In an effort to further understanding of the value of making individuals feel welcome, valued and included in higher education, University of Central Missouri President Roger Best recently participated in a panel discussion on “Diversity, Equity Inclusion and Belonging in Advancement Work."

The panel, which also featured Dr. Susan B. Wilson, retired vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and UCM alumna Jessica Ramirez, ’99, vice president of advancement at Cleveland University-Kansas City, took place on June 23 at UMKC. It was made possible by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District VI with assistance by a UCM staff member.

In addition to Best’s role as a speaker, UCM provided support for the event through Jackie Jackson, associate vice president for university advancement. The longtime CASE volunteer worked alongside fellow conference planning committee members to select the panel topic as well as develop topics for roundtables that took place on the same day. The event was attended by 30 CASE professionals from within the district’s eight-state region, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Jackson spoke about how the event came to fruition, noting, “CASE hosted the all-district online conference this year in lieu of hosting a regional in-person conference. However, the conference planning committee still wanted to offer a networking and learning opportunity for members of our district."

Since District VI covers such a large area throughout the Midwest, three different networking and roundtable events were planned. Sessions on “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging in Advancement Work” took place at three locations: UMKC, University of Denver and Kirkwood Community College.

“The conference planning committee examined attendee feedback from the online
conference to determine what the panel topic and roundtable topics would be. I developed panelist questions, advancement DEIB-related scenarios to walk through, and discussion prompts for the roundtable discussions,” Jackson said. ”My primary responsibilities were logistical in nature: finding and securing host sites, on-site volunteers, and panelists."

Having attended the Kansas City event in person, Jackson said her key takeaways included understanding how the main topic relates to the work advancement professionals do, and the need for having DEIB -related discussions with alumni and donors. Based on discussions, she learned among many takeaways the importance of Advancement personnel “being inclusive about inviting a variety of people to the table when discussing DEIB initiatives, the benefit of listening more than you talk when alumni are sharing their experiences, and inviting alumni and donors to be part of university wide DEIB conversations and initiatives."

During the panel discussion, Best had an opportunity to briefly discuss the role of UCM’s President’s Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This is a group that was appointed by Best and represents a wide cross-section of campus members who are charged with helping to ensure many different voices are heard as recommendations are made to enhance the UCM community experience for students, employees, and campus visitors.

The panel fielded questions about the challenges they face in implementing DEIB initiatives, the need to recruit diverse individuals to serve on institutional boards that deal with Advancement issues, advice for getting started with DEIB initiatives on campus, how to engage with alumni and donors who did not feel a strong sense of belonging during their college experience, and more.

In the photo: University of Central Missouri President Roger Best, right, participated in the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Region VI panel discussion on "Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging in Advancement Work" with UCM alumna Jessica Ramirez, left, '99, vice president of advancement at Cleveland University-Kansas City, and Dr. Susan B. Wilson, retired vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.