Column: Conversations on diversity

How are incoming freshmen thinking about diversity?

Entering MU as a freshman, I have certain reservations about the diversity here. In my opinion, a school in need of a diversity initiative is a school that has a diversity problem, no matter how large or small. Although I love MU and have not personally come into a problem regarding diversity, the stories I’ve heard still worry me. MU being located in a conservative and strong red state, I worry that the stereotypical mentality of some may spill over into the mentality of students.

I am not worried that a lack of diversity will hinder me from achieving my goals at MU, but that does not change the fact that the attitude of others can still cause discomfort for some. I discussed this with some other incoming freshman, I wanted to know if they had the same reservations that I had or none at all. Was diversity at MU more or less like their hometown or high school? Did MU’s diversity concern or inspire them? What kind of experiences concerning diversity do they hope to have at MU?

Some have decided that joining diversity specific groups of people like Mizzou Black Men's Initiative will help make them more comfortable, like MU freshman Kenyon Mccoo, an incoming pre-med freshmen.

"I feel more secure about attending MU since joining the MBMI, knowing I can meet with others like me on a daily basis is a good sign,” Mccoo said. “MU’s diversity inspires me to branch out to meet people with different heritages and backgrounds, and inspires me to meet someone from every continent during my time at MU.”

Others are more concerned about being a freshman again than the troubles of diversity.

"I'm worried about being a freshman again!” freshman Ashley Galvez said. “Diversity is about the same, maybe even slightly more than what it's like back home. It's definitely not concerning at all, if anything it puts me a little at ease. As far as as expectations, I hope to meet so many different types of people with different backgrounds and different stories behind them. Classes haven't even started and the people I've already met cannot be placed into one category, besides the friendly one!"

Others worry that the lack of diversity may create conflict because of varying opinions due to different experiences of differing cultures.

"I feel that my main concern is the difference of opinions about discrimination and people's explanation as to why they are or are not correct,” freshman pre-med major Tiersten Barnes said. “The diversity is less than what it was at my high school. This doesn't necessarily inspire or discourage me, but it gives me an outlook on how it will be to be a pre-med/professional in the real world. I hope to learn about other people's cultures. I find that learning about other cultures interests me very much because I'm curious as to what their perspective is.”

As a freshman myself, I have to say that the different experiences we all have had due to culture, location and gender makes us all unique. The sum of all of our experiences creates a college experience that's valuable to every student. Many adults that have experienced college life say that the most important thing is patience. I believe that all the institutions that MU has developed including the Women's Center and the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center creates an environment ideal for moving away from home. Thank you, MU for making it a priority to make me feel at home, and helping to know people and cultures that you wouldn't otherwise get the chance to know or expiring me understand that I am not alone.

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