Matt Banks, coordinator for Multicultural Programs & LGBTQ Student Services at Missouri State, sits down with Seth Templeman, Parent & Family Programs Family Assistant, to answer the question “Why Missouri State?”.
What is your job at Missouri State? What are your everyday operations? I am the Coordinator for Multicultural Programs and LGBTQ Student Services at MSU. My job is to provide support systems and programming, specifically for students that come from underrepresented student backgrounds. I work with three heritage months throughout the year and work with our general programming series. My primary focus is that personal resource work with students but also a lot of programming.
How did you get to Missouri State? I’m originally from Dallas, Texas and went to college in Houston at a small private college. I majored in theater because why the heck not? I did orientation there and fell in love with that type of work. After graduation I moved to Austin and held a job at AmeriCorps. After that I moved to New York City where I went to NYU for the Higher Education Student Affairs Program where my graduate assistant position was in multicultural education. Back when I was applying for jobs in 2016, I saw Missouri State’s position and was excited about the fact that it melded racial justice and working with students of color with LGBTQ students. I have been here since October of 2016.
What is Safe Zone training? What do you want the participants to get out of it? Safe Zone is a crash course in base knowledge you need to know about LGBTQ identity. It is a chance for people to learn more about the LGBTQ community but also work to unpack where some of their attitudes and opinions came from and realize how society puts a lot of pressure in understanding these topics. Once that happens we discuss how we can make changes for good.
What is one thing that you would want to see more of at Missouri State? I would like to see a lot more intentional intergroup dialogue. And this is a habit of all campuses across the country where people get siloed into their specific community. We get so focused on that group we are a part of that we don’t realize people aren’t a part of that group. I’d like to see more dialogue where people are getting to know each other and having hard conversations about what it means to have a specific identity and what it means to live that identity. We aren’t listening to understand, we are listening to respond. And I think if we listen to understand each other more that would help.
What is something you see we do a lot of? What I see a lot of, and this is why I love about the students I work with, is resiliency. I think no one will joke and say the Ozarks is the most open to the LGBTQ place in the county, and as someone who came from a place that was much more LGBTQ friendly, it’s been a shock for me. But I’ve been inspired by my students who despite the negative attitudes some people have here, they are still living that truth and are doing it in a way that is not hiding or being ashamed. I think that takes a lot of resiliency that I don’t know I would have had when I was their age.
What is coming up at the MRC? We are partnering with Black Tie Springfield and the Student Activities Council to bring Patrisse Cullors as our Women’s HERstory keynote address on March 21st at 7 PM in the Plaster Student Union Theater. She will be talking about the role of women in social change, particularly the queer women of color in activism in a deeply personal space as she is one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter. Friday, April 5th we are putting on the Asian Heritage Month banquet at 5 PM in the Plaster Student Union Theater. It will be a great chance to have an experience of seeing different groups perform and learning about the multiple cultures and ethnicities that make up the Asian community.
Why should students feel comfortable attending Missouri State? The thing I will say is that Missouri State is not perfect, and no school is. But I think that students should remember when they come here is that community does exist here. Whether it’s a community for LGBTQ students, communities of color, or international students. There are places you can go and find support and find connections. You might have to search out, but if you are worried about making friends or feeling supported there will be places where you do feel affirmed.
What is your favorite tradition at Missouri State? I really like working with the heritage month planning committees. I oversee three different heritage months, and I love getting that group, primarily of students and some staff members, together and seeing them really passionate about conversations they want to have and working to build that out. Seeing students take initiative to lead and to make campus more culturally competent is something I really love.
(Interview by Seth Templeman – Business Administration Major, Data Analytics Minor | New Student and Family Programs, Family Assistant| SOAR Leader 2018 | Theta Chi Fraternity, Brotherhood & Public Relations Chair 2017-2018)