Building a pathway to success

The Office of Access and Leadership Development helps Tigers turn possibilities into reality.

McNair Scholar Cosette Tomita conducted research in physical chemistry. Courtesy photo.
McNair Scholar Cosette Tomita conducted research in physical chemistry. Courtesy photo.

By Jesse Berlin

This is Part 1 of a two-part story. Read Part 2 here. 

MU’s Office of Access and Leadership Development (ALD) takes a very long view of student success.

ALD is part of MU’s Division of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity (IDE), which strives to create and maintain a more diverse and inclusive campus and to close the opportunity gap for students from backgrounds historically underserved and underrepresented in higher education.

The ALD unit seeks to enhance IDE’s ability to help close that gap by guiding students from kindergarten all the way to graduate school — a progression of wrap around support which Associate Vice Chancellor NaTashua Davis refers to as the K–20 pipeline.

“Our goal is to support students throughout their entire academic journey,” Davis says.

As students move progress on this journey, ALD initiatives help expose them to academic and professional development opportunities.

The McNair Scholars Program prepares undergraduate students from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in graduate education for continued study. “The program serves juniors and seniors of all disciplines, providing funding for research, staff support and professional development workshops and seminars”, says the McNair Scholars Program Associate Director, Natalie Downer.

The Discover Program, which is designed to introduce freshmen and sophomores to graduate education and research. “Many of our Discover students have no idea what graduate school entails or if that is even a possibility for them,” Downer says. The Discover Program also functions in developing prepared and well-informed candidates for the McNair Scholars Program.

Selected students can also conduct MU faculty guided research through the Missouri Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program, a nine-campus alliance across Missouri which works to create representation within the STEM fields. Participants also receive funding and professional development to enable them to continue to graduate school.

This photograph was snapped during a fall orientation retreat, which took place in the Student Center on August 23, 2019.
Students in the Graduate Scholars of Excellence program meet during a fall orientation retreat on Aug. 23, 2019. Courtesy photo.

Morgan McAboy-Young, associate director of K-20 access programming and outreach initiatives, oversees undergraduate and graduate programs that seek to promote success, retention and persistence among underrepresented students.

Women of Color, Honor & Ambition (WOCHA) and Men of Color, Honor & Ambition (MOCHA) are one-year programs for students between their second and fifth year of academic study. Participants attend bi-weekly workshops and complete service projects.

Additionally, WOCHA and MOCHA participants discuss colorism, dating in college and other personal, social and cultural topics, so “the programming is quite holistic in the sense that we offer robust leadership and development workshops as well as offerings that speak to who our students are as individuals,” says McAboy-Young.

McAboy-Young also oversees the Graduate Scholars of Excellence (GSE), a program for underrepresented students who are working toward their doctoral degrees. GSE students attend workshops and serve as mentors for undergrads in ALD other programs.

Through these initiatives, McAboy-Young says students receive a sense of community. “They’re building a network with students across campus who have similar experiences in terms of being underrepresented in higher education,” McAboy-Young says, and thus “feel more supported within their academic spaces because they’re able to use ALD programming as a safe space to share those experiences with the intent to build on their current skill sets.”