MSU receives national award for diversity

MSU was one of 83 institutions to receive the 2014 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award. The prestigious honor recognizes MSU’s commitment to diversity. The award was given by the established magazine, INSIGHT Into Diversity, which is a publication that focuses on diversity in higher education.

INSIGHT Into Diversity’s website described the HEED award as an award that “measures an institution’s level of achievement and intensity of commitment in regard to broadening diversity and inclusion on campus through initiatives, programs and outreach; student recruitment, retention, and completion; and hiring practices for faculty and staff.”

The award is not given based on demographics but the efforts that the university puts forth into accommodating, encouraging and supporting different demographics and ensuring all students have the tools for success.

Program manager in the Diversity Awareness Office (DAO), Ariel Donohue, decided to apply for the award after hearing about it through the magazine’s weekly newsletter. Donohue said the application process was extremely time consuming and extensive. “It took a solid month of contacting people around campus and compiling this information. This process was really enlightening because it allowed me to bring together all of this information and realize how much we’re doing as an institution,” she said.

After receiving the award, Donohue called INSIGHT Into Diversity and asked what made MSU different from other applicants that were not selected. “It was about the depth and breadth of our commitment to diversity and our broad definition of diversity,” Donohue said. The magazine cited a few remarkable programs on campus that separated MSU from other institutions, such as the inclusion of the Veteran Center, which assists veteran students, and Advance Tracs, which focuses on forwarding women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

Although Donohue has only been in her position for a year, she discussed how the DAO has made great strides over the past few years. The position she is currently in has grown from a half-time position to a full-time position which requires additional assistance, and DAO was also given a larger office space on the third floor of the SUB. Donohue hopes the growth will inspire people to act, “Hopefully this will energize us and propel us for working on these diversity initiatives because we are by no means checking every box yet. There is still a lot of work to be done.”

Donohue noted that several programs have grown over the past few years, citing the Safe Zone trainings as an example. Safe Zone trainings, which recognize and support students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer, have increased from only a few a year to having 35 Safe Zone trainings this past academic year.

There are several programs around campus that promote inclusion and diversity, such as EMPower, the Engineering Minority Program and the Caring for Our Own Program (CO-OP) which supports Alaskan Native and Native American students majoring in nursing. MSU also recognizes days that include a range of demographics, for example, National Coming Out Day, Holocaust Remembrance Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Donohue closed with a focus on the future, “I’m hoping this is a call to action to the whole campus community that saying diversity is something we value.”