The University of Missouri–St. Louis takes pride in being one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse universities in the state of Missouri.
But members of the campus community are continually looking for new ways they can cultivate an even more inclusive environment where everyone can feel valued and thrive.
Today, INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine recognized that ongoing work while naming UMSL one of 101 recipients of its prestigious 2021 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award – a national honor recognizing U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. The honorees will be featured along with the other recipients in the magazine’s November 2021 issue.
This marks the second year in a row and fifth time overall that UMSL has received the honor after previously being recognized in 2013, 2014 and 2015. It was also the only university in Missouri to be included in this year’s list of awardees.
“We are extremely proud to receive this recognition once again,” said Tanisha Stevens, UMSL’s vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion. “Over the years, the editors at INSIGHT into Diversity have become more selective in choosing the recipients of this award, and the reason for that is because a number of institutions are more intentional about promoting diversity and building more inclusive communities. This year, what made the award really special for us is that it is an acknowledgement of the intentional efforts we’ve made.”
In applying for the award, Stevens noted the focus on DEI in major initiatives such as the creation and implementation of UMSL’s first-ever strategic enrollment plan, which recognizes the importance of looking holistically at what is needed to recruit and retain students of diverse backgrounds. DEI also has been top of mind in discussions for the campus master plan, including a proposal to redevelop a portion of South Campus for a North St. Louis County Business and Workforce Development District that would benefit not only UMSL but residents in the surrounding community.
UMSL’s application featured a pair of precollegiate programs – Eyes on Diversity and the UMSL Collaborative Laboratory Internships and Mentoring Blueprint – that received INSIGHT Into Diversity’s Inspiring Programs in STEM Awards last month.
Stevens also highlighted a town hall event – “We Are Not a Virus: Tritons Against Anti-Asian Hate” – held in May, Chancellor Kristin Sobolik’s message to the campus community about the Juneteeth holiday, and the creation of the Chancellor’s Award for Inclusive Excellence to further demonstrate the university’s values when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
The UMSL community found ways to continue longstanding traditions such as the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Observance and programming around Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month and LGBTQ+ History Month amid the pandemic.
“I think we learned with COVID that we could have just continued to maintain, but we didn’t,” Stevens said. “Instead, we had departments do some really amazing things.
“We should be proud of how we stepped out and did some things that we may have always wanted to do but were afraid to. COVID and virtual learning really gave us the opportunity to do so.”
One more new initiative is the creation of a graduate certificate program in workplace diversity, equity and inclusion. It is the brainchild of Marlo Goldstein Hode, the senior manager of strategic diversity initiatives. The noncredit program will help students become DEI advocates and leaders, work more effectively with individuals from all backgrounds and make workplaces more welcoming and inclusive.
“The HEED Award process consists of a comprehensive and rigorous application that includes questions relating to the recruitment and retention of students and employees — and best practices for both — continued leadership support for diversity, and other aspects of campus diversity and inclusion,” said Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We take a detailed approach to reviewing each application in deciding who will be named a HEED Award recipient. Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being done every day across their campus.”