New Year, New Opportunities

By Dr. Makini King, Interim Vice-Chancellor and Director of  the UMKC Division of Diversity and Inclusion

The Autumn season is my favorite season. The blistering heat subsides, cooler weather prevails, the daylight shortens, the sharp greens, pinks and reds of summer make way for the muted, yet profound beauty of yellows, oranges and browns, and nature readies itself for the harvest. While it may be quite easy to dwell on the impending winter season, by doing so, I believe we risk missing out on truly appreciating the fruits of our diligent labor through the growing season. The last nearly two years was indeed a muddled mess of crises and this Fall, more than ever, we may be able to finally reflect on how hard everyone worked to pull through.

If it is not clear already, UMKC strives to ensure that our culture and climate are supportive of everyone. Crises notwithstanding UMKC saw an opportunity over the past year and half to seize the momentum of this particular growing season to build and rebuild for the better, for all of us.

There are many initiatives and programs to watch out for this year that support our DEI efforts on campus.

Roos Advocate for Community Change began in the Summer of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd and the nation’s renewed illumination of the unrelenting ill-effects of racism. The initiative promotes thoughtful action on campus and in our community to ensure lasting and comprehensive change. A few of the initiatives include the Critical Conversations panel series, mandatory trainings on bias and microaggressions for all UMKC employees, listening sessions and actions plans for minoritized students and staff, as well as the creation of the Faculty Search Support Team, a group tasked with helping search committees engage in inclusive hiring practices.

This year we are also implementing another new and exciting initiative. We are building out the Chancellor’s Diversity Council to provide better representation of groups across campus. The Council will have formal representation from each school, academic units, administrative units, students, community members and affinity groups. This effort aims to provide improved collaboration, communication and support across academic and administrative units related to UMKC’s DEI goals.

There are many wonderful opportunities to get involved this year. You should always look out for our annual lectures, but if you are interested in engaging on a more community-based and personal level, consider joining one of our Affinity Groups or our Diversity Advocates program. You might even think about joining in on the amazing DEI efforts happening in your very own school or unit.

From Accessibility to Innovation

By Matthew Edwards, PhD. – Associate Professor of Spanish, Associate Faculty of Latinx and Latin American Studies, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies

For many people “accessibility” is a wheelchair ramp, descriptive captions on a film, or Braille translations posted alongside signs we see. It is a term that is almost inseparable from diagnosed disabilities and the American Disability Act.  As a professor with low vision who identifies as blind, I have been trying hard to use the things that help me as a standard. Simply put, I create my classes for myself. Just recently, for example, I stopped showing PowerPoint presentations altogether. Powerpoint presentations are uncomfortable for anyone who has to get close—the fonts are too big and the layouts vary too much. It is simply too hard to navigate. They stress me out—I can’t see the information on the computer screen and the projected image is always too far away, no matter how close I get. In its place, I now use a GoogleDoc.  I post the class outline, give students editing permissions, and start class. This is a change that is motivated completely by what makes me comfortable.  But, what was surprising to see was how my class has changed. The GoogleDoc has created a classroom centered on collaboration. As I am talking, I hear students keyboards. I look at my screen and now see their ideas, reactions, comments, and questions. If in the past I always suspected students were chatting with friends, I now see continuous in-class interaction. And, in the past, if students kept their questions silent due to nerves or anxiety that they were for some reason inherently wrong, now anonymity gives them a necessary freedom to expression.  We keep this GoogleDoc as our “running notes”—a sort of continuous white board that never gets erased. It is always with us and in that way the GoogleDoc is a safety net that not only promotes community formation in learning, but it also supports class members who miss a day due to COVID, quarantine, family responsibilities or work.

I am sharing this episode with you today to suggest that we think about accessibility and accommodations as not only supporting everyone, but making our classroom, workplace and community a different place to be in—a place where collaboration motivates freedom of expression and mutual support.

Being a Mental Health Ally

By Dr. Kathryn Brewer, Visiting Assistant Professor of Counseling and Counseling Psychology and Co-Chair of RoosForMentalHealth

The RoosForMentalHealth campaign was launched in November 2019 with the hope to help cure the stigma related to mental health by increasing awareness of important and common issues.  Mental health issues impact everyone, directly or indirectly. In that we all have mental health, working towards mental wellness is the goal.

Our campaign creates opportunities and provides resources to enhance proactive self-care strategies among students, staff, and faculty.  We do this through virtual Lunch-n-Learn programs, tabling across campus, and providing resources on our website.  We also provide guidance on how to recognize distress in others and how to respond when necessary.  Additionally, we emphasize the importance of wellness by providing education regarding connections between mental health and sleep, physical activity, nutrition, relationships, and more.  We also held our first annual Mental Health Mile color-walk earlier this semester.  Over 250 students, staff, and faculty attended.  We received numerous feedback indicating it was a positive experience, especially for those who do struggle with mental health issues, stating they felt more supported and acknowledged on campus.  This is our hope – to normalize mental health issues, as they truly do impact everyone.

We have a long road ahead as there is a great deal of stigma associated with mental health.  I think there are many reasons for this, primarily is the portrayal in mass media of mental health issues.  This socialized view gives everyone the wrong idea and creates fear, invalidation, and offers too much misinformation.  I think another important factor adding to the stigma is that people have negative reactions to things they don’t understand.  Increasing awareness and knowledge, from reputable sources, is key.  We have more on our webpage about this… https://info.umkc.edu/roosformentalhealth/end-the-stigma/.

We need more mental health allies at UMKC if we are truly going to fight stigma and increase awareness about mental health.  Being a mental health ally comes with two main responsibilities.  The first is to encourage more people to join the mission to cure stigma related to mental health for everyone.  The second is for these allies to take the responsibility of noticing others around them.  Stigma is fought one person at a time.  When considering how best to help someone, the best piece of advice I can give: say something!  Too many people assume someone else will, so they don’t say anything when they notice someone hurting or struggling.  Or, they don’t know what to say, so they don’t say anything.  How you approach the situation and what you say will greatly depend on the relationship you have with that person.  But in general, listening without judgment is important and letting the person know they are not alone.  Listed are some great resources that provide guidance on helping others:

https://www.asklistenrefer.org/umkc

https://info.umkc.edu/roosformentalhealth/resources/

https://seizetheawkward.org/

https://bringchange2mind.org/talk/talk-tool/

For more information about our campaign including wellness topics, mental health resources, self-care tips, recorded Lunch-n-Learn programs, and more, check out our website at https://info.umkc.edu/roosformentalhealth/.  Our live virtual Lunch-n-Learn programs this semester, including topics such as the role social media plays in body image, Health at Every Size, mindfulness techniques, men and mental health, bridging the gap for people of color seeking mental health services, cultural self-awareness, and the science of unconscious bias, will be posted on RooGroups and our website as they are scheduled.

UMKC Student Veteran Resources on the Rise

By Eric Gormly, Assistant Director – Student Veteran Support Services

One of UMKC’s newest offices on campus is Student Veteran Support Services. As of February 2020 we have been creating programming, implementing policy, and providing space and opportunity for UMKC to help serve those who served.  With a dedicated space for student veterans, the At Ease Zone located in Student Union room 310, offers study space, a lounge area, open-use computers, fridge and microwave, coffee/pop, and information for on and off-campus resources for our currently serving and prior-service military students.

Be on the lookout for activities to promote and support student veterans on campus! These include the Student Veterans Organization “Battle of the Branches Food Drive” that will support the UMKC Roo Pantry and take place the entire month of November, and Veterans Week that will take place from November 8th – 12th.

If you ever have questions about anything related to Student Veteran Support Services or the Student Veterans Organization, please reach out to Eric Gormly at gormlyea@umkc.edu.

#RooUp #MilitaryRoos

Roos Advocate for Community Change Faculty and Staff Mandatory Training – Now available asynchronously online!

As a part of Roos Advocate for Community Change and UMKC’s commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, all faculty and staff are required to complete “Unconscious Bias, Microaggressions and What to Do About Them.”

This training will help us all cultivate a deeper understanding of bias, identify microaggressions and learn ways to respond when we see them in ourselves and others.

Click HERE to complete the online training, if you haven’t completed it already – online or in person, or follow this link: https://umsystem.skillport.com/skillportfe/main.action?path=summary/CUSTOMER_DEFINED/_scorm12_spumsystem_umkc_dei_biasmicroaggression

Session details

What: A 30-minute recorded training on “Unconscious Bias, Microaggressions and What to Do About Them.”

When: Training must be completed by September 1, 2021
Who: All benefit-eligible faculty and staff, including supervisors.

Note: If you took either “The Science of Unconscious Bias” or “Communicating Respectfully in a Diverse World” in 2020 or 2021, or you took the live training for “Unconscious Bias, Microaggressions and What to Do About Them” during the Fall 2020 semester, you have already fulfilled this requirement. Please see your HR Learning plan through MyLearn for reference.

Call for Change

The “Unconscious Bias, Microaggressions, and What to Do About Them” training is one part of Chancellor Mauli Agrawal’s initiative Roos Advocate for Community Change to help heal and transform the community in light of the murders of George Floyd’s, Breyonna Taylor, and more and the subsequent national conversation about racism. Other actions in this initiative include the Critical Conversations series, virtual resource center and Troost to Prospect partnerships. For more information visit our website: Roos Advocate for Community Change.

Compassion Must Sustain Our Path

By: Dr. Makini King, Interim Vice-Chancellor and Director of the Division of Diversity and Inclusion

There are not yet adequate words to describe all that we have experienced this last year. We sustained a global pandemic, a racial justice reckoning and political polarization within a matter of months. However, this may be one of the rare instances where we developed a more intimate understanding of our emotional journey compared to the physical one. This is a watershed moment. We are typically emotion averse, especially towards those unpleasant ones, and we play all sorts of tricks on ourselves to avoid them. But this past year we leaned into them, we talked about our emotions – especially the unpleasant ones, and we did so as much publicly as we did privately. Even as the world seemed to be crumbling around us in paradoxically new and very familiar ways, there was something about the frequency and severity of last year’s events that led to a very different human response.  Many of us allowed ourselves to learn from our emotional experiences. Consequently, we exhibited incredible compassion for each other; we started to pay attention, we began to try and understand one another in ways that we had not seen before. We didn’t always get it right, there were lots of fits and starts. In a society where we aren’t exactly used to confronting unpleasantries in order to learn from them, or placing kindness above niceness, it’s logical that we might encounter hiccups, but the determination to enact compassion despite hardship was steady.

As we begin to pull ourselves out of the last vestiges of 2020, it might seem reasonable to try and forget every part of it, but that would be a mistake. Though the realities were often grim and the lessons were hard, they were lessons nonetheless. Many of those lessons, if we attend to them, will guide us into a better and brighter future. It does not have to take a worldwide and catastrophic pandemic and a racial reckoning (among many other things) to teach us compassion. We can, in fact, choose that every day from now on.

The same kindness and compassion that carried us through last year; that led many of us to consider the experiences of other people and inspired us to make personal sacrifices in exchange for the care of others, is the very same kindness and compassion that will sustain us today if we choose. We can do this work in our own circles, in our own families, and here in our UMKC community. Last year we clearly exhibited our ability to engage skills we didn’t even know we had; making decisions we didn’t know we could and being flexible in ways we had never been before. We can use the momentum to push us deeper into emotional freedom so that we can continue to be compassionate, pay attention and seek understanding of others in ways that we have never done before.

 

 

 

New Financial Wellness Center can help Students with Finances

By: Anna Zimmerman, Financial Wellness Coordinator

Financial decisions affect every part of our lives, from where we live to what we eat. While managing money is important, very few people feel confident in their financial knowledge or access. A recent study found that 70% of college students experienced financial stress. This stress can lower academic performance, cause health challenges, and strain relationships.

To counteract these challenges and better support our students, UMKC is opening a new Financial Wellness Center. Modeled after successful programs around the country, UMKC’s Financial Wellness Center will offer one-on-one financial coaching, events and workshops, and digital resources.

Coaching sessions will be free to all UMKC students. With a coach, students can work on a range of topics including how to pay for college, navigate the FAFSA, budget, and manage credit and debt. These appointments will be available to all current undergraduate, graduate, or professional students.

The Financial Wellness Center will also host events and workshops throughout the year. Topics will include budgeting, credit cards, how to buy a car, navigate an apartment search, and prepare for life after graduation. Student groups, faculty, and staff can also request financial workshops for their group or class.

Speaking about finances can be uncomfortable because many of us have been told it is inappropriate to talk about money. Unfortunately, this stigma perpetuates financial systems that are exclusionary and difficult to navigate. The Financial Wellness Center combats this stigma by providing a safe space for students to get support and ask questions. These efforts support equal access to financial knowledge, systems, and resources.

The Financial Wellness Center will officially launch this fall and be located in Room 223 of the Administrative Center. To get more information, visit https://finaid.umkc.edu/cost/financial-wellness-center/ or email azimmerman@umkc.edu. We’d be happy to chat!

Note: Coaching and events hosted by the Financial Wellness Center are intended to provide education about financial principles. We do not provide investment, legal or tax advice. The information provided is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for the advice of your investment, legal and/or tax advisors or to be the basis of specific trading or investment activities. If you need investment, legal and/or tax advice, please consult with one of these professionals.

Now Hiring! Become a Diversity Ambassador!

The UMKC Division of Diversity and Inclusion, in partnership with the Division of Student Affairs, is seeking passionate and self-aware UMKC students who have a demonstrated commitment to social justice, diversity, and equity to apply for the Diversity Ambassador Program!

Students chosen for this rewarding initiative will become trained facilitators of diversity peer education and intergroup dialogues. Each Ambassador will lead, support, and organize Diversity and Inclusion sessions and special events, with the opportunity to meet and collaborate with UMKC Staff, Faculty, and Community Constituents.

The Diversity Ambassadors are always representing the Division of Diversity and Inclusion, and the UMKC campus as a whole. These students will gain valuable interpersonal communication, facilitator, and leadership skills, as well as the opportunity to build community and relationships across the UMKC community.

Qualifications:

  • The Diversity Ambassador Program is eligible to any UMKC student after completion of their first year with a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or higher.
    • Diversity Ambassadors who fall below a 2.5 must be in communication with the Division of Diversity and Inclusion Staff to make an academic success plan to raise their GPA
    • Diversity Ambassadors with GPAs below a 2.0 may be considered ineligible for the position
  • Attend mandatory three-day training on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday –  August 18 – 20, 2021
    • Students who have contracted to live on campus with Residence Life for the fall semester will be able to move in on the morning of Wednesday, August 18th.
    • Students must be prepared to attend training at 1 pm August 18th
  • Attend mandatory  monthly team meetings (specific dates to be determined)
  • Attend monthly 1:1 meetings with supervisor
  • Lead, support, or organize a minimum of three special events throughout the year such as conferences, lectures, and other large-scale initiatives
  • Co-facilitate a minimum of three trainings per semester (six for the academic year, minimum)
  • Maintain high communication with the Division of Diversity and Inclusion staff
  • Commit to the role of Diversity Ambassador for one full Academic Year (Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semesters)
  • Must maintain good standing with the University
  • Positively represent UMKC and the Division of Diversity and Inclusion at all times
Benefits:
  • Gain skills, awareness, and knowledge of diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Develop leadership, communication, facilitation, and organizing skills
  • $1,200 total stipend for the year –  payment of $600 upon the completion of each successful semester
**This role is contingent on funding for the Diversity Ambassador Initiative for the 2021-2022 school year

Trainings:

Trainings are available for UMKC students, student organizations and classes.

  • Embrace Diversity
  • The Science and Impact of Unconscious Bias
  • Understanding Our Privilege and Its Impact
  • Communicating Respectfully in a Diverse World

We are also able to customize to meet the needs of students. For more information on how to become a diversity ambassador OR if you would like to schedule a training or dialogue session for your group, please contact Lona Davenport  (davenportlm@umkc.edu or 816-235-6510).

Until We Meet Again: Vice-Chancellor Dr. Wilson’s reflection on DEI and retirement

To my UMKC Family,

Another new year has come around. Many of us are glad to say goodbye to 2020. COVID-19 changed the lives of everyone and every organization. We mourned the loss of loved ones, worked from home, and lived with a persistent fear of becoming sick. With the availability of a vaccine, hope and help are on the horizon. Like dark clouds scattering at the end of a rainstorm, the sun has begun to shine again with optimism and new possibilities.

A big change has also come about for me.  On January 4, I retired from my position of Vice-Chancellor of Diversity and Inclusion. You should know that this was a very difficult decision, because I loved my job and more importantly, the people with whom I had the privilege to work. Yet I had to follow my internal voice, which was telling me it was time to rest after a demanding career,  spend precious time with family, and strike a new path.

Luckily for me, I will still be helping UMKC on a contractual basis. This arrangement makes saying goodbye less painful.

Nonetheless, I began to think about what words about diversity, equity and inclusion  I would leave you with. I hope these words are helpful reminders.

-Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work is never done. Never rest on your laurels and believe that enough has been done.

– DEI includes us all, and it truly is everyone’s job.

-Commit to being a lifelong learner, even when new learning makes you feel uncomfortable.

– Be brave! Venture outside of your comfort zone. Staying safe with the same people, places and things does not allow you to broaden your horizon.

-Always remember that we are preparing our students to be citizens of a global world. This means students must learn the capacity to interact with various languages, cultures, and customs, without negative judgment.

-More and more, the education we provide must be responsive to the ever-changing needs of our diverse student population.

I wish you all the best in your DEI journey!

With that said, I will not say goodbye.  I will simply say “See you later” or  “Arrivederci” meaning “Until we meet again,” in Italian.

UMKC’s Women’s Center May Have Exactly What You Need!

Images of Resources offered at the UMKC Women's Center
Images of Resources offered at the UMKC Women’s Center

By: April Brown, Senior, English BA

The University of Kansas City-Missouri is home to a lot of services and organizations that are dedicated to the betterment, enrichment, and support of students and staff on campus, as well as the community members that live and thrive around the school. Among those groups is UMKC’s Women’s Center, located centrally in the quad on campus. Their mission is advocating, educating, and providing  “support services for the advancement of women’s equity on campus and within the community at large.” They’re known on campus for putting on programs such as the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event, which is a mile-long charity walk to show solidarity for victims of sexual violence, or “I Can / We Can – Day of Action” which is an event that urges students to create pieces of art that represent standing against gender-based violence and share the art on campus to spread the ideal of strength and unity to other students and staff members.

This semester I started interning for the Women’s Center as their blog editor and for the first time in my entire college career, I am truly astonished at the lengths a simple service group will go to provide for and reach their community. I am becoming a passionate advocate for the center, and for all the work the student staff and faculty have put in during this pandemic to ensure the center remains as open and as available as possible. Like most of the university, the center has undergone many changes to accommodate the precautions needed to keep safe from the virus. Our office hours have been reduced. Now our physical office is only open from 10:00am-2:00pm Monday through Thursday. Further restrictions have also been implemented, such as the closing down of our in office kitchen, and  the enforcement of a “2 person in office at any given time” rule. Due to these changes, we, like many other offices and organizations, are hindered to an extent. Our staff is unable to work face to face, and we are unable to host as many events as the center usually does in a normal semester. However, not everything has had to change. In fact, there are plenty of services and programs that the staff here at the center has fought hard to keep exactly as they are.

For instance, the Women’s Center has always been a proud safe place for students, and being that we are a women’s center, we have specific accommodations for our students and staff who are female. Such as, we provide free menstrual products and safe sex kits for any student who may want or need one. Though it is a service geared toward women, any student, faculty member, or community member can stop in to our office during open hours and grab what they may need from our free supplies. We also have a lactation room that is private and cool for nursing mothers on campus. There is a mini-fridge in the room to store milk, and though the lactation room has been closed for walk in usage, it can still be reserved for appointments. The room is sanitized before and after usage, so women can use this room with no worries.

We are also still open to the public for the majority of the work day. There is always at least one staff member in office and we are always willing to talk with, listen, or provide for a student who may be in need. Our office is stocked full of brochures, informational pamphlets, and health supplies. We have information about shelters, food pantries, childcare, mental health and more. Whatever the issue a student may be having, the women at the center are dedicated to helping anyone resolve any issues as quickly and as safely as possible.

Also, maybe even most importantly, the Women’s Center is still putting on events to promote and advocate for gender equity within our community. Some have already concluded successfully, such as our “Say Her Name: The Invisibility of Black Women” panel discussion. Over 100 people tuned in for a couple of hours on zoom as we had an open discussion about the lives of black women, and the injustice and inequality they face every day in America. Some other events we have coming up though are the “I Can / We Can – Day of Action” taking place on Thursday October 15th. Though we are unable to open our office up for students to come make their art with us, we will be handing out art supplies and posting our own art on social media to encourage the creation of the I Can, We Can art. Though we cannot be together, doesn’t mean we can’t work together to end gender-based violence. On Thursday October 22nd we are holding another panel discussion on zoom, like the Say Her Name one, in which we will be discussing the prevalent subject of intersectionality. Also throughout all of the month of October we will be doing small, social media based and/or take home art-based programs and self-help tutorials to help boost morale on campus, educate our followers, and keep everyone mentally strong and healthy during this trying time. All of these programs are listed in detail on our Facebook page, and are mostly open to anyone who would like to join!

It took me until my last semester at UMKC to learn about this wonderful service group, and all the services they provide. I wish I had known about them sooner, and been able to partake in and take advantage of the things they do here. As the pandemic threatens to isolate us to an extreme we have never known, it has never been more important to get the information and services we provide out, not just to the student body, but to the community so they know they do not have to face the upcoming semester, or life alone. Visit the Women’s Center office Monday-Thursday, or tune in to our social media pages and take advantage of the community that is still very much out there!