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ENC Launches Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice

Published: September 2, 2020

Announcement of co-chairs and members

Dear ENC Community and Friends:

The events of recent days have reminded us yet again of the painful realities of racism in our nation. While we can be grateful for the heightened awareness and deepened resolve that has developed over the last few months, we must also acknowledge that there is still so much work to do. The biblical call to justice for all of God’s children is unmistakable in the message of the prophets, the ministry of Jesus, the founding of the Christian movement, and the history of the Church of the Nazarene. Here at ENC, we will therefore seek to do all that we can to confront racism and to advance God’s purposes of reconciliation and renewal for all.

As one small step in this effort, I announced in June that ENC would be forming a Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice. The mandate of the Task Force is to conduct a thorough assessment of the cultural climate at ENC and identify ways in which we can more fully embody God’s call to be a community of love and justice for all. Today I am pleased to announce the co-chairs and members of this Task Force.

The Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice will be co-chaired by Dr. Melody Eckardt and Mr. Robert Benjamin. Dr. Eckardt is a graduate of Messiah College, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and the Harvard School of Public Health. She currently serves as the Senior Maternal Health Advisor in the Global Health Innovation Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital and has been a member of ENC’s Board of Trustees since 2017. Mr. Robert Benjamin has been at ENC since 1998 and currently serves as Assistant Vice President of Multicultural Affairs and Dean of Students. During his long tenure at ENC, Mr. Benjamin has been at the forefront of our work with students, faculty, staff, and constituents on issues related to racism and multiculturalism. I believe Dr. Eckardt and Mr. Benjamin are both uniquely gifted to lead this team and am grateful to them for their willingness to serve.

To ensure broad representation from a variety of stakeholder groups, the co-chairs and I have identified task force members from among ENC’s faculty, staff, students, administrators, alumni, and Trustees. We have sought to assemble a diverse and thoughtful group who will guide this important institutional conversation with insight, graciousness, and courage.

The following individuals have agreed to serve as members of the Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice:

  • Priscilla Brinson-Thompson: current student
  • Trina Bryant: Director of the Center for Student Enrichment
  • Julia Cuthbert: current student
  • Christina St. Pierre Desautell: Education and Financial Family Consultant; ENC alumna
  • Natara Gray: Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Diversity Outreach
  • Money Hamilton: current student
  • Kristen Johnson: Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Member of the Board of Trustees
  • Jeff Kirksey: Vice President of Student Development and Campus Services
  • Sacha Santimano: Women’s Head Basketball Coach
  • I’Esha Thomas: School Counselor; ENC alumna
  • Brad Thorne: Director of the Brickley Center
  • Rev. Dr. Sam Vassel: Metro New York District Superintendent; Member of the Board of Trustees
  • Dr. Matt Waterman: Professor of Biology and Associate Dean for Academic Policy
  • Tara Brooke Watkins: Assistant Professor of Theatre for Social Justice
  • Rev. Kyung Yu: Pastor of the Reading Korean Church of the Nazarene; Member of the Board of Trustees.

I am delighted with the team that has been assembled and invite you to join me in thanking them for their service and praying for them to have God’s wisdom as they conduct their work.

The Task Force will be looking at such areas as curriculum, academic policies, student life, employment, student recruitment and retention, athletics, chapel, alumni relations, and governance structures. They will begin their work in September and present their recommendations by the end of the 2020-21 academic year. They have the strong support of the Board of Trustees and the administration, and I am confident they will have your support as well.

Periodic updates to the community will be provided by the Task Force as their work progresses. Let us commit ourselves to join them in working and praying for God’s kingdom to come, His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

With gratitude and anticipation,

Jack Connell



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