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St. Louis Community College sets course for wide-ranging diversity plan

A 2014 job fair hosted by the Urban League brought a big turnout to the St. Louis Community College Florissant Valley campus on Sept. 14, 2014.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio
A 2014 job fair hosted by the Urban League brought a big turnout to the St. Louis Community College Florissant Valley campus.

Over the next two years St. Louis Community College will be undertaking a number of steps to better support students from diverse backgrounds, from a review of faculty representation to accommodations for parents.

Among the new initiatives included in this iteration of the college’s diversity plan are efforts to bring students from different campuses together, and a push for faculty to address race, class, gender and other issues in its curriculum.

“We want to create an environment where people feel comfortable being uncomfortable, where people feel comfortable discussing sometimes heavy topics in a civil manner, with a goal of making sure we dialogue rather than debate,” said Keith Fuller, the college's director of diversity and inclusion.

“Very often times at a community college, students go to the community college that is in their neighborhood," said Fuller, who is in charge of implementing the plan. "And sometimes the way we live here in St. Louis, just being in your neighborhood does not provide you with opportunities to interact with others who may be different from you,” Fuller said. “You’ve got to get people in the room to be able to talk about their shared interests and issues, and so being intentional about that will enhance the student experience.”

In the fall of 2015, more than half of the students enrolled at the Florissant Valley campus were black, while nearly 90 percent of the students at the Wildwood campus were white.

But Fuller said the the college aims to go beyond issues of race and gender; he’s been in conversations with Pride St. Louis, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the International Institute.

The plan sets out a detailed agenda, with time frames for each item to be completed.

For instance, expanded financial aid options should be in place by June 2017 and faculty hiring recommendations are expected by July. The plan calls for each campus to have a room for nursing moms by May. A feasibility study on adding child development centers on the Forest Park and Meramec Campuses is also slated to be complete by June.

“What we’re doing is not a reaction to something,” Fuller said, noting that his institution’s mission to provide an affordable education option attracts an array of students. “St. Louis Community College has always had a diverse population and we always will.”

Follow Camille on Twitter: @cmpcamille.