School Announces New, Unique Approach to Tackling Industry Diversity Levels

Journalism Dean David Kurpius with Students

Immersive Student Development, Diversity and Recruitment Program Creates a Pipeline to Prepare Diverse New Talent

Columbia, Mo. (Aug. 25, 2016) — The University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Office of the Provost and the Mizzou Advantage initiative announce today a new, immersive education-industry recruiting and training effort designed to increase the representation of underserved communities in journalism and strategic communication.

Dean David Kurpius
Dean David Kurpius

“We’re proud to be a national pioneer and leader in tackling issues related to diversity and inclusion,” said Dean David Kurpius in front of several hundred students enrolled in the Cross-Cultural Journalism course, faculty, staff and others who gathered for the announcement in Fisher Auditorium.

MU Provost Garnett Stokes
MU Provost Garnett Stokes

What makes this pilot program unique is that it covers the key stages of the talent life cycle of the media industry – from high school to college to the first years of a career. The interdisciplinary effort includes recruitment, partnerships, mentorships and research.

“My office has chosen to fund the Student Development, Diversity and Recruitment Program to ensure diverse students’ success not just through their college years, but through the beginning stages of their careers,” said MU Provost Garnett Stokes. “Once this program is successful, it will provide a model that could be duplicated in other schools and colleges.”

Diversity has been an important but elusive goal in newsrooms and agencies. It will become even more important as demographics continue to shift and, according to the Census Bureau, minorities become the majority in the United States by 2044.

Ramon Escobar, CNN Worldwide
Ramon Escobar, CNN Worldwide

Ramon Escobar, the vice president of Talent Recruitment and Development for CNN Worldwide, said the new program is an important step in bringing new voices to journalism in his letter of support to MU Provost Garnett Stokes. Escobar earned his Bachelor of Journalism degree from the School in 1990.

“These students will enter the media industry across the disciplines of television, digital, print, advertising and public relations companies that are the world leaders like CNN,” he said. “As someone responsible for recruiting top talent for CNN, I can tell you how valuable and necessary this program is for Mizzou and the industry.”

Kevin McDonald
Kevin McDonald

Another supporter, Kevin McDonald, the permanent Chief Diversity, Inclusion and Equity officer for the University of Missouri System and interim vice chancellor for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity for MU, said inclusion is a part of excellence and the university’s role as an enlightened academic community.

Ron Kelley
Ron Kelley

“We recognize the value of boldly pursuing full inclusion as a central component of our values and our approach to each other and the world around us,” McDonald said.

Ron Kelley will be the executive director of the program and will seek partnerships from leading news and strategic communication companies, some of whom have shared their need for diverse candidates. Kelley will also develop external funding and other channels of support, as well as lead the School of Journalism’s diversity initiatives. He will leave his current position as MU assistant vice chancellor for advancement and begin at the School on Sept. 12. He earned his doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis at MU in 2000.

Mizzou Advantage, the MU Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity, and the School of Journalism will contribute personnel, facilities and financial resources to help establish and operate the new program.

The Student Development, Diversity and Recruitment Program builds on the School’s decades-long efforts to connect people of various races, ethnicities and backgrounds. Missouri was one of the nation’s first programs in the country to offer a course in cross-cultural journalism in 1998. Earlier this year, faculty and alumni published an introductory textbook to help students write about and communicate with people of backgrounds different from their own.

Related:

Updated: January 14, 2020

Related Stories