Three students converse on the Millennium Student Center bridge

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine named UMSL one of 109 recipients of the 2023 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award. It marks the fourth straight year and seventh time overall that UMSL has received the award. (Photo by Jay Fram)

Inclusion remains a core value at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, where members of the campus community take pride in maintaining an environment where individual differences are respected and celebrated and everyone can feel appreciated and thrive.

For the fourth consecutive year and seventh overall, INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine has recognized UMSL’s commitment to inclusion by honoring the university with the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award.

2023 HEED Award logo

UMSL was one of 109 colleges and universities nationwide to receive the honor this year after previously being recognized in 2013201420152020, 2021 and 2022. It was the only university in Missouri included on this year’s list.

“We are extremely happy to receive this award once again,” said Tanisha Stevens, UMSL’s vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion. “The very core of who we are as a university aligns with what makes the HEED award so special. It is our recruitment and retention efforts of our students. It’s how we think about inclusive hiring practices and who we bring into the university as members of our campus community. It’s about those intentional conversations that I think the university has been having for many years but really has been able to solidify within the last three years under Chancellor Kristin Sobolik and her vision for the university.”

Stevens said the questions that had to be addressed in the application process for the HEED Award provided opportunities to think critically and talk about what the university has done to foster diversity in its community as well as where it can still do better.

Those were discussions that were already being had in the development of UMSL’s next five-year strategic plan.

“We are in the planning phase for the strategic plan,” Stevens said. “We are building upon what has worked, but we are also identifying what has not. As we look at the next five years, at the center are things that we value – inclusive excellence, our stance as an anchor institution and what that means for us internally and for the greater St. Louis area. I think those are our strengths.”

UMSL is holding tight to those values at a time when initiatives to bolster diversity are often derided in public debate across the country.

The university continues to play a critical role providing educational access to students no matter their background. It is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse institutions in the state of Missouri and has earned particularly high marks by helping people with high financial need realize their dream of a college education and unlock opportunities for their futures. This year, U.S. News & World Report again ranked UMSL among the top 100 universities in the country and first in Missouri on its annual list of “Top Performers on Social Mobility.”

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has also been intentional about developing programming throughout the academic year to celebrate different groups across campus, including observances of Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, LGBTQ+ History Month and Women’s History Month. The university’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance draws a large audience from across campus and the surrounding community each January.

UMSL has also been leading efforts to build inclusive prosperity throughout the St. Louis region through the St. Louis Anchor Action Network, an alliance of higher education institutions, hospital systems, corporations and nonprofits with a shared commitment to advancing equity and removing barriers to economic opportunity. The network, which UMSL has led with Edward Jones, has focused its attention on predominantly Black and Brown communities in 22 ZIP codes 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.”

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik