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"Inclusive Excellence:" The Focus of this Year's Public Affairs Conference at MSU

Logo courtesy of Missouri State University

It’s all about diversity at this year’s Public Affairs Conference, which kicks off on Tuesday at Missouri State University. During the three-day event, several keynote speakers will ask the question, ‘How much does a community’s success depend on the cultivation of the different backgrounds of others?’ KSMU’s Rebekah Clark has more.

The presentations are designed for public discussion between the speaking panel and those listening in. At each event, four panelists will take turns presenting information on their specific topic in 15 minute increments; usually two or three of them are experts on the topic and at least one speaks as an informed citizen. The purpose of this design is to help deformalize the process and create more of an open atmosphere for dialogue.

MaryAnn Wood, director of Public Affairs Support at MSU, says the speaking setup is somewhat odd in comparison to most conferences.

“Most people have never attended a conference that way, and most people have never presented at a conference that way. We usually have to sell them on the idea because they’re use to going to either educational or professional conferences where they’re asked to speak to their expertise and they have a PowerPoint of all their research, or what they’ve done, and they’re speaking to other experts in the field. We just want this to be a community dialogue.”

There will also be a few featured plenary speakers specifically coming in to speak on their topics of expertise. All of the speakers, panelist and featured, are traveling to the campus from out-of-state.

“It’s because we want to expose our students and our campus community to ideas that maybe they don’t hear while they’re here on campus. We want to get the voice from the east and west coast and from the south and from metropolitan areas or from the rural areas. We want our students and our faculty and staff to be exposed to ideas from all across the country.”

Featured speakers include Edward St. John, professor of educational leadership and policy at the University of Michigan, Dennis Reigle, special projects business advisor at American Institutes of CPAs, and speaker Maura Cullen, who founded the Diversity Student Summit and is the author of the book 35 Dumb Things Well-Intended People Say.

The conference promises to debate and discuss how Springfield, or any other community, channels success based on how well it recognizes the talents of people with different cultural backgrounds. A complete schedule of events, including the kick-off diversity celebration, “One Tribe,” can be found at

For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark