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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Reviewing Climate Data to Create a Better Campus Experience

Scott Harvey
Missouri State University aims to use the recent study data to improve its campus climate.

Two months after it released a climate study gauging diversity and inclusion issues on campus, officials at Missouri State University are pushing forward with ways to improve its culture.

The findings showed that, among other things, many students that associated with a minority group did not feel as accepted or connected to the university, and at times experienced verbal exclusion.

“So the first part was getting that material out,” said President Clif Smart.

Next, he tasked officials with taking inventory of existing school policies and procedures that work toward diversity and inclusion.

“And so we shared this information with the Board [of Governors] yesterday, we have 17 pages single-space of things that we’re doing. So it’s not been that we haven’t been focusing on this or trying to do this but it may be that we’re either not communicating in part what we are doing, we’re not reaching out to the right people, or maybe we’re not doing all the right things and we outa refocus some of those efforts and resources.”

Smart feels there have been good discussions on the topic. That includes a meeting last week on the university’s visioning process, a project that aims to gain consensus on the assumptions and philosophical foundation from which future long-range plans will be developed. 

“We’re finalizing reports that will go to the Board of Governors as we look to think about what we want this university to be like in 10-12 years. Diversity is a part of that. Inclusion is a part of that. Connectedness to the university is a part of that,” he says.

Smart says those themes have been generally agreed to. Now officials need to “operationalize them.”

One way is through incorporating new material into the curriculum. The president says that all MSU freshmen this fall will be reading the book “The Other Wes Moore,” the story of two African American boys from Baltimore who both experienced difficult childhoods but followed very different paths.

“One, now in his mid-30s, has a great career; has studied at the best universities in the world. The other is in prison for killing a police officer during a robbery. And thinking about and having conversations of what makes someone go one way or the other; what are the key roles in that? Those conversations as part of a curriculum are things our students want to engage in.”

Smart adds that even with improved race relations and efforts towards inclusion over the years, these conversations must continue. Not just at MSU, but across the country.

“The world is a better place than it was 50 or 60 years ago during the Civil Rights Movement. American is a better place. But we’re not there yet. And that’s what our climate study data, Kansas State climate study data, University of Illinois climate study data - all released here in the last two to three weeks – they all say the same thing; we have work to do.”

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