by President Greg Gunderson
In early 2016, I came to Park University ready to serve, lead, and to chart a new course. I believed then – and still believe today– that our University can only fulfill its promise to deliver accessible, high-quality education after evaluating programs, policies and community culture to ensure they foster diversity and inclusion for all students, faculty and staff.
In many ways, last year feels like a lifetime ago. There has been lots of living and learning since my early days as president, both within the Park University community and outside it. The world is a very different place. Now, embracing diversity and having the difficult conversations that move us closer to a stronger, more inclusive culture is more important than ever.
And yet as we move forward, I know there is still so much to learn.
One pivotal learning opportunity presented itself to me on Wednesday, Oct. 18. During our “Achieving Diversity Totality” event on the Parkville campus, several questions came in from our audience members, both during and after the presentation. The questions raised and points made were thoughtful, direct, challenging … and mostly appropriate for me to answer. So, rather than providing static responses, I knew we needed a dynamic exchange. We needed to talk. Or more accurately, I needed to listen.
Thanks to the students who met me in the McCoy Meetin’ House and the members of faculty and staff who met me in the PDL on Tuesday, Oct. 31, to discuss diversity and inclusion at Park University. I learned some very valuable lessons. Many of you told me:
- Rather than be lectured to, you want to be engaged in conversations
- Our institution should develop clearer plans about who comes to speak in support of the Year of Diversity and similar topics, and I will rely on our Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce to assist in developing that strategy
- Park University needs a common diversity statement
So, in the days, months and even years to come, we will continue the work we’ve started toward creating a more diverse and inclusive community. But please know: I have lived and learned … and listened. Our next steps will be informed by your comments. With assistance from Park University’s committed Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, I will check in with you and engage you in conversation to be certain your voices are heard and concerns are addressed.
And, as always, we will navigate it together through love and reason.
Thanks to everyone who cares enough about Park’s “One Family” to engage in these discussions. If there are issues that you would like to share with me, or if you would like to speak about a remaining question you have from any of our Oct. 16-20 Year of Diversity events, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or feel free to drop by my office in Mackay Hall during my Wednesday morning open office hours, from 9-11 a.m.