Corban alumnus challenges students to bridge racial/cultural barriers

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On Feb. 24, Chapel attendees learned that sometime the hardest relationships to build in our communities are the ones around us.

Corban ‘89 alumnus Ulf Spears, DSL, spoke candidly to students in his alma mater about his experiences growing up in the inner city and as an African-American student at Corban. He presented his reflections and insights, as well as what he has learned throughout his life on how to forge new relationships with those from races and cultures other than their own.

“When I first came to Corban, let’s just say students didn’t know a lot about black people,” he said with a laugh. “Students approached me very gingerly and didn’t know if I was going to bite, yell, scream, or what I was going to do.

“They didn’t know whether to call me a black guy or an African-American guy or what,” he added. “What I found myself doing is educating people so that they could approach people of different cultures without feeling like it was some fearful thing to do.” Spears said his time at Corban was also a period when he “discovered his own identity as an African-American male and as a Christian.”

Throughout his conversation, he presented practical ways to immediately connect with people from other cultures and forge relationships that come from a love of Jesus Christ.

Many students took the opportunity to ask questions and hear Spears respond. One student asked about what  people share across cultures that can help bridge relational gaps.

“Be authentic and be yourself,” Spears said. “Even though you might have a bent toward being a little prejudice, don’t try to be someone other than who you are and that’s a tough one. Don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know what to ask you about yourself.’ Don’t be afraid to ask them to tell you who they are. Just don’t pretend you know who they are or about their culture when you don’t.”

Spears encouraged students to look for opportunities to serve in organizations that are helping people from all walks of life. He said their love for Jesus Christ will ultimately break down barriers of race, culture and even religion if they allow Him to work in their lives.

Ulf Spears, Ph.D., is president of Strategic Leadership International and author of “Coaching Leadership Families: Using the Leadership Family Model to Coach, Mentor and Multiply Healthy Families.” He has three daughters and lives in Vancouver Wash. with his wife of 27 years.

Spears can be reached at 503-737-5733 or at

  • Corban alumnus Ulf Spears, '89, speaks to students during Chapel on Monday Feb. 24, 2014.

  • Corban alumnus Ulf Spears, '89, speaks to students during Chapel on Monday Feb. 24, 2014.

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