Diversity Ambassadors – Now Hiring!

In the 2016 Climate Study and Listening Sessions, students made it clear that they really wanted more opportunities to talk about diversity with their peers. The Diversity Ambassadors initiative was created to meet this need. The Diversity Ambassadors are UMKC students trained in diversity peer education looking to work with student organizations to meet the needs of our community by holding diversity dialogue sessions.

We are now hiring for the position of Diversity Ambassador facilitators for the 2019-2020 school year!

The UMKC Division of Diversity and Inclusion, in partnership with the Division of Student Affairs, are 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.

In the past year, Diversity Ambassadors have reached hundreds of students in our community. If you would like to join the team, click here to complete our application! bit.ly/DA1920App

For more information on the Diversity Ambassador Initiative and to make a session request visit our website.

Because of the Color of My Skin and Other Misunderstandings of Racism

By: Rhiannon Dickerson, Discourse Coordinator and Lecturer in Communication Studies

The other day I was going about my morning routine, making coffee and washing the dishes. I asked my Google mini to turn on National Public Radio (NPR).  Even though the technology makes me paranoid of the surveillance it brings, it’s also very convenient. Within seconds, I heard Scott Simon’s voice booming across the house. He introduced an author, Damon Young who said “the fact of the color of his skin has posed particular lifelong challenges, questions, and anxieties.” I’m sensitive to this particular framing—“the color of his skin posed challenges”—and in an immediate fury, told Google to stop playing NPR. The issue is not Scott Simon or even NPR, but the wider white liberal cultural landscape in which iterations of this same problematic framing are uttered every single day.

We’ve all heard it (and let’s face it, likely said it) before—“they only stopped him because he’s black” or “she was treated that way because of the color of her skin.” We offer up this interpretation of events as racial analysis, a demonstration of outrage and a display of understanding of racism. Of course, these statements do reveal much about the white construction of race, but they do not reflect the reality of racial interactions.

When we say that people of color are dehumanized because of their skin, we’re placing responsibility, or at the very least, the cause on blackness. One of the hallmarks of white racial identity is the lack of recognition of white racial identity. Most of the time, most white folks like myself experience race as something other people have something people of color experience and that we’re notably apart from. So when race is involved, it’s never our race. We can see this misunderstanding of race play out in those NPR moments. Whiteness is completely removed from these discussions. It’s obfuscated. Erased. Concealed. And so, rendered innocent by virtue of nonexistence.

The concept of anti-blackness is central in this exchange and in the construction of whiteness itself. Even in the moments when we white folks acknowledge racism, we’re still placing the responsibility on blackness. “The fact of the color of his skin has posed particular problems”—again, as though the root of those challenges was blackness.

Let’s be very clear: people of color are not targeted because of the color of their skin, but because of the race of the people who target them, because of whiteness, white culture, and white supremacy.

We know that language matters—that it can both reflect and form our understanding of the world. We must stop using language that places antiblackness and racism as a result of black and brown people. We should say instead, “He experienced problems his entire life as a result of the white race” or “white people and systems discriminated against him his entire life”. When we reposition the responsibility, we’ll have a better understanding of whiteness and people of color.

Latinx Students, Staff and Faculty take over the Student Union, and more!

By Danielle Martinez, Senior Executive Assistant to Vice Chancellor, Division of Diversity and Inclusion

A whole host of activities took place on Wednesday, March 20th to celebrate Latinx culture at the UMKC Student Union.  Highlights of the event are pictured below.


Students created sidewalk chalk art by writing special messages, as well as their names, on the sidewalk immediately outside of the Union to show pride, including “bienvenidos,” “be proud of your culture,” and “pronounce my name in Spanish.”


Latinx student organizations tabled at the event to discriminate information to students who were interested in joining or supporting their group and their initiatives.







Incredible dance performances by Cuerpo de Baile Areito KC.


Multicultural Student Affairs office handed out delicious paletas from Tropicana and a documentary on the Life of Activist Cesar Chavez was streamed in MSA village.







Mi Gente provided Pan Dulce for guests to enjoy

This event was sponsored by Multicultural Student Affairs, Latin@ Alumni and Students Organization, Avanzando, The Association of Latin American Students (ALAS), the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA), Latinx and Latin American Studies, and Mi Gente, the Latinx Staff and Faculty Affinity Group.

“This event showcased Latinx culture, filled the Union with energy and spirit. The Latinx high school students who attended left knowing that UMKC is a place for them.” –Dr. Susan Wilson

Within that same week, Latinx students and their families attended a variety of events planned by ALAS, Avanzando, Multicultural Student Affairs and the office of Admissions. The first was Camino a Casa, where Reece Nichols presented in Spanish to educate families on the process of buying a house.  Next, Noche En Familia (Latino Family Evening), where students from the community and their families learned about the admissions process, scholarships, financial aid, and had the opportunity to interact UMKC students, faculty and staff.

Noche en Familia

All of our student organizations, Affinity Group, Latinx Latin American Studies and Avanzando came together to offer a night for prospective students and their families in which they could take part on Bilingual tours and a UMKC Info session in Spanish.

Camino a Casa

Representatives from Reece Nichols presented a workshop on home buying to the Kansas City Community Completely in Spanish.

Why are we still talking about diversity and inclusion?

By Dr. Susan Wilson, Vice Chancellor, Division of Diversity and Inclusion

Pillar 4 of UMKC’s new strategic plan reaffirms UMKC’s commitment to diversity through the statement “Foster an environment of invigorating multiculturalism, globalism, diversity and inclusion.”  This statement acknowledges the role of universities in preparing students to work and thrive in a today’s global marketplace.  Yet there are some who think, “Diversity—here we go again! What are we still talking about this?”

There are good reasons why we continue our focus on diversity and inclusion.  Diverse organizations are better able to meet the needs of their clients, customers and marketplace. At UMKC, our customers are our students. We are keenly aware that the demographics of future college students will be changing. A recent survey, “Knocking at the College Door,” reported, “20 to 45 percent of the nation’s public high school graduates are projected to be non-White, up by more than 7 percent over the class of 2009.” Women now comprise about 57 percent of all college students, up from 40 percent in the 1970s. Universities are also seeing higher enrollments of international, veteran and non-traditional students

What does this mean for us as an urban-serving university? As our students change, we must change. An understanding of culture and language helps us forge better relationships with students. Students expect education that is more flexible and is tailored to individual needs.  Diverse students want to know—before they enroll—that UMKC has programs and services that promote a sense of belonging. Instead of college being a “sink or swim” experience, students desire to have access to programs that are designed to support the success of diverse students.

This work is not easy and we still have progress to make. The good news is that UMKC is well on its way to address the needs of new generations for students that will be diverse, global and multicultural.

The Case for Black History

By Dr. Makini King, Director
UMKC Division of Diversity and Inclusion

We should not take Black History Month for granted. It exists for a reason and matters as much today, as it did when it was founded 100 years ago. When I was a young girl February meant attending a multitude of events at school and in the community with my friends and family to celebrate and take pride in our contributions as black people. We celebrated many of the greats like Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, and Benjamin Banneker. And at the end of the month, in the blink of an eye, the frequency and intensity, which defined my Februarys, would abruptly cease. Outside of church, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Junteenth and the occasional themed festival, there were no other concerted efforts to exclaim black worth to the world in community with other non-black people.

I have come to expect the consistency of Black History Month. I am delighted and encouraged by all the events that occur in a convenient and perfectly packaged month, but I think I have been missing the point. Perhaps we all have. Black History Month is not solely about remembering a few select figureheads who did courageous work to progress America. It is about recognizing that if the issue is not forced, black history would be erased.

Black History Month (originally Negro History Week) was founded by Carter G. Woodson, a black academic, who in the early aughts of the 20th century, wanted to formalize the commemoration of black contributions to not only American civilization, but the world.

When we are called upon to think about the major contributors to American progress, most of us immediately conjure up images of old white men; George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. We cannot help ourselves. The messages that we receive in our text books, our media, movies, and even in our common language, suggest that these are the only people who have contributed. Their value is automatically assumed and is as certain as the prominence of their portraits on American currency. The average American is otherwise hard pressed to easily name 10 non-white people who have made major contributions to civilization.

The fact is that black people, along with Asian, Indigenous, and Latinx people, have long been responsible, in part, for many of the joys America extols, often despite their marginalized status. Black contributions should not be tokenized, black history is not a single paragraph or chapter in a textbook, and it is not an elective, it is an equitable part of the equation. The erasure of black history on a global scale means that many of us never learned that black history includes not only the origin of man, but the existence of thriving civilizations, invention and complexity for hundreds of thousands of years before European colonization (see Berlin Conference).

In the 1920s Negro History Week (now Black History Month) was a response to the general belief that Black People had contributed nothing to world history. Recall that only two years ago Iowa Congressman Steve King questioned the contributions of minorities (which he called “subgroups”) to civilization. Although most of us, when asked, would vehemently deny this claim, the climate in which we are all immersed today provides little evidence of black contributions beyond a few footnotes.  When the history of black contributions is erased, it is only logical to conclude that it does not exist.

Black History Month is critical in the struggle against black erasure. The month will no longer be needed when our automatic recollections of who did what, are just as diverse as they are in reality. When we just as easily cite Lewis Howard Latimer as we do Thomas Edison. When we know as much about African Civilizations as we do European ones. Black people have long played a significant role despite being erased from the record. So the next time you visit a blood bank, sit at a traffic light (using your automatic shifts), pick up a telephone, eat potato chips, turn on a lightbulb, or enjoy the freedoms granted by any civil rights legislation, consider that none of that would have been possible without black contributions. This Black History Month, I invite you to go down that rabbit hole of Black History and learn the full story and when February ends, stay in that rabbit hole.

2019 Goals for Diversity and Inclusion – Cultivating Equity and Building Community

By Rachel M. McCommon, M.A. Ed.
Coordinator of Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Initiatives, School of Medince

The Diversity and Inclusion office in the UMKC School of Medicine is charged with cultivating and managing diverse learning and professional environments. In 2018, we were recognized with the 2018 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award (HEED) and instituted the Thomas Principles through the Students in Medicine, Academia, Research, and Training Mentoring program (SMART), plus received a 3.2 million dollar grant, with the office of Admissions, to expand both our admissions and retention programs in partnerships with the School of Pharmacy and School of Dentistry.

There are numerous studies that have specifically identified the impact support programs and offices of diversity and multiculturalism have on student persistence and graduation. In our persistence programming we desire that students have a sense of belonging. We are creating new initiatives that are taking us toward an inclusive, welcoming, and equitable environment for all. The Pritzker School of Medicine shared a “Study [that] identifies strategies to help minority students in med school,” that resulted in themes for how a “non-white” student can be more likely to have “academic withdrawal or dismissal, or graduate without passing key exams on their first try” (Kirsten, 2013).  This year we have created a multicultural community much like the Pritzker School of Medicine described in their study. Our goal is to enhance our learning environments by educating individuals in diversity, equity, and inclusion teaching that is transferable to our diverse populations who are served by these growing professionals and their faculty.

In creating this new community, SOMMA (School of Medicine Multicultural Affairs) has been established. This initiative encompasses all things student and resident focused and driven. This includes recognizing that diversity is more than the binary view of gender (man and woman) and more than race (binary lens of Black and White). It truly is supporting students and residents in all their identities and layers through their race and ethnic heritage and background, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, differently abled, military, non-traditional student perspective, age, socio-economic status, first generation college student and/or a first generation medical student and more. More specifically, we support students and residents through: 1) SMART mentoring program 2) Creating of leadership and diversity workshops for the classroom and club meetings while supporting faculty and students. 3) Supporting the Critical Mass Gathering event where we engage medical professionals of all levels and of various medical affiliates in Kansas City 4) Working to bridge the gap between the current student and the prospective student through our pipeline programs in providing tutors, mentors, and guest speakers to share their experience and advice 5) Support and advise our multicultural medical student organizations. Lastly, we’ve established a campaign to Expect Respect. This ascribes to our Mistreatment Policy that recognizes that equitable treatment in the medical learning and professional environments is expected and valued. As stated by Stephen Covey, “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” We hope to move us forward in our culture to embrace our differences and empower growth together.


Kirsten, D. (2013). Study identifies strategies to help minority students in med school – UChicago Medicine. [online] Uchicagomedicine.org. Available at: https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/news/2013/january/study-identifies-strategies-to-help-minority-students-in-med-school [Accessed 25 Jan. 2019].

Avanzando Mentorship Program

By Iván Ramírez, Senior Student Services Coordinator
Office of Multicultural Student Affairs – Avanzando Program

Avanzando is the result of a partnership established between the Hispanic Development Fund (HDF) and the UMKC Division of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). Avanzando started serving students in 2011; with 27 scholars Avanzando was designed to support HDF and Agapito Mendoza Scholarship recipients with individualized support in reaching their academic and career pursuits.

Today, Avanzando continues to grow, it has moved to The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) continues to serve over 100 scholars to date. Although the core goal of Avanzando has not changed new components have been added to enhance the program. There is an ongoing effort to increase retention and graduation rates of Latin American students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Our students come from many walks of life. We not only serve First Generation students but also: new-comers, DACA, 1.5 generation immigrants, 2nd and 3rd generation Latin American students. These students look at MSA and Avanzando provide guidance and college assistance. We support our scholars through monthly Success Workshops, which are a collaborative effort with the UMKC A.A.C.E. Program, UMKC Office of Financial Literacy and Academic Support & Mentoring. Topics covered in the series include “College Budgeting”, “Searching for Scholarships”, “How To Succeed in an Online Class”, “Reading Strategies”, “Time-Management “and many more. We also provide identity workshops with topics such as Afrolatinidad, Latino Mental Health, and LGBTQ + Latinos.

Along with the Success Workshops, Identity Talks, Cohort Outings, other components of the program are bi-weekly Academic Support Check-in meetings with an MSA Staff member and a mentor match-up with a UMKC Upperclassmen and/or Professional from campus or the Kansas City community.

During my first months on the job, the scholars expressed their yearning to have a Latino College experience. As a 1.5 generation immigrant in a predominately white institution, I lacked that experience which is why I strive to enhance the scholars’ journey while at UMKC. It is my hope to see them graduate and when they graduate and go out in the real world, they share of that experience they had at UMKC to other Latino students.

If you or someone you know is interested in being a scholar or mentor in the program, please contact: Ivan Ramirez at 816.235.6625 or ramirezii@umkc.edu.

Summer Art Exhibit to Challenge and Engage Kansas City


Hank Willis Thomas, Basketball and Chain, 2003. Digital C-print, Ed. 2/3, 99 x 55 inches (251.5 x 139.7).
Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Art © Hank Willis Thomas.

By Scott Curtis, Teaching & Learning Librarian and OER Lead
Miller Nichols Library

This summer, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art will present 30 Americans, an exhibition featuring the work of recent and contemporary African American artists. These artists’ drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs, and videos explore and make significant, thought-provoking contributions to the public discussions of race, history, identity, and beauty in our society.

30 Americans exhibits selected works from the Rubell Family Collection, located in Miami, Florida. While this traveling exhibition has appeared in a number of locations over the past ten years, for each museum and location 30 Americans is tailored to be a unique experience. A community advisory group has been working with curatorial staff at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to make sure that the exhibition and the associated programming around it will engage with Kansas City’s entire community.

30 Americans will be at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art from June 1 – August 25, 2019.  For more information on the exhibit and associated programs, see https://www.nelson-atkins.org/events/30-americans/

Black History Month Events in Kansas City

While we recognize that Black History should be honored and recognized every month, not just in February, we want to also highlight and recognize the work and celebrations of Black lives, contributions, and excellence, happening in Kansas City, throughout the month of February. Below is a list of resources and events from some of our colleagues across the city. Are we missing someone? Please let us know by contacting us at diversityandinclusion@umkc.edu and we will happily add their contributions to our list. Thank you in advance for sharing and highlighting our community!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

African American Inventors with an Entrepreneurial Spirit
Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City, Inc.
Featured speaker: Carroll G. Lamb, Founder and Executive Director of The Institute of Black Invention & Technology, Inc. (TIBIT) Mr. Lamb has an entrepreneurial spirit that shines clearly through his collection. Mr. Lamb and his wife have spent over two decades collecting and researching African American history with an emphasis on African American inventors and innovators. They have showcased their TIBIT exhibits in various venues across the United States.

Health Sciences Diversity and Inclusion Council Harmony Gala
Health Sciences Diversity and Inclusion Council
This fifth annual event is a fundraiser for the UMKC Health Sciences Hill Diversity Scholarship fund.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

2019 Black History Month program, with keynote: Dr. Randal Maurice Jelks
The American Jazz Museum and the Greater Kansas City Black History Study Group
Dr. Randal Maurice Jelks will discuss “Black Migration and Shifting Black Faiths,” exploring the roles and changing dimensions of religion in black communities during the Great Migration and beyond. Jelks will expand on themes presented in his new book “Faith & Struggle in the Lives of Four African Americas: Ethel Waters, Mary Lou Williams, Eldridge Cleaver and Muhammad Ali.”

Thursday, February 21, 2019

UMKC University Libraries 10th Annual African American Read-In
The UMKC University Libraries invite you to attend our 10th Annual African American Read-In! Registration is now open for listeners and sharers alike, for this FREE event, which is open to the public. Read, sing, or perform a work from an African American author or artist of your choice, or just come to listen, reflect, and enjoy. Drop-in presenters are welcome as time allows.

Throughout February:

Mid-Continent Public Library Black History Month for Families, Children, and Adults
Mid-Continent Public Library

Become a Diversity Ambassador!

The UMKC Division of Diversity and Inclusion, in partnership with the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, are 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 trainings and special events, with the opportunity to meet and collaborate with UMKC Staff, Faculty and Community Constituents and represent the student voice, within the Division of Diversity and Inclusion. 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.


  • 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 14 – 16, 2019
    • 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 14th.
    • Students must be prepared to attend training at 1 pm August 14th
  • 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 2019 and Spring 2020 semesters)
  • Must maintain good standing with the University
  • Positively represent UMKC and the Division of Diversity and Inclusion at all times
  • 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 2019-2020 school year


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).