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MU Recognizes Contributions to Diversity

February 26th, 2013

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217, hurstn@missouri.edu

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Officials from the University of Missouri Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative have awarded two MU students, two faculty members and a group of doctors with the 2013 Inclusive Excellence Award. The award is given to individuals or groups who have made contributions to any area of diversity such as gender, racial-ethnic background, language, religious belief, sexual orientation, disabilities and economic strata. This year’s recipients are:

Tracy Johnson is a third year law student and president of Mizzou’s chapter of Lambda Legal, an organization dedicated to awareness and inclusion. Johnson has worked to re-establish the organization which had struggled to maintain a presence at MU. Lambda Legal is committed to achieving full recognition of civil rights for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. Within the Office of Diversity at the MU School of Law, Johnson promotes and develops initiatives including mentoring programs and alumni outreach to improve the sustainability and representation of diversity within the school.

Rhonda Miller is an accelerated nursing student at MU working on her second bachelor’s degree. Originally from Panama, she grew up traveling around the world as a member of a U.S. military family. She has been at MU for four years and is the founder and president of the newly formed the Diversity in Nursing Association (DNA). She created DNA to inspire and serve underrepresented populations in the nursing program as a means to diversify the nursing profession.

Jenny Chism is an academic advisor in the Trulaske College of Business and works with the Vasey Academy, which provides minority students with opportunities to learn about business and the economy as well as various academic paths into the business world. She is the Trulaske College of Business Diverse Student Association advisor and helps organize programs to educate students about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Clyde Ruffin joined the MU faculty in 1983 as a professor of theatre and founding director of the MU World Theatre Workshop. He has served as department chair from 1990 to 1995 and from 2007 to present. He is the recipient of The President’s Award for Community Engagement, Purple Chalk Award, Kemper Teaching Fellowship, Faculty Alumni Award and the Chancellor’s Award for Research and Creativity. He was awarded the prestigious Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Medallion for regional and national service. From 1996 to 2003, he served as the Artistic Director for the Columbia Values Diversity Celebration and is currently President of the John W. “Blind” Boone Foundation. In 2011, Professor Ruffin led the successful campaign to place a headstone on the unmarked grave of James T. Scott, a 1923 lynching victim buried in the Columbia Cemetery for which he received the NAACP Distinguished Community Service Award.

Jessica Semler, Erika Patterson, David Tager, and Susan Even are psychologists who work at the MU counseling center and MU student health center. They noticed a need for inclusive and knowledge-driven mental health and physical health care for MU transgender students. Over the past two years, these providers have actively sought opportunities to improve safety and services for transgender people on campus and in the Columbia community. They have worked to organize a transgender issues training (TransAction Team Training) for the MU Counseling Center and the Student Health Center staff to improve health care providers’ awareness. Semler gained approval from the counseling center to provide long-term counseling services for individuals moving toward and progressing through transitions. She also provides transgender education to the mental health trainees at the counseling center in an effort to mentor and educate future therapists in providing care for individuals who identify as transgender. These individuals’ actions consistently strive to reduce stigma, increase education, awareness, safety, acceptance, and opportunity for good professional health care for transgender people in Columbia and on the MU campus.

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