Panel looks at diversity to enhance curriculum

Plans for action and goal setting are on tap for the new Diversity Advisory Board at Missouri Southern.

Dr. Richard J. McCallum, vice president for academic affairs and chairman of the Diversity Advisory Board, received a commission statement from the Higher Learning Commission North Central Accreditation Agency in Chicago. McCallum concurred the possibilities had great potential.

“In the conversations that I had with Dr. León, I suggested this would be a recommendation that we could move forward with,” said McCallum. “I volunteered to be president of the board. He was very supportive.”

The Diversity Advisory Board is an administrative committee with 19 members, and reports to the president. There are two faculty representatives from all four schools within the University. There are also the faculty members who worked on the dimension report last year, and six to seven representatives from various departments around campus.

“Last year we completed the Foundations of Excellence self-study,” McCallum said. “In that review process we examined nine different dimensions, one was diversity.”

With high hopes and anticipated action, McCallum said the board is already on the right track with the commission statement guideline.

“[The commission statement] really embraces a broad context under the term diversity,” he said. “It’s not just the demographics in terms of race – male, female – it goes broader and deeper to where we begin to examine diversity of ideas and viewpoints.”

The outline is considered a stepping-stone for the advisory board. They will choose the direction needed in order to achieve the road to diversity.

“We’re trying to capture the spirit and move forward in a direct and focused way to achieve division that is outlined by the Higher Learning Commission,” McCallum said.

The board is looking for a way to bring new ideas and tolerance into Southern’s curriculum. This will, it hopes, enrich the learning environment, support equal employment opportunity and challenge students to think outside the box.

Dr. Chad Stebbins, director of the institute of international studies and one of the board members, said the assumption of Southern having total appreciation and understanding of diversity was incorrect.

“Since Missouri Southern has an international mission, people automatically think that we’re taken care of in regards to issues of diversity. Even though it helps, it’s not necessarily the answer in every particular case or situation,” he said. “We want to look at ways through our international mission, through our guest speakers, to be utilized to make the campus more aware of diversity.”

The Diversity Advisory Board met for the first time Sept. 21. They individually discussed actions they hoped to accomplish, and handed out assignments to be completed by the next meeting. Additionally, the board anticipates the first draft of a mission statement for the board by the end of the year to present to León.

“There’s so many diverse communities here, we want to make sure everyone’s feelings are incorporated,” Stebbins said.

The next Missouri Southern Diversity Advisory Board meeting will be Nov. 9.