program were students, just like me, who actually had to muster the courage to talk to strangers.  They spent hours trying to get individuals to purchase books but didn’t get discouraged. 

Canvassing, I learned that day, requires a lot of walking, smiling and getting the door shut in your face.

Why would anyone put themselves through that? There are so many other job opportunities out there, why pick one that requires you to carry heavy books, meet all kinds of people and work for long shifts? 

By working on this video project for my Interactive Journalism class, I learned the answers to many of those questions.

For a church to grow, it cannot confine itself to four walls. It needs to get out and reach the unreachable.

Canvassing, I realized,  is not for the faint at heart, but it’s well worth the time and effort.

Watch the VIDEO on YouTube here

Diversity: A gift of love

By Estefania Sanchez-Mayorquin

With February being Black History Month, I decided it would be appropriate to create a video celebrating a beautiful gift that God has given us — diversity.

We were created to show God’s love to others. We may all look, talk, think and worship differently. However, when we see past our differences and work towards one common goal, miracles can happen.


Fashion designer Kirsten Ley on Diversity: ‘I love using models of every background’

Kirsten Ley is a Canadian couture designer who recently moved her line to Paris.  In just 12 months, she has participated in seven international shows, displaying three collections.

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Ley at New York Fashion Week, and she talked to me about her latest venture.

“I moved to Paris with my labels three and a half months ago,” she said. “… It’s kind of been this rebirth of my brand, and so I (titled) this collection ‘Naissance,’ which means birth in French.”

When asked about the diversity of models displayed in her line, Ley said:

“I find that my brand has a lot of dichotomy, and I love using a wide color palette. I love using models of every background and ethnicity and race and it just really speaks to me because I love having everyone a part of this.”


Ethnicity on the Runway : New York Fashion Week Designers Talk Diversity

By Hannah  D’avanzo

My media outlet, HD Access Media, has allowed me to attend international events and meet people of all backgrounds. One thing I noticed at designer shows is that diversity was often limited.

Attending Milan Fashion Week in previous years, for example, I recall not seeing a variety of ethnicities represented among designers, models or even the audience attending the shows.

So, when I recently had the opportunity to attend New York Winter Fashion Week, I decided to investigate as part of our Interactive Journalism class at Southern Adventist University.

Though most people would like to claim that diversity is important to them, how far will diversity go? Will women of ethnic backgrounds be included in this exclusive circle?

After several days of watching shows and talking to designers, my previous perspective changed.

Many designers said diversity was important to them. They not only expressed the belief but acted upon it by including models of different ethnicities to model their clothes.

I spoke with designers from all different parts of the world who came to showcase their designs and beautifully incorporated their culture into their clothes.  Present were Middle Eastern designers, Asian designers and European designers. 

Those I interviewed included Hakan Akkaya, Christian Cowan, Kirsten Ley, and Marisa P. Clark.

Along with diverse designers, we saw models of all backgrounds proudly showcasing the newest trends and embracing their ethnicities.

To summarize New York Winter Fashion Week:  It was a time where we could see, feel, and hear diversity, both on and off the runway.

Southern Adventist University ranked third most diverse college in the South. What can we learn from that history?

By Natalia Perez

Living in Tennessee for five years and attending Southern Adventist University for 4.5 of them, I’ve watched my university ebb and flow into different versions of itself, as did the students before me.

In 2017, U.S News & World Report ranked Southern as the most diverse university in the South, tied with Keiser University and the University of North Carolina. This year, Southern is ranked third in the region, with Keiser University in first-place and Marymount University and the University of North Carolina tied for second. Southern trails very close behind with a diversity index of .68, only .1 point lower than its second place counterparts.

I believe, along with many students who attend Southern, that we find ourselves with a very unique opportunity: We are the only institution in the state with as much cultural representation as we have. Therefore, successfully integrating could serve as an example here in the South, showing that different cultures and ethnicities can truly come together as one single tribe.

By successfully integrating, I don’t just mean that we all manage to share the same campus and tolerate each other. But do we celebrate each other? Do we understand, or try to understand, each others’ backgrounds, history, culture, and struggles?

While diversity has been widely discussed in higher-education, are diverse colleges and universities truly proud of that status? Or is it all about the numbers?

In the fall semester of 2018, the ethnic breakdown of Southern students showed that Whites constituted 46 percent of the university’s population,  Hispanics constituted 24 percent, Asians constituted 12 percent, African-Americans constituted 11 percent, Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders each constituted less than one percent of students identified with two or more races.

Compared to previous years, there is no longer a dominant ethnic majority, as all ethnicities make up nearly half of the population. While some of us may flaunt this fact, are we as well integrated as we are diverse? The timeline below shows some brief highlights of Southern’s race relations history, and our efforts to culturally integrate over the years.

Celebrating individual cultures: A threat to unity?

Throughout Southern’s race relations progress, many questions have been raised and many still remain. Although our student-body now represents several cultural identities, some may ask if all are being taken into consideration by the ones who create the structure for us to thrive and learn in. Recognizing that there are several ethnicities present is one thing, but searching for ways to provide an environment where people from all backgrounds feel deeply seen and understood is important.  

An argument that’s often brought up, especially in our current political climate, is that celebrating our individual cultures is detrimental to our university’s unity. Celebrating cultural differences, by some, is seen as a way to isolate certain people groups from others. Validating one culture while invalidating the rest.

Brandon Beneche, recent Southern alum, thinks that cultural celebrations should be a welcome practice on any campus as long as they are inclusive, educational, and fair.

“If a celebration excludes other peoples, promotes an inaccurate and damaging depiction of an ethnic group, or fails to represent its culture ethically, then I think cultural celebrations can be harmful,” Beneche shared.

“I believe one of the most effective ways our university can have better cultural integration is by developing a more understanding and accepting student body. It’s easy to say that one race needs to be more understanding of another, but that’s a bit shortsighted in my opinion. I’d argue that a student body that can demonstrate Christ’s love and patience while having informative and, occasionally, difficult conversations about race and culture with each other can make real strides towards a healthier level of integration.”

Rhidge Garcia, student association president, believes that celebrating individual cultures allows him to better appreciate the unique narratives they tell. He believes other entities and organizations on campus, other than student association and our cultural clubs, should get involved in the celebration of different cultures.

“I think it would be powerful for a student to be celebrated not only for one night a year, but also in the classroom, dormitory, professor’s office, and greater campus property,” Garcia shared. “The only reason why people might think that the celebration of cultures is divisive is because they are not willing to listen to those who haven’t been listened to. It sounds harsh, but it is imperative for us to listen to each other. And if people don’t want to listen, they will not see the importance of celebrating other individual cultures.”

Tierra Hayes, editor-in-chief of Southern’s university paper, the Southern Accent, says that celebrating individual cultures is something that should unite us, but it depends on our personal perspectives.

“By highlighting our differences, we can celebrate what makes each of us unique, but that doesn’t discount other cultures,” Hayes shared.

“I think people might see individual cultural celebrations as divisive because they fail to see how they play into the equation. They may also feel as if the highlighting of other cultures is meant to suppress their personal culture, while it is usually just a tool to enlighten and uplift the marginalized.  We need to be able to understand and embrace others, without having to make minorities assimilate to ensure the continuance of the dominant culture. Cultural clubs shouldn’t be sequestered off to one month or even one night. It would make more sense to have such cultures reflected in different worship styles on a rotation, instead of having one culture as the default and the minority cultures solely as special features.”

I believe that true unity is able to celebrate our cultural identity as a whole while also being strong enough to not be threatened by acknowledging and celebrating our individual cultural uniqueness. However, I want to hear your thoughts.  How do you think we can integrate better? What are your thoughts on cultural celebrations? Join the discussion below!

SAU Blacksmiths: Forging ahead with their craft

  • Southern's Smiths blacksmithing studio.

By Zailin Pena

While it isn’t the most well-known club on SAU’s campus, Southern’s Smiths is the university’s very own blacksmithing club.

Various forged tools reside in the club’s studio, where members meet every Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m. The blacksmiths work with a variety of instruments to make their art, and a power hammer was recently donated to help them out.

Every year, the group participates in SonRise, the university’s Easter pageant, where they have their own section that is located by Thatcher South. A few members hand out small hammered nails to kids, while others forge tools right out in the open.

Southern’s Smiths don’t get much attention, but they are forging ahead with their craft.

The club is just another example of the variety of talents on campus.

Is the future female?

The topic of women’s ordination within the Seventh-day Adventist church has been a controversial one for decades. Although it may seem like the church is completely against it, a study written by Ed Mcfield, associate professor at LLU School of Public Health, states otherwise.

In the document, Mcfield states that out of 13 divisions, seven of them indicated support of women’s ordination. There were five divisions that opposed it. Out of those five, four of the divisions stated that they would accept women being ordained only if it was approved by the church. The East-Central Africa Division’s stance on the issue is unclear. Interestingly, there was only one division —  Southern Africa and Indian Ocean Division — that was “adamantly opposed to Women’s Ordination and even proposes to rescind women’s ordination for elders.”

As time goes on, women’s ordination may no longer be taboo within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Because of this, I wanted to reach out to women who are currently studying ministry at an SDA institution and ask them a few questions. Meet the future women leaders of our church.

Meet Hormar Barboza:

Hormar Barboza is currently a junior at Southern Adventist University. She is majoring in pastoral care.

It was a Sabbath evening when she felt the Lord calling her to ministry. Only 16 at the time, Hormar said, “As I was getting home I remember thinking it and feeling it.”

This moment occurred in 2005. At that time, she knew that women going into ministry was taboo. She clearly remembers thinking that if she were a guy, she would go into ministry.

“I pushed the thought of ministry out of my mind because I was a girl,” she said. 

Barboza believes that, overall, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is supportive of women as pastors/religious leaders.

“Let’s not get stuck on the trivial stuff,”  she said.

Barboza feels the topic of women’s ordination is taking people’s attention away from the church’s goal and the Gospel.

In the future, she sees herself working primarily as a chaplain, whether it be at a hospital or the military. With excitement, she shared that her ultimate career goal is to serve the Lord as the U.S. Senate Chaplain.

When finishing up the interview with Hormar, I asked her what would she say to younger girls that are wanting to pursue ministry.

She quickly replied, “Go for it. Do not doubt God’s call.”

Meet Claudia Reyes:

Claudia Reyes is finishing up her senior year at Southern Adventist University. While at SAU, she has been studying pastoral care. It all started while in high school. During that time, Claudia’s father began working as a chaplain at Florida Hospital (now AdventHealth) in Apopka, Florida.

Chaplain Reyes was a part of a hospital ministry that set out to sing and bring flowers to patients most Fridays. She recalls how shy she was the first time she went, but she quickly fell in love with it and never missed a Friday.

Because of her experience with this ministry, Claudia felt impressed by the Holy Spirit to go into ministry. This was not something she ever saw herself studying, but the conviction was strong and it led her to Southern. Something that has made the process of studying ministry easier has been the support that she’s received from her professors. 

One of the changes that Claudia would like to see within the church is more culturally diverse women going into ministry. She’d like to see more Hispanic. African American, and Asian women. Being Hispanic herself, Claudia understands how going into ministry isn’t a norm in her culture.

“I’ve noticed in Hispanic churches it isn’t as accepted [compared to American/Caucasian churches],” she said. ” I want them to be more accepting.”

Claudia’s career plans are clearly defined. She wishes to work in a hospital and is setting her sights on AdventHealth in Central Florida. Starting off as a chaplain, and eventually, when she’s had more experience, being able to transition into a supervisor position.

Reyes wants young girls that are thinking about ministry to not be discouraged. People will give their opinions but she recommends not letting it distract them. 

“God will bless you for following and listening to him,” she said. “Stick to what God has called you to do.”

Meet Jaude Valentine: 

Jaude Valentine is also a senior at Southern Adventist University and is majoring in ministerial theology.

From the moment of her conversion, Jaude knew that she wanted to share the good news with others, though initially thinking she’d do so through Bible- teaching or nursing. God had other plans —  calling her to ministry. 

At first, Jaude felt “it was a crazy idea and that it required a very special girl to want to go into pastoral ministry.” Such feelings of denial followed her to Southern but eventually wore off.

Although she’d like to see the support of women in ministry, Jaude feels the debate has led to the church neglecting the ministry that God called it to do. Shifting the focus to reach those who have never heard the name of Jesus is a change she feels is necessary.

“I would like to see our church take on a culture of evangelism, specifically friendship evangelism,” she said. 

When asked what she would say to younger girls wanting to pursue ministry, Valentine said she would encourage them to read more of Ellen White’s writings for encouragement.

Also, she would tell them to “rely upon God for their strength, which comes from spending time with Him in prayer and meditating upon His love; reading His word, and developing a deeply intimate relationship.”