Simple acts with a large impact: teaching people how to welcome others into conversations or places; setting expectations for interactions; greeting others in passing and recognizing the shared connection of the moment. These were some of the first things Theresa Metz, Director of Diversity & Inclusion with the College of Education, focused on when she started at Mizzou three years ago.
“What Theresa is doing within the College of Ed, around campus, and throughout our community is positively touching the soul of everyone she meets, leaving them with a hopeful feeling, unique perspective, and a sense of responsibility to do the right thing” Michael Urban, her nominator, wrote. “She’s hard-working and passionate about what she does, and she’s always willing to help make things better. She is our sunshine on a sunless day.”
The impact Metz has had — through programming, space and relationship building — is the reason she is one of two 2019 recipients of the MU Inclusive Excellence Award. The award honors staff who embody the university’s commitment to growing and sustaining a diverse and inclusive learning, living, and working environment. Recipients affirm that diversity and inclusion are foundations on which our community thrives, and she has contributed in significant ways.
“If we’re looking at the larger issues of inclusion, diversity and equity and bringing that about this campus, it’s about connecting people, and I love that,” Metz says. “Even though my work is specifically in the College of Ed, it’s building relationships with our faculty, students and staff, and building outside our silos — past our departments and units — if we’re really going to examine what needs to be done to improve Mizzou.”
Metz builds those relationships and community in many deliberate ways.
She coordinates all activity in “The Bridge,” a space for students, faculty and staff to develop and expand their cultural knowledge, awareness and competencies. She also heads the Mizzou Ed/Bridge to Mizzou AVID Mentoring program: an opportunity for students to work with Columbia Public Schools middle and high schoolers.
Metz hosts “Wednesday Wonderings” where folks are encouraged to bring lunch and engage in discussion. The purpose is to provide the opportunity to learn from one another, exploring different perspectives on current event topics. It aids participants in understanding our shared humanity while also valuing different experiences and perspectives.
Metz’s efforts are both seen and appreciated by many she comes in contact with.
“She works tirelessly to promote positive societal change, bettering things for everyone she meets along the way, and she never expects anything in return,” Urban writes. “She is the person who makes YOU want to be a better person.”