Lisa Steele, well known in Nashville’s Latino community as the outreach and Hispanic minister at Antioch Church of Christ, has been appointed coordinator of Latino affairs at Lipscomb University.
“We are fortunate to have someone who is so connected to the Latino community and who has a passion for serving this population as a resource to our students,” said Scott McDowell, senior vice president for student life at Lipscomb University. “Lisa has a unique understanding of the Latino culture and how to help make the college experience a successful one not only for the individual student but also for their entire family. Her skill as a translator has been invaluable. She has already held information sessions for parents who had been separated by a language barrier and her holistic approach with the family unit is making a difference.”
Lipscomb’s Latino Affairs program is devoted to student development, building relationships with students’ families and helping them navigate college successfully among other initiatives.
“My goal is to build a foundation at Lipscomb for Latino students,” said Steele,” and to give them a voice. I want to help them integrate into the community here and to make sure they have an experience and gain an education that will set them on a path for a bright future. I want to make sure they are academically educated, spiritually educated and culturally educated when they leave Lipscomb.”
Lipscomb University established a program as a resource for Latino students in 2010. This fall, 39 first-time Latino students enrolled at the university. They are among a total of 159 Latino students overall. The Latino population is one of Nashville’s fastest-growing demographic groups. Steele said that currently 54 countries are represented in Southeast Nashville and by 2015 city officials are projecting that Latinos will be the majority population in that area.
For the last eight years, Steele has been the Hispanic outreach minister at Antioch Church of Christ. Steele, who is fluent in Spanish and French, proficient in German and is learning Arabic, translates the entire worship assembly in real-time for members. In addition, she has coordinated a variety of programs and classes for Latinos through her work at Antioch. She has also travelled extensively to Latin American countries. Each summer she spends ten days in Nicaragua and El Salvador in mission work, which she said gives her additional exposure to the Latino culture.
“This is a great opportunity for me to continue the work I’ve been doing,” said Steele. “I have developed a good understanding of the Latino culture through my work — by being a guest in people’s homes and experiencing the culture first-hand. That definitely helps me as I work with students and try to bring cultures together at the university. We can learn a lot from each other.”
Steele said she sees herself as a “family tree changer.”
“We are doing something to change a cycle,” said Steele, who is not Latino. “Our Latino students are coming to Lipscomb for a college education because they want to be a part of our community. The majority of these students are first-generation college students. The college experience and all that goes with it is something that their parents often don’t understand. They know that education is important. But, they don’t always understand the process or the campus culture because it is different from their own. I want to bridge that gap with families so they can understand what their children are gaining through this experience.”
Steel said she is passionate about her work.
“God has put this in my heart for the last ten years or so,” said Steele. “He has led me to this point. The potential for making a difference in the lives of young people through this work is very exciting. If His hands are on this, you know there are some great things that will happen.”
Prior to her work at Antioch, Steele was a reporter and lifestyles editor for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
For more information on the Latino Affairs program, visit www.lipscomb.edu/multicultural.