Please join us for a community reception at the Davis-Harrington Welcome Center 5-6:30 p.m. Jan. 19.
Welcome to the diversity and inclusion corner. We are H. Wes Pratt, recently named assistant to the president and chief diversity officer, and Dr. O. Gilbert Brown, recently named associate provost for diversity.
As the new leaders guiding efforts at Missouri State in diversity and inclusion, we’d like to answer a few questions you might have, as well as provide more details on what each of us will be focusing on over the upcoming 18 months.
Why are there two of us replacing one person?
It was important to President Smart and the University that we maintain the current momentum of diversity and inclusion and recognize we have even more substantive things to accomplish to benefit students, faculty and staff when it comes to improving access and success, curricula, student development and campus climate.
Wes’s experience is more focused on administration and external relations, so he will be picking up responsibility for current and future initiatives currently managed within the division of diversity and inclusion.
Dr. Brown’s experience and focus is in the academic area. Increasing the hiring and retention of diverse faculty is a very important element of the University diversity plan, so it seemed appropriate to increase the resources devoted to this. Working with Dean Hough, Dr. Brown has achieved success with diverse hires and retention in the College of Education. We want to leverage that experience and success in other colleges across campus. Dr. Brown will continue with many of his current responsibilities in the College of Education along with the additional ones associated with his new role.
Ideally, the next vice president for diversity and inclusion will manage both of these areas, but for now we are sharing these responsibilities.
What initiatives will Wes be managing?
Wes’s immediate focus is on the 2016 Statewide Collaborative Diversity Conference scheduled for March 16-18. In addition to that he will lead the wrap up of the campus and community climate study project. He will also work to expand affinity groups on campus and maintain the Shattering the Silence series and Giving Voice, a theatre organization that strives to represent the challenges of underrepresented, marginalized and oppressed persons. He will also continue to represent the University in organizations across the community.
What does it mean to increase and retain academic diverse hires? How is that different from any other hiring we do on campus?
The lack of racial/ethnic diversity in Springfield is more pronounced than in the rest of the country. According to the Lumina Foundation, Springfield’s 2013 population was 87 percent white (66 percent nationwide), 4 percent black (13 percent nationwide), 2 percent Asian (5 percent nationwide), and 4 percent Hispanic (16 percent nationwide).
It’s important that we demonstrate our commitment to diversity on campus and in the community by helping new hires from historically under-represented groups connect in ways that are meaningful by feeling welcomed instead of feeling marginalized from a diversity perspective. Research has shown that diversity is value-added to the education process as it increases the cognitive effectiveness of all students.
We have already made progress in this effort through the faculty-mentoring program developed by Dr. Sabrina Brinson in the College of Education. This includes partnering with faculty to expand the pool of candidates for appointment to tenure track positions and working closely with them to create strong mentor and mentee teams, which support the new faculty member through tenure and promotion.
Both of us will be working closely with President Smart, Provost Einhellig and the newly created President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion to further institutionalize the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence for campus and community stakeholders.
You can also join us this evening at the Davis-Harrington Welcome Center from 5-6:30 p.m.
We look forward to helping the University further develop and reach its diversity goals.
Wes Pratt, newly appointed assistant to the president and chief diversity officer
Dr. Gilbert Brown, newly appointed associate provost for diversity.