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A discussion with UM System’s newly named chief diversity officer, Kevin McDonald

New UM diversity officer Kevin McDonald
University of Missouri

Monday’s St. Louis on the Air featured two exciting segments. First, we aired the season two premiere of the St. Louis Public Radio podcast We Live Here. Want to stay up-to-date on the podcast? Check out its new website here.

Following the premiere, the University of Missouri System’s newly named, first-ever chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, Kevin McDonald, joined us to discuss some of the issues that We Live Here delves into as well as his plans for the new role. You can read about McDonald’s background here.

Although each UM System campus already has a chief diversity officer, McDonald will be the first to hold the role at the system level and is tasked with working with the president and general officers of the system on matters of diversity, equity, inclusion, workplace, culture and climate.

McDonald acknowledged that there is some skepticism about the role, especially following the protests of this past fall at Mizzou and the resignations of Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and UM System President Tim Wolfe.

“There will probably be some faction of the community that is skeptical about a new administrative structural process that is attempting to commit itself to some level of transformation,” McDonald told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh. “I think there will be a critical mass of people, a collective will, if you will, that are really looking forward to working collaboratively with another interested party to move things forward for the system.”

First on McDonald’s list to do when he starts in the position on June 1? Visiting the University of Missouri system’s four campuses and speaking with faculty, staff, students and current diversity officers to build credibility about his new role. He said that he will work to create an overarching strategy for the system that allows for the individuality of the different campuses to shine through.

“There has to be a level of pervasiveness and intentionality where you’re showing up and connecting with individuals, hearing important historic stories that provide the context, but also coming with some ideas for the future,” McDonald said. “Some strategic planning efforts, important initiatives that, coupled with resources, will move some of these things that have been impediments to the community in the past forward.”

McDonald said that many of the difficulties that the University of Missouri is grappling with now are issues institutions of higher education across the country are also trying to come to terms with and solve.

"I want [students] to see themselves as equal stakeholders, are treated as such and are as much a part of the solution as identifying the problem."

“There are desires around increasing composition and diversity of faculty, staff and students and increasing opportunities to retain that diversity amongst those constituencies,” McDonald said. “Thinking about ways to enhance environments that talk about culture, climate and collegiality and then ultimately being able to sustain those efforts and being able to assess those efforts and share those efforts with the community.”

He hopes that students will come to see him less as someone full of rhetoric but someone who takes action — action, that is, which is informed by student feedback.

“I want them to see themselves as equal stakeholders, are treated as such and are as much a part of the solution as identifying the problem,” McDonald said.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.
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