Southeast Awarded $20,000 Grant for Advancing Racial Equity and Access Initiative


Southeast Missouri State University has received a $20,000 grant from the Missouri Scholarship and Loan Foundation (MSLF) to be used for its Advancing Racial Equity and Access Initiative (AREA-I) through the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity.

Southeast was one of 11 proposals funded by MSLF, and the activities designed in AREA-I will move the University’s diversity efforts forward, said Trent Ball, associate vice president for equity and access.

The grant will support activities aligned with an institutional racial equity plan informed by disaggregated data and developed through institutional teams including people of color in administration, faculty, and the student body.

Southeast’s institutional team is a 15-member committee that was assembled to develop the AREA-I project and in addition to administrators, faculty and students of color, the team includes diverse staff from departments within the student development division and support areas who were first-generation college students or who have worked extensively with the population.

Team members include:

  • Will Atkins, Human Resources Training and Development Manager
  • WyKeshia Atkins, Director of Learning Assistance Programs
  • Trent Ball, Associate Vice President for Equity and Access
  • Curtis Burton, Residence Hall Director
  • Daiquan Evans, sophomore student
  • Mike Godard, University Provost
  • Lenell Hahn, Director of Admissions
  • Tatiana Hanna, Graduate Assistant for Equity, Access, and Behavioral Health
  • Jay Harris, junior student
  • Doug Koch, Vice Provost/Dean of Graduate Studies
  • Dan Presson, Director of Career Services
  • Sonia Rucker, Vice President for Equity, Access, and Behavioral Health/Dean of Students
  • Wendell Stapleton, Graduate Assistant for TRIO/McNair Scholars Program
  • Sheanique Syms, sophomore student
  • Valdis Zalite, Director of TRIO Programs

“The team is cross campus and cross functional, and we will be working on a plan to increase diversity in our students, staff and faculty,” Ball said.

The grant will provide direct support and opportunities for students of color to participate in and develop as they engage in the work of AREA-I, and funds have been allocated to provide scholarships to students who actively contribute to the programming.

AREA-I’s priorities include the development of best and promising practices to produce a plan that will increase the recruitment and retention of students, faculty and staff of color; the design and implementation of leadership programs, mentorship activities and career development initiatives to engage and support the persistence of and the pathway to graduation for students of color; and the hosting of a convening at Southeast in fall 2021 to share best practices and lessons learned to improve racial equity across the state.

The convening at Southeast will support higher education institutions, community-based organizations and professional associations across Missouri that actively serve and engage students, faculty and staff of color.

Ball said the funding will help to also provide the team with access to national leaders and resources that will inform and support the University’s key objective — increasing diversity and diverse representation across campus.

For more information about Southeast’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, visit