Prentice Ashford has a passion for helping individuals find not only their voice, but also a place to belong.
That’s why Lipscomb University has recently hired him as its first Dean of Intercultural Development to further develop the welcoming campus climate for students of diverse backgrounds and to enhance university services and activities that promote inclusion.
Recognizing the increasing importance of supporting a growing inclusive climate on campus, Lipscomb expanded its Office of Intercultural Development by creating this new dean position.
Since 2014, Ashford has served in a similar capacity at Abilene Christian University as the director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. In this role, he was responsible for directing all student-facing diversity efforts including education, student support, student advocacy and more.
“I love having the opportunity to work with students on a day-to-day basis and learn of their stories and various backgrounds,” he said. “It is such important work getting to help students discover who they are, why they are important and why they need to bring their authentic selves to the table.”
A native of Abilene, Texas, Ashford attended ACU where he received a bachelor’s degree in family studies; a master’s in higher education; and is currently pursing an organizational leadership doctorate degree.
William Turner, distinguished professor of leadership and public policy in the College of Leadership & Public Service and special counsel to the president for diversity and inclusion, led the hiring committee, which vetted nearly 100 applicants, and says it was apparent Ashford was the right man for the job.
“This position is student focused and I believe Prentice truly has a heart for this work,” said Turner. “Prentice spent the last four years in a similar position and it became very clear during the interview process that his philosophy and values toward the creation of a community that is truly both diverse and inclusive aligned with our goals here at Lipscomb. Prentice has the heart, the intellect and the spirit to make these goals a reality.”
As a Christian university, Turner says it is significant for Lipscomb to continually cultivate this climate: one that demonstrates respect, appreciation of one another, empathy, acceptance and even tolerance, and believes Ashford will be a key visionary moving forward.
“I believe that the creation of this role is a significant step in Lipscomb's development as it continues its advance towards excellence as a great spiritual and academic university,” Turner continued. “We know that Christ expected people from diverse backgrounds to work together. This is part of our university mission as a Christian university. There is evidence that belongingness is also essential to academic and life success. The Dean of Intercultural Development is the person to lead this effort.”
Deion Sims, a senior biology major from Nashville who helped co-found the Diverse Student Coalition, a student-led organization seeking to nurture a campus climate at Lipscomb that is welcoming and inclusive to all its students, echoed Turner’s sentiment.
“I think Prentice’s ability to connect with people will allow him to be very successful in his role as the new dean of the OID,” said Sims, who was a student member of the hiring committee. “He not only connects well with students, but also with faculty and administration. He is passionate about the work of reconciliation and I think he will bring energy and new ideas to our campus. We are at a very pivotal moment as a university in regards to race relations, and I think Prentice is the right guy to help make sure we move forward in the right direction.”
Ashford said his decision to accept this new position came after he realized the exciting ministry opportunity this would be for his family of five.
“My wife Trisha and I were both born and raised in Abilene and this is very much a family ministry,” said Ashford. “Trisha loves students too and we have three beautiful children who are also looking forward to making a new life and home in Nashville and at Lipscomb.
“Lipscomb has a very special community and truly feels like an extension of the community I am coming from at ACU. I am very excited for this new opportunity.”
Ashford will begin his transition from ACU this semester and will officially begin his new position this March.
The Office of Intercultural Development seeks to serve minority students by a process of active mentoring and equipping that is focused on relationship building and fostering positive coping skills while providing a safe haven of belonging for students. The office also promotes an inclusive environment for students by striving to ensure the participation of Lipscomb's under-represented students in university life. Want to learn more? Visit: https://www.lipscomb.edu/intercultural.