Although she was born and raised in Kansas, Mary Clark has lived all over America, from Colorado to Missouri and finally Nashville, Tennessee – Tennessee being her eighth state.
Clark came to Belmont as the first full-time director of the Bridges to Belmont program in 2014, but when the provost approached her in March with the idea for the new Office of Multicultural Learning and Experience, she said yes. After working in college athletics for 10 years, she wanted to “work with a larger student population and have a much larger impact,” she said.
“I think it’s an extraordinary opportunity to not only have that position, but really work with the students, faculty and staff at Belmont to do something new and kind of take Belmont in a new direction,” Clark said.
Right now, Clark’s goal for the office is to raise awareness and be insightful in and out of the classroom. Although she thinks Belmont already does a good job of being a welcoming and understanding community, “things change in society, we really have to be aware and thoughtful of one another in a very Christian manner,” she said.
“Even the smallest things that create opportunities for learning and awareness are critical,” said Clark. “When we talk about books that faculty and staff might be using, is it a wide variety of writers? Are they being exposed to not only F. Scott Fitzgerald, but also Lorraine Hansberry?”
Clark hopes to improve diversity and multiculturalism by raising awareness inside the classroom and out to change the the conversations on campus, she said.
“I think we will see a change in the conversations that we have in our classrooms and in our residence halls. There will be a significantly stronger awareness,” said Clark. “It sounds small or almost minute that even the places we choose to do community service will be more diverse. It’ll come more naturally.”
Changing the conversation at Belmont is important to Clark because “people want to feel valued and heard,” she said. She hopes to open the door to challenging conversations in order to help students understand the perspectives and experiences of other students.
“Even if you don’t understand, at least be willing to listen,” said Clark.
By encouraging these kinds of conversations to become a more natural part of the Belmont community, Clark believes those simple interactions help develop compassion and empathy and understanding and awareness.
This article was written by Emily Allen. Photo courtesy of Mary Clark.