Park University President Emeritus Don Breckon, Ph.D., who served the University as president from 1987-2001, will present a program on “The Amazing Story of 140 Years of Creating and Maintaining Diversity and Inclusion at Park University” on Wednesday, Oct. 19, starting at 3 p.m. in the Park Distance Learning Conference Center on the University’s Parkville Campus (located within the Parkville Commercial Underground). The event is free and open to the public.
Serving an ethnically diverse student population and nontraditional adult learners has, since its inception in 1875, been central to Park’s educational mission. Even in its first year, the University enrolled women students as well as men, something that was unusual at the time; and two of the original 17 students were Native Americans. Park was also an early integrator when it welcomed African-American students to live in Park’s residence halls in the 1950s. Providing such access has developed considerable diversity among the student population, with more than 370 international students from 60 countries, and a 45 percent student representation from racial, ethnic and cultural groups typically underrepresented in colleges and universities.
According to Breckon, his presentation will focus on why and how this has happened over the years, as well as provide inspiring examples. “I hope that attendees will leave with the impression that Park University has a 140-plus-year history of doing what most colleges and the nation as a whole are trying to do — give the feeling of inclusion to those who may feel alienated because of race, color, religion, national origin, gender or gender orientation,” he said.
Inclusivity is identified as one of the University’s core values as an essential institutional characteristic needed to foster true diversity, teamwork and collaboration. Earlier this year, Park University President Greg Gunderson, Ph.D., declared the 2016-17 academic year to be the “Year of Inclusion” at Park, with a series of speakers, essays and events to address a variety of topics, including proactive responses for people who feel marginalized, honest dialog to inspire understanding and acceptance, and more.