Southeast Marks Landmark Moment with Scholarship for Advocacy, Equity and Justice


Acting on pleas for societal reform, Southeast Missouri State University announces it has changed the name of its recently created George Floyd Scholarship to the Scholarship for Advocacy, Equity and Justice to mark this historic moment in time in our nation.

President Carlos Vargas, recently responding to a challenge from Scott Hagen, president of North Central University in Minneapolis, agreed to establish a privately-funded George Floyd Scholarship at Southeast. However, recent developments both prior to and since Floyd’s death, prompted the University to further examine the deep divide in this nation and the need to  broaden the award to recognize those who champion justice and the far-reaching need for advocacy, equity and justice for all.

The scholarship underscores the University’s ongoing commitment to making Southeast Missouri State University a just and equitable institution. The scholarship, as implemented at Southeast and to be awarded for the first time this fall, will reflect a broad range of interests to provide students who value and promote peaceful advocacy and inclusion with institutional recognition for their efforts. The scholarship is intended to underscore this pivotal time in American history and highlights the meaning Southeast places on social justice and equity.

The renewable scholarship will be awarded to an incoming student (freshman or transfer student) enrolled full-time at Southeast. The recipient will need to demonstrate academic achievement with a minimum 2.75 cumulative high school or transfer grade point average, and a letter of recommendation will be required. Priority will be given to students who are underrepresented in the Southeast student population or who have overcome obstacles such as socioeconomic or other disadvantages or are first generation in their family to attend college.

Vargas said the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, and Floyd, in addition to the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, among others, point to the need for change.

“Southeast Missouri State University recognizes we still have critical work to do to address systemic issues and disparities in access and opportunity in our communities,” he said. “This scholarship reaffirms that Southeast Missouri State University remains deeply committed to providing a learning environment that promotes inclusion, equity, civility and a better way forward for every student.”

In addition to the scholarship, the University’s Equity and Inclusion Committee has committed to several major initiatives in the coming year, Vargas said. They include implementation of a multi-year training program for University leaders, strengthening of mentoring programs, establishment of a series of workshops dedicated to diversity and cultural inclusion, and enhanced engagement with community partners.

Vargas also has tasked the University’s Equity and Inclusion Committee to work with Southeast’s administrative units and academic colleges to continue conversations and reaffirm the University’s commitment to being a more diverse and inclusive community.

Those conversations began last week with a meeting of the Holland College of Arts and Media (HCAM) Diversity Committee formed last year by faculty, staff and students. That committee developed a plan of action with Dean Rhonda Weller-Stilson and set goals for the 2020-2021 academic year. Among those goals are providing visibility and advocacy for students and faculty in underrepresented and marginalized groups who express concerns and need a voice; raising awareness of the HCAM Diversity Committee within the college through impactful activities; supporting University events with diverse activities and themes; and infusing diversity into department curriculum, events, and programming.

“The Holland College of Arts and Media must be leaders and show our support of all our students, faculty and staff,” Weller-Stilson said. “Our college has a diverse student body, and we celebrate our diversity.”

Vargas said the University remains committed to its enduring values of access and diversity, community, excellence, and student success.