Scholarship Winner: Diversity and Inclusion at Missouri State

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Missouri State University Diversity

“The embarrassment that gave our school 15 seconds of fame, resulted in exponential community growth and support.”

Twice a year, we accept applications for the ABODO “I Heart My School” Scholarship. We ask students from across the country to tell us what they love about their school.

Why? We started in a dorm room and now we’re a real company. It’s time for us to pay it forward. We love our school and want to find out why other students love their school.

This fall, we received a bunch of great applications. But one of those applications stood out from the crowd. Maybe it was heartfelt tone. Maybe it was the topic – turning racism into community growth – that seemed so ripe.

But Maizie Parker of Missouri State University grabbed our attention and didn’t let go. In her essay, Maizie explains that she grew to love her school because – even in it’s darkest hour – the university maintained diversity and inclusion as an integral part of its core beliefs.

Maizie is studying Elementary Education at MSU and serves as a substitute teacher at two local schools. When she’s not studying or teaching, she spends all of her time “corralling kids” at a day care job and volunteer teaching youth classes at church. Sadly, with 200% of her waking hours already accounted for, Maizie has little time for her true life’s purpose – opening a hotel for dogs.

Check out Maizie’s essay below. And if your school has played a role in bringing together your community, then tell us about it  and drop a comment below.

Congrats, Maizie!


Maizie Parker, Missouri State University

Maizie Parker, Missouri State University

Winning Essay by Maizie Parker, Missouri State University

“MSU students print expletive and racial slurs”, you yourself may have read the headline printed in USA Today. In October of 2014 my school was gaining infamy for its racist students and lack of tact (interpreted as further racism) from the writing staff of our school paper. While awaiting a verdict in the Ferguson Shooting case, students from Missouri State University held a blackout march for black rights during that Fall’s homecoming. The walk was silent and peaceful, however, onlookers weren’t as peaceful. Hurling insults, the crowd grew rambunctious with protestors of the walk. That night could have, and definitely attempted to, divide our campus into whites and blacks. Instead, the embarrassment that gave our school 15 seconds of fame, resulted in exponential community growth and support, and we are only continuing to improve. Watching the aftermath has highlighted a sense of pride in Missouri State University that I didn’t know I had before. The 5 reasons that I have discovered to love my school are as follows:

1. I love the heads of staff for allowing their students to explore stories that they know need attention.

In a follow up article in the USA Today, the MSU newspaper advisor, an MSU professor Jack Dimond, was questioned over why he let his staff print the words of the protestors which were insulting and racially fueled. His response was that he believed in his students and trusted them to take responsibility for what they felt was right. While admitting he didn’t fully agree with their decisions he was supportive of their ideas and allowed them the freedom to go forward with their fervor.

2. I love the writers for finding a topic that would be easy to sweep under the rug and exploiting it.

Racism is a hard subject to breach. Especially during trying times such as those during the Ferguson tragedies. However, the newspaper staff at Missouri State University were un-phased. They saw an injustice and poor attitude threatening to engulf our community and they exposed it before it could consume the school. In that same USA Today article the Editor-in-Chief, and MSU student, was asked why he printed the expletives and racial slurs. He told them that the protestors of the blackout were not censoring their insults and putting any less in his article would water down the seriousness of the night. It wasn’t merely a news story to him, it was a catalyst that could make or break our University.

3. I love the community for stepping up to show a voice different than the voices heard that October.

The very next issue of our school’s newspaper had a response article filled with students who wanted to make sure the voices of the protestors were not the only voices heard. Many students apologized on behalf of the entire school. Everyone was full of support for the marchers. It was a rally cry from MSU that we weren’t going to let our school be divided and the protesters wouldn’t be tolerated by the student body as a whole.

4. I love the spirit of change that has been embraced by everyone.

Following the marches, the protests, and the articles Missouri State University’s board of directors, presidents, vice presidents, everyone! Stepped up and called the university to fight these problems of racism and exclusion head on. They put together meeting nights for students to discuss the events, the feelings, the problems, the solutions. They ensured no voice went unheard in looking for a solution. Since October, MSU has hosted countless speakers on the subject, to show students how to ensure inclusion and a school that warmly welcomes diversity. They’ve been teaching the difference between saying you’re open to diversity and actually acting out inclusion.

5. I love that I attend a school whose core beliefs focus around diversity and inclusion.

From orientation day here at Missouri State University we are introduced to the three pillars of public affairs. The University places a lot of emphasis on the public affairs portion of education and encourages students to be active members in their community’s. One of those pillars is Cultural Competence, which is mentioned in most of their general education courses. Another pillar is Ethical Leadership, which I think was displayed by each of the students who responded to the blackout protestors. Furthermore, the university has an entire division devoted to Diversity and Inclusion devoted to Inclusive Excellence. I love being part of a school who starts to think about inclusion from the very beginning and that puts so much effort into getting back on the right track when some of its students veer off that course.

Photo credit: Missouri State