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University of Missouri System Announces New Diversity Initiatives

Claire Banderas

University of Missouri System officials doubled down on their push to improve diversity in the four-campus system Tuesday. The announcement comes almost a year after protests sent shockwaves through the system’s leadership.

UM System officials said they’re making clear progress on the goals they laid out last November, but also unveiled some new benchmarks they plan to hit.

Kevin McDonald, the UM System chief diversity officer, said the school plans to double its proportion of minority faculty members in the next four years, bumping that number up to just over 13 percent. He acknowledged the goal is ambitious.

“One of the challenges that exists nationally is that the dearth of that level of diversity in the PhD pipeline,” McDonald said. He also said PhD students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects are especially scarce.

To combat the problem, Interim MU Chancellor Hank Foley announced a $1 million investment to recruit minority pre-faculty fellows to MU with the hope of keeping them on as faculty members.

Despite the group’s optimistic message, Interim System President Mike Middleton said he knows the initiative won’t be finished overnight.

“I just hope that our students will have the patience with us and trust that we are sincere and serious about getting this job done,” Middleton said. “That’s my biggest worry.”

Middleton said he probably won’t be around to see the end of the system’s pro-diversity work. The UM Board of Curators are expected to find his permanent replacement by the end of the calendar year.