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Faculty and Staff Members Recognized for Outstanding Leadership

Four faculty and staff members at the University of Missouri-Kansas City were recognized during the last year for outstanding leadership. Below, the four share their thoughts about the awards they received.

Norma Cantu, Ph.D.

Professor of Latina/o Studies and English

Diverse Issues in Higher Education: “Top 25 Women in Higher Education”

What were your thoughts when you learned of the award?

My first thought was that I know so many women who are more deserving. I am truly honored to have been chosen, as I never think about what I do as exceptional – it’s just my passion. I teach, I write, I read and I give talks on subjects that interest me and that I hope will make our world a better place.

What does it mean to you and the university to receive an award from this publication, organization or city?

Recognition of my work and my efforts reflects well on the caliber of education that students receive at UMKC. For me personally, it means that what I am doing is valued. Chicana thinker and activist Gloria Anzaldúa, urged that we do work that matters, so having my work recognized affirms that what I am doing matters.

Can you identify specific accomplishments that resulted in your selection?

Not really. The publication is national in scope and reflects what is going on in higher education for diverse communities. It may be that they are honoring the work that I do at the national level in various scholarly organizations, such as the American Folklore Society – I was just elected to its board of directors. Also, I was instrumental in the establishment of a Latina/o Studies Forum at the Modern Languages Association. They may be recognizing the work I do at UMKC as a writer, a professor and a Latina academic.

Is receipt of this award beneficial to your position, career and/or the university?  If so, how?

I believe it is. First of all, the award directly or indirectly recognizes my efforts at UMKC to establish Latina/o Studies. After working in this field since graduate school, almost 40 years ago, it is rewarding to see that our field is finally coming into its own.

What are your goals to further promote diversity in this community?

My goals align exactly with the Latina/Latino Studies mission – to be a vehicle for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary teaching, research and outreach focusing on Latinas/os-Chicanas/os in the U.S.

The program fosters an awareness of diverse Latino communities, cultures and backgrounds. It engages students, scholars and the greater Kansas City community in collaborative projects, programs and service learning efforts. These efforts will advance research and outreach scholarship, and create a better understanding of the cultural, economic and historical experiences and contributions of U.S. Latinas/os-Chicanas/os and their diasporic origins.

Furthermore, I would say that one of my personal goals is to foster understanding among diverse communities.

What are the greatest obstacles/challenges to creating a more diverse environment in a department?

The challenges and obstacles are found in two concrete areas: funding and culture. If the funding is available to hire diverse faculty and recruit and retain diverse students, then the department will change. Secondly, the culture of UMKC needs to change so that everyone accepts the goal of serving a diverse student body, with a diverse faculty and a diverse administration. This is not easy for an institution that has been around for 80 years and is somewhat set in its ways.

Speak to your leadership and community engagement – what can you share with students or staff that will help them in these areas as they move into leadership roles?

We all need to step up and be engaged, take charge. Far too often students feel incapable of assuming leadership roles or question their place in academia. It’s called the “imposter syndrome,” and it affects people of color who get the message that “you don’t belong here.” I challenge myself all the time to speak up, to be bold, to write about topics that matter. It is not easy for me as I don’t like confrontation, and I certainly don’t like the spotlight. But, I have learned that I must do what needs to be done. I have also learned that no one does it alone, and I am very blessed to have wonderful colleagues and friends who help me do the work that needs to be done.

How can women better support one another?

We can be there for one another – across all kinds of borders, classes, races, ethnicity, sexuality … when women get together their strength is formidable. We can support each other socially and personally, but we also need to support each other formally. For example, as a writer, I support and mentor women writers. When giving a talk, I sometimes refer to younger, less well-known writers; or I introduce young scholars to people who may help their careers, or people who are part of a network of like-minded scholars.

Anything else you wish to share?

I would like to stress that there is always hope. When I started teaching as an assistant professor in 1982, it was pretty rare to see a woman faculty member and even more so a Latina or a Chicana. Now, the Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social, a professional organization for Latinas in academia, is a robust organization. Most campuses have Latina/o faculty members. But we are not there yet. I challenge the students to step up to the plate, to continue working for social justice, and to work for opportunities for all of us to reach our full potential.

Adrienne Walker Hoard, MFA, Ed.D.

Director, Black Studies Program

National Association of Professional Women “Woman of the Year”

What were your thoughts when you learned of the award?

Very excited, and so grateful to those who recognized the transformations I have created in our Black Studies Program in the two years I have been in a leadership position at UMKC.

What does it mean to you and the university to receive an award from this publication, organization or city?

It is always heart-warming to be acknowledged by those who are in a similar position to your own. Being recognized by the National Association of Professional Women lets me know that other women in leadership roles understand the energy and focus it takes to be successful, even though there are differing definitions of success. The NAPW’s support and acknowledgment means a great deal to me, and brings additional highlight to the many excellent women in leadership roles at UMKC.

Can you identify specific accomplishments that resulted in your selection?

Transformations in and upgrades for the brand of the Black Studies Program at UMKC through community engagement and outreach, new regional partnerships, online and on-campus curriculum additions and numerous student-centered programming events were part of the submissions for this award.

In the advent of university work, my art research continued, with 23 new art works for my major exhibition in 2014, “50 Years of Civil Rights: The Movement in Expressive Images,” with artist Malaika Favorite.

Is receipt of this award beneficial to your position, career and/or the university?  If so, how?

Yes, because my work here within the university is being acknowledged from outside the institution on a competitive national level.

What are your goals to further promote diversity in this community?

I want to continue the work my colleagues and I are doing of creating more curricular innovations and providing more opportunities for students of all ethnicities and denominations to learn about Black Studies. Our discipline researches the contributions of African descendent people to other institutions and cultures.

What are the greatest obstacles/challenges to creating a more diverse environment in a department?

Our area is in need of tangible and consistent support from the university administration. Not just one-time efforts or events, but a consistent flow of budgetary support for all effective diversity initiatives.

Speak to your leadership and community engagement – what can you share with students or staff that will help them in these areas as they move into leadership roles?

I would encourage them to get to know their constituents, their audience. Engage in dialogues with their constituents, listen to their concerns and acknowledge their needs – then create programming that addresses those things.

How can women better support one another?

First of all, be willing to support other women as colleagues and not as competitors. Recognize that only you can be you, and your ‘sister’ colleague is herself. Even in the same discipline, life experiences bring unique perspectives to the issues of discourse. Secondly, work toward your highest potential, while helping other women work for the same.

Mentoring is the greatest tool women have. In the past, women were always encouraged to find a male mentor. Now, there are female mentors available and willing to share their journey.

Carla Wilson

Director of Athletics

Diverse Issues in Higher Education: “Top 25 Women in Higher Education”

What were your thoughts when you learned of the award?

I was truly speechless. I had no idea I was being considered, and it is an extreme honor to have been chosen.

What does it mean to you and the university to receive an award from this publication, organization or city?

To have Diverse Issues in Higher Education choose me for this honor is a testament to the “thinking out of the box” that allowed me to be hired into this position. For African American women Directors of Athletics at the NCAA Division I level, statistics speak to the lack of diversity and inclusion. Diverse Issues in Higher Education recognized the breaking of the glass ceiling at UMKC.

Can you identify specific accomplishments that resulted in your selection?

The credit goes to the Athletics’ staff, coaches and student-athletes whose hard work garnered national attention. Accomplishments include the volleyball and men’s basketball teams defeating Mizzou; the Outdoor Track & Field team winning their first WAC championship; and track athlete Courtney Frerichs placing second nationally in the 3,000 meter steeplechase. Also, three teams were WAC Champions; two WAC coaches-of-the-year; a cumulative GPA of 3.29 (220+ student-athletes); and five All-Americans. Programming such as Ladies Networking Night and Jerseys to Suits, where female and male student athletes network with the business community has been used as a model for other intercollegiate athletics departments around the country.

While the recognition I received was a great honor, I really believe my selection was a result of our collective efforts.

Is receipt of this award beneficial to your position, career and/or the university?

Yes. To receive this honor from a professional organization that is not athletics-specific demonstrates that athletics does not exist in a vacuum, but is part of the broader community.

What are your goals to further promote diversity in this community?

My goals include encouraging employees to join professional organizations that promote diversity, and to do their due diligence in recruiting diverse student-athletes who are reflective of the local and regional landscape.

I want student athletes to continue to collaborate with other student groups, such as International Student Council. Joint programming allows them opportunities to learn more about one other.

When it comes to hiring, we must be deliberate and intentional in establishing a diverse candidate pool, and we must make sure a diverse population is involved in the recruiting and interview process. Finally, we need to partner with campus and community groups in the urban core where we work, live and play.

What are the greatest obstacles/challenges to creating a more diverse environment in a department?

Opening peoples’ minds to what can be, instead of what has always been.  It will take a shift in thinking and support from those who are a part of the majority, to champion the people and causes that are in the minority.

Speak to your leadership and community engagement – what can you share with students or staff that will help them in these areas as they move into leadership roles?

Don’t be afraid to move outside your comfort zone. Take opportunities to work in areas that will provide a more broad-based experience. Listen and learn, and don’t ask others to do those things you wouldn’t do yourself.

How can women better support one another?

Join professional organizations for and by women in your particular field. For me, that is the NACWAA. We also must serve as mentors to those preparing for a career in your field. We can help them improve their leadership skills, and share ideas and lessons learned. Each one, teach one and bring one.

Susan Wilson, Ph.D, MBA

Vice Chancellor, Division of Diversity and Inclusion

2015 Influential Women of Kansas City Business, This is KC Magazine

What were your thoughts when you learned of the award?

I was very surprised and honored to be considered an Influential Woman in Kansas City.

What does it mean to you and the university to receive an award from this publication, organization or city?

The recognition means a lot to me. I have always made a point to touch lives and make a difference in every organization in which I’ve been a part. I have tried to make a difference in my radio pieces – telling untold stories about people and neighborhoods. Many of my contributions have been behind the scenes.

I have never been a shameless self-promoter, which some say is not wise. So it means a lot that people recognize my contributions to the university and to Kansas City. It also was good to know that local magazines have broadened the diversity of awardees. I have always made a point to innovate, touch lives and make a difference in the arenas of mental health, diversity, media and higher education. For UMKC, awards like this help to elevate the profile of the university.

Can you identify specific accomplishments that resulted in your selection?

In an effort to improve the number of minorities in healthcare fields and medicine, I increased the number of underrepresented students at the School of Medicine from 9 percent to 25 percent through targeted recruitment and relationship-building efforts. I was instrumental in getting funding for diversity technical assistance for health science schools and to develop diversity dashboards for all. Also, I believe that the award recognized my past contributions in mental health, radio, diversity and sports psychology.

As a vice chancellor of the Division of Diversity and Inclusion, I worked with the deans in each academic unit to develop and implement a diversity action plan. In addition, I reconfigured our conferences and events so that they generate revenue, and launched a new diversity, training and faculty development initiative.  I implemented a revamped diversity advocates program that focuses on advocacy, reducing unconscious bias and learning skills to have difficult conversations.

Is receipt of this award beneficial to your position, career and/or the university?  If so, how?

The award raises my visibility throughout Kansas City and UMKC. It is always valuable that others know you’ve made positive contributions in the community.

What are your goals to further promote diversity in this community?

UMKC launched a campus-wide diversity planning process in 2014. Phase I was designed to get academic units to begin their planning process and become accustomed to the steps involved. For the coming year, we’ll go to Phase II, where units will report accomplishments and plan new initiatives to keep the momentum going. We plan to conduct a campus-wide survey to guide our next steps in diversity planning, finalize an approach to diversity training and faculty development, and seek funding and sponsors for diversity efforts.

What are the greatest obstacles/challenges to creating a more diverse environment in a department?

A big obstacle is that humans are creatures of habit, and it is difficult to change ways of thinking, perceiving and behaving. In addition, unconscious bias impacts us all until we recognize it and do something about it. Based on demographic projections, diversity is a key element in our ability to increase our enrollment in the long run. Finally, achieving a more diverse faculty is a challenge. There are small numbers of diverse faculty, we must better recognize the unique work of minority scholars and create environments where they can thrive.

Speak to your leadership and community engagement – what can you share with students or staff that will help them in these areas as they move into leadership roles?

First, follow your passion and what you are good at doing. Know yourself – focus on building your strengths and addressing your weaknesses. Prepare for the challenge of leadership by seeking mentors and pursuing the education, training and career exposure you need.

Take risks – don’t allow yourself to stay in your comfort zone. Solicit honest feedback and learn from it. Reach out and help others along the way. And last, make sure you strive toward work-life balance. Remember – you don’t have to do everything all at once.

How can women better support one another?

By taking the time to mentor and encourage women. I make it a point to mentor women who are interested in my field of clinical psychology or in other careers. They also can support other women by sharing resources through networking, nominating women for boards and nominating unsung women for awards.

Anything else you wish to share?

As a first-generation college student, growing up in poverty was a great motivator for me. Mentors and relatives were critical to my perseverance and success. This experience is why I make it a point to give back whenever I can.

|Wandra Brooks Green, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

 


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