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Calvin Professor Becomes New Dean
July 9, 2007

Michelle Loyd-PaigeOn a formerly empty wall in her Spoelhof Center office, Michelle Loyd-Paige has hung a large tapestry.

There are nine squares in the piece, the fabric of which came from a thrift store and was at one time, speculates Loyd-Paige, furniture samples. And while the squares each represent a variety of colors and patterns, what brings them all together is the work Loyd-Paige did last November when she created the tapestry, after being struck by a space she thought needed to be filled.

On each square she has applied colorful fabric paint in curving lines of gold and silver. Many of the lines bridge the squares, bringing adjacent squares together, while on some squares she has added other accoutrements, including some small, but bright gold leaves.

"I like that each square can stand alone," she says, "but I also like how they come together. Together each square is beautiful but when they work together as a whole there's a different kind of beauty there."

It's a fitting metaphor, a visitor points out, for her new work at Calvin, as dean for multicultural affairs, a task which sees her working towards Calvin's stated goal of establishing a campus community committed to multicultural citizenship, anti-racism, reconciliation and restoration.

Loyd-Paige smiles. "I suppose it is," she says nodding.

Her new post, into which she officially stepped on July 1 after serving in 2006-2007 in an interim capacity, is something, she says, she never envisioned for herself.

"I did believe in this position," she says. "I knew how important it was. But I didn't see myself doing it."

But in December 2006, on her annual personal, spiritual retreat, Loyd-Paige did something she does for all major decisions: she made a list of all the reasons she should and shouldn't do the job and then she turned it over to God.

"That's a dangerous thing to do," she says now with a hearty laugh. "So here I am."

Here she is, ready to prod Calvin, to hold it accountable, to cajole, remind, appeal, celebrate and cry.

"I've seen a lot of progress at Calvin when it comes to issues of race and diversity," she says. "From my time here as a student (in the late 1970s) to now there have been a lot of positive changes. I really do believe that this campus is committed to bringing about a more multicultural vision. I also know how difficult it has been to achieve it. And, we're not done. We'll never be done. So I see my job as an important part of what we need to do to keep moving forward."

She is encouraged in her work by Calvin's Christian commitment to the cause.

"It's not just the politically correct thing to do at Calvin," she says. "We do take a Biblical approach to doing this work. We are really driven by our faith. It informs our work here. And that gives me hope."

Bringing her faith and her work together is nothing new for Loyd-Paige.

She has spent most of her two-decade teaching career at Calvin as first a licensed minister and then an ordained elder and pastor. She is presently serving on the pastoral team at her church, Christian Fellowship and Outreach, part of the Church of the Living God. She also founded Preach Sista! a nonprofit group that supports women in ministry.

As a Calvin student Loyd-Paige says she found a place that was great for her academically, but not so good socially. She recalls never having a person of color for a professor. After graduation she went on to earn a master's degree and a doctorate in sociology from Purdue University. But she never expected to come back to Calvin.

She was drawn back in slowly, first teaching an interim class, then a couple of regular semester-long courses. And before she knew it she was on a tenure track! She found teaching mostly white students as interesting as it had been for her to take all of her classes from white professors. She found opportunities to educate beyond the textbook and beyond the classroom, encouraging her students to challenge themselves not to oppress others, to recognize their inherent privilege and to ask themselves how they could make things better in the world.

That's one of the reasons she did not gravitate toward the dean for multicultural affairs position. "I love the classroom," she says. "I was in a good rhythym. I was comfortable. I didn't want to give that all up."

But, she says with a wry smile, God has a way of filling the spaces.

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