Inclusion Diversity Equity Alliance. That’s the idea. And it’s a good one – good enough to change the Graceland student government (GSG) constitution to reflect it.
The newest branch of GSG, which goes by the acronym IDEA, was an idea that grew from a conversation between student leaders and administrators who had a desire to see underrepresented populations become more represented in student leadership positions on Graceland’s Lamoni campus. These students and administrators asked some questions. What if there was a branch of student government that promoted diversity and inclusion? And what would happen if the purpose of that branch of student government worked to help the campus, as a whole, become more educated and aware of the experiences of underrepresented populations in the student body?
The answer: IDEA, an expansion of the existing student government system elected by the student body and represented within every house, and a partnership with some of the most diverse – and most active – clubs on campus.
But the idea needed to be tested. So, in 2019, it was.
Throughout that first phase, IDEA received positive reviews, but the future of the organization as an official branch of GSG required formal approval in the form of a vote. More specifically, in order to pass and become constitutionalized, IDEA needed an initial two-thirds vote of the student senate and then a two-thirds vote of the entire student body. Finally, it would require the approval of Graceland President Patricia H. Draves.
In early Spring 2020, before students left for spring break – from which they would not return to campus due to COVID-19 – the students’ idea for IDEA got the votes and approval needed to become the eighth branch of student government on Graceland’s Lamoni campus.
“As the dean of students, it’s been a thrill for me to see the difference that student voice makes – that the creation of IDEA is, in fact, student-envisioned, student-driven and student-led. And, to see the student voice in action… it really does matter as a really powerful thing.” – Dave Schaal, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students
Today, each house has a representative within IDEA elected by its members. Additionally, the presidents of BSU (Black Student Union), LatinX Club, International Club, Polynesian Club and SAGE (Sexual and Gender Equality) all serve as ex officio members of the IDEA council. The IDEA president is elected by the student body and serves on the GSG Leadership Council.
During this first year, IDEA has provided experiences of education and celebration related to the experience and tradition of underrepresented populations. They have sponsored or co-sponsored events related to Hispanic and LatinX culture and tradition, Native American and Indigenous heritage and more. And while the focus of these events – and the clubs that sponsor them – is underrepresented populations, all students are welcomed and invited to participate. And many do.
“There has been a notable increase in educational and social experiences that help the campus better understand the experience of underrepresented populations. And what has been especially gratifying is to see that these multiracial, multiethnic events have wide support from multiple populations on campus. It’s been really wonderful to see the diversity of the student body come together to support all of these things.” – Dave Schaal
Graceland Approves New Academic Programs That Support Continued Diversity and Inclusion Efforts
The Graceland University Board of Trustees approved a new major and two new minors this summer that strongly align with the university’s mission and values, and that support Graceland’s continued diversity and inclusion efforts. Beginning Fall 2020, Graceland Lamoni-campus students have the option to major in social change and may choose from two new minors: 1) critical race and ethnic studies, 2) women’s, gender and sexuality studies.
These programs not only offer Graceland students new areas of study that are relevant and timely in a world where people are looking for change; they also support and enhance the culture Graceland seeks to create and provide for all students, and they complement Graceland’s extracurricular and leadership offerings, as well as its unique student government and residence life programs.
Graceland Faculty and Staff Offer Supportive Message During Times of Hurt
Members of Graceland's faculty and staff came together on the Lamoni campus over the summer and created sidewalk chalk art that delivered a message of solidarity as the country was experiencing racial tensions. The message: #BlackLivesMatter.
Graceland Director of Seminary Helps Organize Peaceful Protest in Independence
Director of Graceland’s Community of Christ Seminary, Zac Harmon- McLaughlin ’08, helped to organize a peaceful protest and rally near the Independence, Missouri, campus Sunday, June 7. Harmon-McLaughlin and about 300 other protestors gathered at the United Nations Peace Plaza outside the Community of Christ Auditorium in unity with Americans around the country calling for justice and an end to police brutality.
The TRIO team planned a campuswide celebration of National First Generation College Celebration Day Nov. 6. This group of first-gen students and staff came together for a photo in their "1st To Go" T-shirts.
Graceland University TRIO Grant Funded for 2020-25
Graceland was once again successful in the grant competition for the TRIO program known as Student Support Services (SSS). The new grant cycle will provide $1.7 million over the next five years for program services to increase the retention and graduation rates of the 180 first-generation, income-eligible Graceland students served by TRIO. Program services include academic advising and support, multiple tutoring options, assistance in understanding and applying for financial aid, a one-credit Steps to Success course each semester, graduate school planning, technology access, cultural trips, a book library and more!