We Are All Webster: Building community from many identities, owning our biases, infusing diversity with inclusion | Webster University

2018 Kemper Lunch


Friday, April 6, 2018
Kemper Lunch, East Academic Building, Webster Groves campus

Good afternoon and welcome to our annual celebration of the William T. Kemper Teaching Excellence Awards. Please begin eating your salads.  The calendar would have us believe that Spring is here, despite all evidence to the contrary. One of our happiest rites of Spring on this campus is the opportunity, provided by the William T. Kemper Foundation, to celebrate those professors who have been singled out for their excellence in the classroom by their students and their peers.

This is also the day we express our gratitude to the William T. Kemper Foundation for your extraordinary generosity and support of quality teaching. 

We are pleased to have you with us today our friends from Commerce Bank and the William T. Kemper Foundation¾

John Kemper – President & newly announced Chief Executive Officer

Molly Hyland – Director of Community and Government Relations

Jenny Hoelzer – Vice President, Community Relations

Mike Logar – Commercial Banking Team Leader

Thank you all for being here and for your commitment to effective teaching and learning at Webster. As many of you know, the Kemper Foundation also supports teaching excellence at Webster through the annual William T. Kemper speaker on Excellence in Teaching and Learning. On January 19th, we were honored to welcome Saundra Yancy McGuire, Director emerita for the Center for Academic Success and retired Vice Chancellor and professor of Chemistry at Louisiana State University. Dr. Yancy is a renowned author and speaker on the subject of how to teach students to excel academically.

Dr. McGuire started the day off with a student workshop - our first Kemper speaker to reach out to students as well as faculty. Her talk, Metacognition, provided students with insights about what it means to learn and techniques for developing study habits that work for their particular learning style. 

We kept her busy with a faculty workshop over lunch before delivering her Kemper Plenary: Get Students to Focus on Learning Instead of Grades on the importance of helping students acquire learning strategies based on cognitive science.

It was an extraordinary day for our students and faculty. Our thanks to the Kemper Foundation for helping to make it possible.

This year has been quite a year for impactful speakers at Webster—from Saundra Yancy McGuire to Bill Nye and Tarana Burke, Laverne Cox, Robert Musill, and Dr. Donald M. Suggs. We learn from each of them. 

Point 1: There “but for” ______  go I

As our own Webster student Zoe Burton moderated the conversation with Dr. Suggs at our third annual Diversity and Inclusion conference, he discussed his journey from a modest East Chicago, Indiana childhood to his current preeminent position as patron the arts, publisher of the St. Louis American, and civic leader whom we recognized as Webster’s first “Champion for All.”

While my growing up experience in a Chicago suburb was not that of Dr. Suggs’ childhood, I did have the experience of entering college as the first in my family and was only there as a result of generous scholarships from the college, from the state of Illinois, a National Defense Student Loan, part-time jobs while in college, and summer employment for spending money.  Each of those is attached to many “but for” individuals in my family, church, and school.  But for today, I want to focus on the “but for” influences while I was an undergraduate—the individuals who were catalysts for new opportunities, directions, and career goals—previously unimagined by me or for me.

I think many of you are familiar with the study pursued by Gallup that included interviewing 70,000 graduates to explore the key undergraduate experiences that “prime” students to succeed in their work and lives after college.  Their research, described by Busteed and Auter, identifies a “big six” collegiate experiences that make a difference for undergraduates.

Point 2: We each have our stories about the people who impacted our success in persisting in college and afterwards, and I encourage you to share them with each other during our lunch conversations.  


For those of us whose backgrounds did not naturally position us to know how to navigate college, these kinds of experiences are the difference makers, the interruptions in what is too predictably the case for first generation college students and/or those whose socioeconomic class, race, ethnic background, or gender are predictive of different future trends.

Have you read a summary of the recent research led by researchers at Stanford, Harvard, and the Census Bureau that tracked the lives of millions of children, illustrating that black boys raised in American, even in the wealthiest families and living in some of the most well-to-do neighborhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds? There is a critical need to interrupt the predictive narratives in many students’ lives.

 What about Webster students? Who are they, what are their stories? 

In its America’s Best Colleges 2017” list, U.S. News & World Report recognized Webster for:

Its economic diversity

81% of all graduates are from households that earn less than $52,000

38% of all Webster undergraduates qualify for Pell Grants

Its campus ethnic diversity

31% of students on Webster Groves campus identify as minority
If you look at all of our campuses that percentage grows to 47%     

For 26 years Webster has consistently achieved the highest rankings by Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Since 1991, first in granting master’s degrees to African American students among all US non-profit higher education institutions.

Its need-based financial aid with one of the highest 6-year grad rates for Pell students,

96% incoming freshmen and transfer students receive financial aid (not including loans)

57% of Webster Pell recipients complete their degrees within 6 years. The average time of graduation for Pell students at private institutions is 44%

48% undergrads come to Webster with some credits from another institution

30% of Webster home campus students identify as first generation.

Webster students are among those who face intractable institutional and structural challenges in addition to the many other stressors and challenges that college students face.

Point 3: How can Webster facilitate “but fors” that interrupt the cycle of ethnicity as destiny/socio-economics as destiny/race as destiny/geography as destiny?

We will hear stories today from the Kemper honorees about the ways they create excitement for learning in their classrooms, their expression of caring for students as persons, and the ways in which they are mentors not only for us as their colleagues but for their students.

We can applaud the systems and supports Webster provides for our award-winning global citizenship program with a focus on high impact practices and our funding of collaborative research between students and faculty and undergraduate research. We know the strength of our student-led organizations and the academic programs that require that each student complete an internship.  We know that our graduates routinely cite the importance of their study abroad experiences in their success as students and alumni.

What is necessary is that these experiences touch each student—by being intentional about our interactions with traditional age students who live on campus and the working adults commuting from their homes and complete programs part-time while juggling many personal and professional demands.  Because it is for these students that our purposeful interruptions to predicted patterns are most needed.  It is for these students that interrupting is a good thing.

Foundational to all of this, when we consider how to be present for all of our students-how to facilitate their transformation for global citizenship and individual excellence – foundational to all this, is to hire great teachers, give them the tools they need and celebrate their success.

Webster’s capacity for success is a product of committed partners like the William T. Kemper Foundation. The Kemper Foundation has focused on the central role of teaching in higher education and has supported the finest faculty at universities across the Midwest for more than 25 years. It’s heartening to consider the impact of all the Kemper faculty who have interrupted lives and served as the But for’s for so many. On behalf of our 2017-2018 awardees, Amanda, Robin, Greg and Michael, our previous awardees and all of here today –thank you.