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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

MSU Appoints Two Officials to Interim Roles, Creates Diversity Council

Wes Pratt
Missouri State University

Missouri State University has made new appointments to its diversity team less than a week after Dr. Ken Coopwood announced his resignation as vice president of Diversity and Inclusion.

The school said Friday that H. Wes Pratt will become assistant to the president/chief diversity officer and Dr. O. Gilbert Brown will assume the role of associate provost for diversity. Both appointments are pending approval by the Board of Governors.

Pratt and Brown will immediately begin their new roles, both 18-month terms, and be paid $120,000 annually. The university expects to start a national search for a new vice president for diversity and inclusion in fall 2016 with the goal of having a replacement on board by July 1, 2017.

Dr. Ken Coopwood will step down from his position as vice president of Diversity and Inclusion on April 30. The school says he is on leave until that time. That announcement came after the university released the results of an independent investigation finding no credible evidence of race discrimination against Coopwood. The investigation was prompted by a citizen’s online petition noting such allegations.

Gilbert Brown
Credit Missouri State University
Missouri State University
Dr. O. Gilbert Brown will assume the role of associate provost for diversity.

In its release Friday, it notes that Pratt’s new role as assistant to the president/chief diversity officer includes oversight of the office of diversity and inclusion. That includes efforts to enhance the diversity of the campus and to build an inclusive community in the greater Springfield area.

“I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the university’s continuing diversity and inclusion efforts,” Pratt said. “My calling in life has been to make a difference whether as an advocate, a public official, or as a professional by empowering young people to achieve their dreams and their full potential as contributing citizens. I’ve personally and professionally been encouraged by the collaborative efforts of the administration, faculty, students, staff and community stakeholders in valuing diversity.”

Brown’s focus as associate provost for diversity will be on the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and help academic units achieve their diversity goals.

“I am excited about the opportunity to build on the good work that has been done the last few years in diversity and inclusion, particularly as it relates to faculty and academics,” Brown said. “I look forward to partnering with faculty, deans and department heads in recruiting talented candidates and serving as a resource on retention through tenure and promotion.”

The school also says it plans to create a diversity council consisting of current and former students, faculty, administrators and community/business members. The group will meet on a regular basis to address specific diversity issues and provide guidance for diversity initiatives. Anyone interested in serving on the diversity council should contact the president’s office or the office of diversity and inclusion.

The establishment of a diversity council was among requests from university students in presentations to the Board of Governors in December. During that meeting, senior Xavier Torres-Ghoston referenced findings from the 2015 campus climate study in making people of color more visible on campus.

“Do to underrepresentation, students and staff of color can and do suffer from an invisibility that only limits our impact on this campus but neglects our individual needs,” explained Ghoston. “In order to combat this limitation on power and presence, the university should install the diversity council in accordance with the climate study.” 

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