INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine honors UMSL with sixth Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award
The University of Missouri–St. Louis is among the most culturally and ethnically diverse universities in the state of Missouri, and its administrators, faculty, staff and students take pride in creating an environment where everyone can feel valued and thrive.
INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine has once again recognized that ongoing work, naming UMSL one of 103 recipients of the prestigious 2022 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award. The national honor recognizes U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion. This year’s honorees will be featured in the magazine’s November 2022 issue.
UMSL received the HEED Award for the third consecutive year and the sixth time overall after previously being recognized in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2020 and 2021. It was also the only university in Missouri to be included in this year’s list of awardees.
“We are extremely proud to be acknowledged for the work that we do,” said Tanisha Stevens, UMSL’s vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion. “When we talk about DEI, it’s not performative. It is intentional work that occurs through self-reflection, shared values, engagement in important conversations and our collaborative efforts. There may be initiatives that the campus might not be aware of, but my hope is that individuals can feel the results of those efforts. This recognition helps others outside our institution see it too.”
Stevens said a commitment to furthering diversity, equity and inclusion is ingrained in the culture of the campus.
“Our office has a huge responsibility to promote, educate and elevate DEI initiatives for the university, but we are unable to do so if there is not a shared commitment from other departments and units,” she said. “When you see that commitment, then our work becomes more collaborative across campus, and ultimately, and that sets us apart from a lot of other institutions.”
Stevens credited Chancellor Kristin Sobolik for stressing the importance of diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the university’s work – something she’s conveyed through public statements and presentations she gives as well as in establishing the Chancellor’s Award for Inclusive Excellence-Celebrating Diversity. Sobolik presented the award for the first time last year to Vanessa Loyd, the dean’s fellow for diversity, equity and inclusion and associate teaching professor in the College of Nursing.
UMSL’s application highlighted its ongoing efforts to provide access and opportunity to students from many different backgrounds, including students with high financial need. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked UMSL No. 75 nationally and first in Missouri on its list of “Top Performers on Social Mobility,” which highlights how well colleges and universities graduate students who receive federal Pell Grants. Earlier this year, UMSL also established the Close the Gap Grant for new undergraduate students with high financial need. The grant covers all remaining tuition costs above federal Pell Grants, subsidized loans and other aid so that financial constraints don’t prevent students from pursuing their education.
But the university’s commitment to creating a diverse campus community isn’t merely focused on students. It also is actively working to hire and retain a diverse group of faculty with a particular focus on increasing gender equity in the fields of science – including the social and behavioral sciences – technology, engineering and mathematics with the support of a $1 million National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant received in 2020.
This summer, the ADVANCE grant helped support a series of equity advisor training sessions led by staff in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. A total of 26 faculty and staff members were certified as equity advisors so that, going forward, they will be able to provide an equity-driven lens regarding gender, race, ethnicity and other dimensions of identity. Upon request, they will also serve on committees outside of their own department or unit to provide impartial and unbiased support for inclusive excellence.
ODEI is also intentional about developing programming throughout the year to celebrate different groups across campus, whether it’s observances of Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, LGBTQ+ History Month, or Women’s History Month, and the university’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance draws in a large audience from across campus and the surrounding community each year.
UMSL is also promoting inclusive prosperity throughout the wider region in its leadership, along with Edward Jones, of the St. Louis Anchor Action Network. The alliance of higher education institutions, hospital systems, corporations and nonprofits has a shared commitment to advancing racial equity and removing barriers to economic opportunity, particularly in Black and Brown communities that have faced decades of disinvestment.
“The HEED Award process consists of a comprehensive and rigorous application that includes questions relating to the recruitment and retention of students and employees – and best practices for both – leadership support for diversity, campus culture and climate, supplier diversity, and many other aspects of campus diversity and inclusion,” said Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We take a detailed approach to reviewing each application in deciding who will be named a HEED Award recipient. Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being done every day across their campus.”
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