Published on Oct. 12, 2016
Updated on May 22, 2017
The MU community welcomed back alumna Stephanie McClure on Oct. 6-7 for a series of lectures and discussions about social justice, inclusion and misconceptions about race. McClure graduated from Mizzou in 1998 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Black Studies.
She went on to receive a master’s degree and a doctorate in sociology from the University of Georgia. She is currently a Professor of Sociology at Georgia College, teaching classes and performing research on social theory, sociology of education and racial stratification in America. In 2015, McClure co-edited and wrote the book Getting Real About Race: Hoodies, Mascots, Model Minorities, and Other Conversations.
The visit marked the first time McClure has done this series of lectures and discussions with students outside of Georgia College, let alone at MU.
“I haven’t ever really done this before, but it was a result of me doing the book,” McClure says. “A bunch of my friends that I graduated from Mizzou with are still here, and they reached out to me when everything was happening on campus. That was kind of the impetus for bringing me back here. I’ll be honest; I was intimidated at first. [Mizzou] is where I started, but I’ve been gone for a while.”
McClure’s visit was co-sponsored by the MU Honors College, the Department of Black Studies, the College of Education and the School of Health Professions. McClure’s expertise complements the Honors College’s yearlong focus on social justice.
Throughout the visit, McClure addressed students from different academic programs and backgrounds about pertinent issues that apply to all members of the campus community. She held discussions with students in the School of Health Professions, talking about methods to promote inclusion in the field, which included face-to-face talks with student leaders in the program. In addition, McClure met with about 30 School of Health Professions faculty and staff.
McClure also paid a visit to the College of Education to give a talk about social theory in education. The first day of her visit ended with a lecture, which was open to all students, entitled “Authentic and Effective Leadership for Social Justice.”
On the second day of her visit, McClure met with a small group of honors students to hold in-depth discussions about the issues caused by the systemic racism. McClure started off the discussion by emphasizing the importance of understanding the history and context that got society to where it is today. She explained that without a comprehensive knowledge of the past, it is impossible to foster productive change for the future. This was a lesson that one discussion attendee, senior Rachel Schisler, took to heart.
“I learned that it’s good to consider context when thinking about racial issues,” says Schisler. “There isn’t a clear-cut solution to helping everyone treat each other as equals, but each individual must do something to create a positive change. Doing nothing or staying silent won’t solve anything.”
Over the course of the hour-long discussion, McClure offered personal anecdotes about her time at MU, as well as about her experiences living, learning and teaching in the South. She fielded questions, provided thoughtful answers and offered candid words of advice and wisdom.
McClure ended her visit by hosting a coffee chat with students and faculty from the Department of Black Studies and staff members of The Black Collective & Allies group.
Though some of the conversations McClure facilitates with students are difficult to have, she deems them entirely necessary. “I think our potential to be the best possible version of Mizzou that we can be requires that we have these conversations,” she says.
McClure is encouraged by the experiences she had with students and faculty during her time on campus.
“The campus is so big, and it’s easy for people to feel kind of stuck in their silos,” McClure says. “The key is identifying and really telling the positive stories of the people who are committed to moving forward and not just resisting by saying ‘oh we don’t need to change.’ You have to find a way to make what you love better than it is today. I feel like now I have a sense, as I leave as an alumna, of all of these pockets on campus where beautiful and powerful things are happening. That makes me feel good.”