Ministry Associate for Discipleship Ray Chang and professor of politics and International Relations Michael McKoy received the 2021 Rodney K. Sisco Diversity Students’ Choice Awards on Thursday, Feb. 25, at a virtual award presentation. This was the second year these awards were designated, and the honorees each received a glass trophy and a $1,000 cash prize. At the event, members of Student Government gave introductory addresses and shared personal stories of how the honorees promote diversity on campus.
According to the college’s webpage, the award recognizes student-nominated staff and faculty members who exemplify excellence in service to Wheaton students by fostering “diversity and inclusion, justice and unity” on campus. The award is given in remembrance of the late Rodney Sisco ‘84, who led the Office of Multicultural Development from 1988 until his death in 2018.
Vice President for Student Development Paul Chelsen and Chief Intercultural Engagement Officer Sheila Caldwell opened the ceremony with a compilation of photos of Sisco accompanied by an audio recording of one of his chapel messages about Christian service through humility.
At the awards ceremony, Caldwell gave an address in which she recognized Hasana Sisco, Rodney’s wife, for advancing Kingdom diversity and inclusion at Wheaton College. As managing director and principal of PennaSis Group LLC—a leadership consulting agency—Sisco has worked with student development professionals, pastors and students to teach about diversity and inclusion.
“There is such an urgency now to develop bold, grace-filled change agents who can carry out the message of the Kingdom and God’s philosophy of inclusion,” said Sisco. “There are no better places to find these agents than on campuses like Wheaton College.”
SG Executive Vice President of Community Diversity Alyssa Miller and Student Body Vice President Daniel Ju presented the awards. In their speeches, both students thanked McKoy and Chang for developing personal relationships with students and advocating for them.
“I had a realization two years ago that there have been people fighting for my space here at Wheaton long before I got here and long after I leave,” Miller said when introducing McKoy. “One of those people is undoubtedly Dr. McKoy. Whether it be behind closed doors, on a panel or in the classroom, I know Dr. McKoy is fighting for me.”
In his acceptance speech, McKoy said that Sisco mentored him as early as McKoy’s first month working at Wheaton, in 2014. He remembered several lunches, coffee conversations and visits in the OMD. He said that receiving the award brought back his grief over Sisco’s death.
“One of the things that really hit me was the fact that Rodney Sisco’s name was on this award and what he means to me as a person,” McKoy told the Record. “When I see him honored this way, I feel so excited that he’s being remembered institutionally and having a major impact on campus.”
In addition to his teaching responsibilities, McKoy also directs the Peace and Conflict Studies program. Based on his academic research, McKoy said that Christian values are often separated from the political sphere. He told the Record that the 2015 shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in the wake of which the families of the victims publicly forgave the shooter, was a turning point in his understanding of a Christian perspective on politics.
“It’s got to be deeper than just saying we’ve pinpointed certain moral issues that we are behind,” McKoy said of Christian political values. “What the people in Charleston demonstrated was [that] our actual faith act of forgiveness has political effects.”
Having collaborated with Sisco interdepartmentally to address student needs, Chang said they have spoken often about diversity issues over the years. “Those conversations are meaningful to me, especially as he had committed himself to that work for decades,” he told the Record.
In addition to his work in Discipleship Ministries, Chang serves as the president and co-founder of the Asian American Christian Collaboration, an organization which provides resources for Asian American Christians and churches to address racial and theological topics. Chang said that to receive the Sisco Diversity Students’ Choice Award means “that students are looking for gospel people who speak an uncompromised truth in love and grace.”
Chang told the Record his experience as a pastor and counselor has fueled his passion for holding the church accountable for perpetuating racism.
“I’ve realized through research and academic study that more often than not, it’s the church that has cultivated and preserved the racial divides we see today,” he said. “And as it breaks God’s heart to see a church so tainted by racial sins, it breaks my heart.”
Students who have worked closely with Chang and McKoy said both men frequently address racial topics on Wheaton’s campus. Miller, who is a senior business/economic major, said that in academic courses and as SG faculty advisor from 2018-2020, McKoy has emphasized kindness and empathy while openly addressing areas of conflict.
“He hasn’t been someone to shy away from that,” Miller told the Record. “I think definitely being where he is, a lot of people are gonna look to him for lived experience, advice and wisdom.”
Senior Christian Formation and Ministry major Esther Kim said Chang encourages similar conversations. Kim is the co-director of Family Groups, Discipleship Ministries’ small group ministry for Asian and Asain-American students. In working alongside Chang, she said he incorporated an Asian-American devotional and curriculum to increase conversation about the Asian-American experience in America and on Wheaton’s campus.
“[Chang] fostered a lot of unity within the Asian-American community and advocacy among the students,” Kim said. “This hasn’t historically been the case for Asian issues on campus.”
Kim said Chang is willing to have hard conversations, and attributed this to humility and speaking the truth in love.
McKoy told the Record that the administration’s creation of this award in remembrance of Sisco’s legacy honors his own memories of Sisco.
“As someone who remembers him, I’m really glad about those efforts,” said McKoy. “[Receiving the award] brings emotions that I didn’t even understand. I feel so incredibly unworthy of this award. I wish I knew the students who voted, so I can thank them.”
During the awards ceremony, the honorees reflected on how Sisco’s life emphasized the necessity of Christian love, including for those who hold different views.
“Rodney’s passing,” Chang said during his acceptance speech, “marked a clear call to continue his legacy to make life at Wheaton a picture of God’s kingdom that not only leads to the education and formation of our students, but shapes all who enter this community to commit their lives to an uncompromised commitment to righteousness and justice.”