UMSL Chancellor Tom George (left) and Deborah Burris, chief diversity officer at UMSL

UMSL Chancellor Tom George and Deborah Burris, chief diversity officer at UMSL, announced Oct. 18 that UMSL was one of 55 colleges and universities in the nation, and the only one in Missouri, to receive the 2013 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award. The award, presented by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, goes to those institutions that demonstrate exceptional strategies and programs that help them achieve diversity and inclusion across campus. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Deborah Burris, chief diversity officer at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, wears a big smile when she talks about the history of UMSL’s commitment to diversity.

From our beginning in 1963, we set out to open our doors to everyone,” Burris said. “Our progress and success is the result of the dedication and hard work of several campus units and many individuals.”

For that commitment, UMSL recently received the 2013 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. UMSL is one of 55 U.S. colleges and universities and the only one in Missouri recognized for its outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The recipients are featured in the November 2013 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education.

“This campus has committed itself on every level to fostering and embracing a culture of inclusion characterized by the recognition and appreciation of the contributions of all people,” UMSL Chancellor Tom George said. “We are preparing graduates for a dynamic and adaptable work force where cooperation and competition are increasingly waged from the local to the global level.”

In 2004, George instituted the Chancellor’s Cultural Diversity Council made up of a diverse group of students, faculty, staff and alumni tasked with the job of “enhancing diversity” on the campus.

UMSL was recognized by INSIGHT for its “exemplary diversity and inclusion initiatives, and ability to embrace a broad definition of diversity on its campus, including gender, race, ethnicity, veterans, people with disabilities and members of the LGBT community.”

The data backs up the award. UMSL’s on-campus minority student enrollment is 32 percent – 20 percent are African American and 59 percent are women. Students from more than 100 countries attend UMSL.

Burris emphasized that diversity at UMSL goes beyond race and ethnicity incorporating socioeconomic status and intellectual diversity. The university has a growing veterans student population and a vibrant LGBT community on campus, she said.

Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, said the colleges and universities honored serve as an example to other institutions across the country.

“We hope the HEED award serves as a way to honor those institutions of higher education that recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion as part of their everyday campus culture,” Pearlstein said.

The University of Missouri–St. Louis is a public metropolitan research university located in Missouri’s most populous and economically important region. UMSL provides exceptional learning experiences and leadership opportunities to a diverse student body through the university’s outstanding faculty, ranked programs, innovative research and community partnerships.

INSIGHT Into Diversity will celebrate its 40th year in 2014. It is known for its annual Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award, the only award recognizing colleges and universities for outstanding diversity and inclusion efforts across campuses. The magazine presents timely, thought-provoking news and resources on matters of diversity and inclusion across higher education and corporate campuses. Current, archived and digital issues of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine are available online.

Maureen Zegel

Maureen Zegel