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MSU Sees 'Slow, Steady' Progress In Recruiting Diverse Faculty Members

Missouri State University

In this month's episode of Engaging the Community, Missouri State University president Clif Smart gives an update on the unvierstiy's efforts to recruit and retain more diverse faculty members. You can hear the interview below:

Several years ago, Smart said the unviersity looked at the ethnic demographics of its faculty and staff and found people of color were significantly underrepresented compared to the overall population of Missouri.

So the university put into place a goal that 20 percent of new hires each year would be from diverse or minority backgrounds, including race, ethnicity, international backgrounds, and other factors. 

"It's it's not a requirement, but it's an effort to grow the diversity of our faculty and staff. And over the last six or seven years, we've moved from having about 11 percent--a little less than 11 percent of our employees to be racially and ethnically diverse--to a point where we're at 15 percent," Smart said.

"Our board had set a goal of 14 percent during a period that ends next year. We've exceeded that. They've reset our target to 16 percent. And so we continue to work to make progress, to more perfectly reflect the diversity of our state since we are, in fact, a statewide institution," Smart said.

A richer blend of diversity leads to better outcomes for the student, Smart said.

"I think, just as in the business world, that the more diversity of thought, background, ideas, experiences that we have, then the better overall education it is, becuase people don't all think alike. And it's when different people think differently based on different life experiences, that real creative activity and and learning can occur," Smart said.

The unviersity faces several challenges in recruiting faculty members from diverse backgrounds.

One item is pay, which affects all faculty recruiting efforts. Smart described the faculty pay at MSU as "typically right at average or a little below."     Another is the fact that Springfield is a predominantly white community. 

"We also live in Missouri where the NAACP has a travel advisory out," Smart said. "That's not a helpful thing when you're trying to recruit diverse employees to come to our state as a whole."