Diversity efforts create inclusive environment at MSU

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> STARKVILLE, Miss.–A diverse group of celebrated speakers and successful professionals are packing Mississippi State University’s forums, conferences and symposiums exploring inclusion strategies, diversity policies and the unique challenges faced by people of color.
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> The MSU Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion spearheads most of these efforts as representatives organize proceedings through partnerships with campus departments, organizations and offices.
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> OIDI sponsors annual summits for men and women of color to discuss relevant, contemporary issues and challenges. Close to 700 people expressed interest in the third annual Women of Color Summit, “Making a Global Impact: Empowering Women through Self, Health and Wealth,” to be held March 5-6. Already, registration is full.
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> In conjunction with the summit, OIDI will host two other diversity-focused seminars, both of which are free and still open to the public:
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> –Wednesday, noon-1:30 p.m., “Exploring Pathways to the Ph.D.: Reflections from Women of Color.” The Hunter Henry Center panel presentation is co-sponsored by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning and MSU’s Office of Graduate School, President’s Commission on the Status of Women and Council on Minority Affairs.
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> –Thursday, 3 p.m. “Perceptions of Social Support Networks and Climate in the Persistence of Latinas.” Rosa Maria Banda of Rutgers University will speak in 339 McCool Hall, this program is co-sponsored by OIDI and MSU’s colleges of Arts and Sciences, Bagley College of Engineering and Education.
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> “The leadership and vision of MSU President Mark E. Keenum and Provost Jerry Gilbert have built the infrastructure to increase diversity as the profile of this university rises on a national level,” said Chief Diversity Officer Tommy J. Stevenson, director of OIDI. “They are leading this university-wide effort to embrace, promote and advance diversity, and we’re partnering with different organizations around campus and in the community to achieve these goals.”
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> Keenum will speak at the Women of Color Summit. Featured speakers include the Honorable La Doris “Dot” Harris, director of the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the U.S. Department of Energy; Judge Kimberly M. Esmond Adams, superior court judge of Fulton County in Atlanta; Rhea Williams-Bishop, executive director of the Center for Education Innovation; and Marilyn Crouther, senior vice president and general manager of the U.S. Public Sector Enterprise Services at Hewlett-Packard Co.
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> “This summit and the Men of Color Summit are allowing our office to be intentional about empowering the students and everyone who attends while they’re having new experiences with successful professionals,” said NaToya R. Sanders, the OIDI recruitment, retention and program specialist who helps organize the summits.
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> The full list of speakers and the complete summit agenda are available at https://www.oidi.msstate.edu/woc/.
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> Stevenson, an MSU alumnus and longtime employee, said in addition to the partners listed above, OIDI representatives often develop cross-collaborative partnerships across campus to educate both the university family and the regional community about diversity issues.
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> OIDI partnered with African American Studies and other campus organizations to sponsor the October 2014 conference “Remembering Freedom Summer: Building a Better Future.” More than 20 civil rights activists who participated in the 1964 Mississippi Summer Freedom Project, a massive effort to register African Americans to vote, attended.
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> MSU’s annual Diversity Conference, co-sponsored by the President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities and OIDI, along with other academic partners, attracts hundreds of people each year who network with colleagues and listen to prestigious speakers commenting on contemporary issues related to diversity, Stevenson explained.
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> In addition to several other initiatives, OIDI partners with the President’s Commissions on the Status of Women and Minorities to host financial literacy forums geared toward those groups, he said.
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> Finally, the MSU Diversity Council, chaired by Stevenson, gathers input from academic departments, campus organizations and administrative offices to assist in OIDI’s mission to promote diversity.
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> Even with all these programs in place, Stevenson continues to emphasize that more ground must be covered to educate students, faculty, staff and the general public about the history behind and the importance of equality and diversity. Valuing a global perspective is critical to success in the 21st century, he said.
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> “We mentor many students, and when they see successful people who look like them or come from an environment similar to theirs, they are inspired. One of our goals is to use the Men and Women of Color Summits to connect our alumni directly to these students,” he said. “We’re building a relationship with our alumni and our supporters because they want to give back and inspire the next generation of global leaders.
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> “We have some really successful people affiliated with this university who are doing really good things, and they can share their advice with young people,” Stevenson continued.
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> To learn more about OIDI’s diversity initiatives, visit www.oidi.msstate.edu.
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> MSU, Mississippi’s flagship research university, is online at www.msstate.edu, meridian.msstate.edu, facebook.com/msstate, instagram.com/msstate, pinterest.com/msstate and twitter.com/msstate.
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