Disability College Magazine

"Missouri State University will be a university of choice and opportunity for all students, a beacon for diversity locally and nationally, and a university that welcomes all forms of diversity,” reads MSU’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan, which was put into motion in 2016.

On Aug. 27, College Magazine released an article ranking the top 10 universities for students with disabilities with Missouri State ranking ninth.

Annalise Nassani, author of Top 10 Universities for Students with Disabilities 2020, said Missouri State continually reflects upon accessibility services to better accommodate students with disabilities, as well as students with diverse backgrounds, which is due to their Diversity and Inclusion Plan. 

“One of the key strategic points of their plan is to study the inclusive environment of the college and create a climate study that identifies key issues to improve the campus and programs,” said Nassani in her article. 

MSU’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan was put into motion in 2016 as part of the “long-range plan” to ensure all changes or goals are completed by 2021.

Their vision, as stated on their website, states, “Missouri State University will be a university of choice and opportunity for all students, a beacon for diversity locally and nationally, and a university that welcomes all forms of diversity.”

A part of the process is to create a campus climate where students and faculty feel wanted, needed, included and safe. 

Missouri State offers Bear POWER — meaning promoting opportunities for work, education and resilience —  which is a two year, five-semester inclusive college program for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

“Bear POWER helps students with disabilities transition into college life and gain academic, social, independent living and job readiness skills,” said Rachel Heinz, director of Bear POWER.

Heinz said students take college classes with other MSU students, get paired with peer mentors who help them get involved and live on campus to provide the typical college experience. 

“The ultimate goal of Bear POWER is to transition students into competitive, integrated employment in their area of interest,” said Heinz.

In February, MSU’s local sorority, Xi Omicron Iota, opened their recruitment to Bear POWER students to become full-time members of the organization. 

Bear POWER also has community partnerships with ARC of the Ozarks, Community Foundation of the Ozarks and Springfield Public schools, to name a few.

“Earning a Bear POWER certificate will create new opportunities for jobs that are a good match to skills and dreams of those participating,” states the Bear POWER webpage.

Jonathan Thronburgh, MSU sophomore, hospitality major and Bear POWER student, said Bear POWER has been a life changing experience for him.  

“I get to experience living independently in a dorm and get to meet so many great friends,” Thornburgh said.  

In addition to these programs, MSU has a President’s Council on Accessibility, whose purpose is to “enhance the full participation of individuals with disabilities in the campus community by serving as an advisory and oversight committee regarding accessibility issues,” according to their website

The council is made up of 23 MSU faculty from various university departments, such as the Disability Resource Center, Learning Diagnostic Clinic, as well as a student representative from the Student Government Association.  

Their goal is to continually strive to improve infrastructure, policies, services, academic instruction, technology and electronic information for students with disabilities, according to the President’s Council website. 

When it comes to providing local resources such as to Springfield Public Schools, MSU administrative specialist Macon J. Allen said sometimes instructors or counselors in the area reach out to the Disability Resource Center for assistance. 

For more information regarding Missouri State’s disability services, visit the Disability Resource Center page on the Missouri State website.