Jason Kirksey - Diversity in Education
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Show 1712: Jason Kirksey - Diversity in Education
Air Date: March 19, 2017
Rob McClendon: Well, Oklahoma State University is being nationally recognized for its commitment to diversity. For the fifth year in a row OSU has won the award from the “Insight into Diversity” magazine. Now, earlier, OSU’s Vice President for Institutional Diversity Jason Kirksey visited with me about benefits diversity can bring any university.
Rob McClendon: Dr. Kirksey, how important is diversity, not only in education, but in the workforce?
Jason Kirksey: Diversity is an aspect of society, Rob, that has always been important, and we began to recognize the value of it more recently. But it certainly gives us an opportunity, as I like to say, to cultivate excellence, you know, having different perspectives, different ideas, different thoughts about solving certainly issues that we see at the institution as we prepare students to go out into the world, but also once they’re out into the workforce and the ability to make a variety of contributions. Again, solving, you know, a lot of the problems that we see, particularly on a world scale.
Rob: Have we closed the gap when it comes to people of color, when it comes to just bringing them into the conversation?
Kirksey: We’re doing better. As I like to say, “We’re a work in progress, and there’s always work to continue to do.” And so we have certainly made good progress, but there’s more that we can do to integrate the variety of perspectives and ideas, in, that go into solving a lot of the issues that we see today, both at a university level as well as a societal level.
Rob: I want to get your perspective on not only the Black Lives Matter Movement, but also some of the things we’ve been seeing on the college campuses, some of the protests. There are a fair amount of people that would say to me that, “I thought we were past that.”
Kirksey: Yes. And a lot of that is awareness and understanding and recognition. And the Black Lives Matter Movement in particular, I think, has brought a broader sense of awareness. You know, those issues are new that we see that are being focused on, this level of activism and social engagement is something that is, I think, new for this generation and has captured the attention of much broader segments of society and has certainly been good because it elicits conversations that typically we wouldn’t have or we would just make the assumption that things are fine and everybody’s doing well. And what this movement has done is, is heighten that sense of awareness and allowed us really, in many ways, for instance, to take deeper looks at issues. Particularly issues of race, which spreads into other issues of gender and religion and other types of diversity in society. So the movement has really required us to re-evaluate perspectives on where we are.
Rob: So do disparities still exist in higher education?
Kirksey: They do. You know, one of my roles as the chief diversity officer is to make sure that we’re working to create fair and equitable opportunities for, certainly in the student context, for every student that shows up on campus to have an equal opportunity to achieve the goals and dreams that they came to Oklahoma State University for.
Rob: We often focus on the economy here on “Horizon.” I want you to tell me why diversity is important for the bottom line for today’s companies.
Kirksey: Well, I think Rob, the Fortune 500 companies have demonstrated to us for probably half a century now the value of diversity. You know, diverse populations and organizations employees tend to be more creative and innovative. They tend to be more empowered and feel better about doing the jobs that they are responsible for doing. And ultimately, that produces a better product, be it automobiles or computers. And so there’s a real value for organizations to achieve diversity because it truly does impact the bottom line.
Rob: So let’s take that one step further. What is the value of higher ed in contributing to diversity and the workplace?
Kirksey: Well, certainly as an institution our responsibility as a land grant is to improve the quality of life, of the citizens, the state, the nation and the world. And so that means that we have to make sure that we are open and accessible to anyone who aspires to earn a higher education degree that meets the admission standards of OSU. And in that, we’re able to work with companies through certainly various programs and career services to help them satisfy their desires to employ a diverse workforce. And so creating essentially that pipeline of diverse employees that go out into the workforce ready and prepared, whether that first job is in Oklahoma City or Tulsa or Dubai or Beijing. And so the institution, as it has always been the case for higher ed institutions, you’re preparing citizens to go out into the workforce and have a significant and measurable impact and contribute to making society better.
Rob: All right. Thank you so much. Dr. Jason Kirksey is the vice president of diversity for Oklahoma State University.
Rob: Well, OSU is home to more than 70 diversity-related student organizations as well as supporting K-12 programs that help minority students transition into college.