Before the start of the 2020-21 school year, the McQueary College of Health and Human Services (MCHHS) at Missouri State University established new diversity and inclusion initiatives.
One such initiative was the formation of a student diversity council, representing MCHHS student voices and concerns. It is now officially up and running.
“A lot of what we’ve done in the past regarding diversity and inclusion has been faculty and staff driven, with little input from the students” said Dr. Ashley Payne, assistant professor of psychology and faculty advisor for the student council.
“The formation of this council encourages students to voice their concerns, which then helps the faculty council implement necessary changes.”
Student council mission
The student diversity council has two ideas that drive its work:
- Everyone is an individual with value.
- The council exists to drive solutions.
“We can sit and discuss things for hours, but unless we come up with solutions, we aren’t promoting real change,” said Carsten Warner, co-chair of the student council.
Since the council is newly formed, the group of about 20 students is still in the process of determining specific functions. But it has some ideas.
The council is working with the office for institutional equity and compliance to create a forum for students to express concerns. The plan is for both the equity office and the student council to monitor the forum and act when a student voices a concern.
It also wants to host community town hall discussions, contribute to GEP diversity curriculum and help implement diversity training and education in MCHHS departments without it.
“Curriculum changes take time,” Payne said. “But it’s something we’re striving for and that we think is important across the college.”
Forming the council and looking forward
The leaders of each MCHHS department nominated the students on the council, in an effort to have representation from every department in the college.
Warner and Derek Rowe volunteered to serve as co-chairs.
“After we pulled together the nominations, the students took charge,” Payne said. “We wanted them to be the driving force behind everything the council does.”
Warner and Rowe come from opposite backgrounds when it comes to diversity. Rowe grew up in diverse California. Warner grew up in a small town where most people looked the same and had similar experiences.
But their convictions to celebrate and encourage diversity are the same.
“I know what it looks like when diverse opinions and experiences aren’t taken into account, and I want to make sure that doesn’t happen here,” Warner said.
The council also believes it can implement lasting change in the college, which it hopes will promote diversity in the healthcare industry as a whole.
“Bias and stereotyping in the healthcare industry can affect the way a person receives treatment,” Rowe said. “People in healthcare hold others’ lives in their hands, so the need for diversity training and education at the ground level is that much more important.”