Colleges across the nation struggle to retain diverse faculty members, especially those with terminal degrees.
Missouri State University’s Faculty Diversity Composition Initiative (FDCI) is designed to help recruit and retain diverse faculty members at the university.
The initiative lessens the financial burden on diverse candidates by paying for their terminal degree in return for a set number of years teaching at the university, or for the amount of time it would take to pay off the loan.
From Florida newsroom to Missouri State
Dr. Leonard B. Horton III is the most recent faculty member to complete the program.
Horton has a passion for broadcast journalism. After graduating with a bachelor’s in English from Tuskegee, he went on to receive his master’s in broadcast journalism from Florida A&M. He worked in broadcast news for several years in Florida before returning to Florida A&M to teach in 2009.
In 2013, after Horton and his wife welcomed their daughter Ari’el, they moved to Missouri to be closer to his wife’s family. Horton began teaching broadcast journalism in Missouri State’s Reynolds College of Arts and Letters.
Through the FDCI program, Horton began his EdD degree in 2019. His program was a cooperative doctorate with Missouri State and the University of Missouri. He received his EdD in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis in July of 2022 and is currently an assistant professor on the tenure track.
“Student bodies are becoming more diverse and they’re wanting faculty that look like them that can speak their language and relate to them,” said Horton. “Missouri State saw the importance of the change happening in the demographic on our campus.”
Other Missouri State faculty who earned their doctorate degree through the FDCI program include Judith Martínez, Jokima Hiller and Lyle Foster. Sapna Chakraborty is currently in the program.
Student programs are designed to make Missouri State more inclusive
Horton is also a mentor and speaker for Bears LEAD. The acronym stands for leadership, empowerment, achievement, and diversity. He describes it as a professional development hub for students.
“These students are first generation students and they’re not yet used to the whole college experience,” said Horton. Bears LEAD also helps students transition to college life, as many are first-generation, diverse students.
“We give them exposure to things happening off campus (churches, where to get their hair done) so they can start gaining some cultural capital.”
Diversity at the center of his work
Horton wants diverse faculty and students to understand that the university is theirs, and not just certain spaces on campus or cultural centers.
Moving from Florida to Missouri was initially a culture shock to Horton, but he is hopeful for Missouri State’s future as a campus committed to diversity. “I’m very comfortable with the HBCU culture and what it entails,” said Horton. He wants for Missouri State to have the same feel.
“My goal is for ‘diverse’ to not feel that way.”