Home » News » News Item

October 26, 2022

Diversity, inclusion, and belonging emphasized during annual Equity in Higher Education Summit

In a continued effort to advocate for the improvement of equity at postsecondary institutions and in the workforce, the Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development (MDHEWD) hosted its annual Equity in Higher Education Summit this week with the theme “Reframing the Narrative.”

Educators and advocates from across Missouri, the U.S. and the world addressed the changing issues presented in higher education with respect to disability, diversity, and intersectionality.

The two-day virtual event began Tuesday with a presentation from keynote speaker Dr. Jojanneke van der Toorn, an associate professor at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

During her presentation, van der Toorn emphasized the importance of inclusion in addition to diversity. She said while it’s important to implement ways to diversify postsecondary institutions and workplaces, it is crucial people have a sense of belonging and not feel out of place based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

“We should work toward an inclusive climate where it’s clear to everyone that our differences make the organization stronger and that they are really valued,” van der Toorn said. “One thing that’s also important that we’re finding is that an inclusive climate leads to more inclusion for those that feel different from the norm, it actually also leads to more inclusion for those who do not feel different from the norm.”

Both days included featured breakout sessions on a variety of topics including neurodiversity in the workplace, creating safe and inclusive places for refugees, impacts from the student journey mapping process, creating affinity groups in higher education, connecting diverse students with micro-internships, how audio description provides students who are blind or visually impaired access to cultural activities, and how to prepare students with intellectual and developmental disabilities for competitive integrated employment.

Recordings of the sessions will be available in the coming weeks on the MDHEWD YouTube page. More information on the summit is available online.

The summit is one way MDHEWD is helping to connect higher education institutions to its strategic plan as the department works toward reaching goals of 60 percent in educational attainment and 70 percent in workforce participation for all groups of people in Missouri by 2030.