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The Center of Inclusion

Fostering an environment of respect and inclusion has never been more important in our society than it is right now. The Thompson Center is committed to fostering such an environment, and to help lead that charge, faculty and staff at the Center have come together to create the Thompson Center Inclusion Committee (TCIC).

“Many of us came together, saw a need, and wanted to make sure that everyone at the Center was on the same page in terms of creating an inclusive environment,” said Jennifer Delaporte, an autism assessment specialist at the Thompson Center. “Our hope is that if we can get everyone at the TC pulling in the same direction, not only will it create a working environment that values dignity and diversity of all people, but that that environment will spread and reflect on our patient families as well.”

The TCIC is made up of staff and faculty from across the Thompson Center, which members hope helps spread their message fully throughout the more than 80 full-time employees as well as dozens of student trainees.

“We wanted to make sure that every division and office within the Center was represented on the committee,” said Emma Keicher, ABIS clinical operations manager. “Hopefully this will help ensure that we are addressing the thoughts, needs and concerns of people in all areas of the Center.”

Goals of the committee include:

— Identifying gaps in faculty/staff knowledge and generating initiatives to make employees, trainees, and patients/families feel comfortable.

— Emphasizing an open and welcoming environment for Center faculty, staff, students and families.

— Providing resources and activities to foster development and maintenance of inclusive culture.

The TCIC, which officially formed in the spring of 2019, began their work with a bulletin board in a common area for staff. The committee members posted diversity and inclusion content with the hopes of sparking conversations around the topics. The committee has now created a book club for all Center employees which focuses on reading and discussing books related to understanding biases and promoting inclusion. But this is just the start of the movement.

“We envision a slow burn, always moving forward toward our goal of a more inclusive workplace environment,” said Dr. Jennifer Sykes, a Thompson Center psychologist and assistant clinical professor. “We hope this will help the movement be more sustainable by developing an intervention mindset. Ultimately, we want to develop a framework for Center employees and students to be able to have difficult conversations in a respectful way, not just about race, but in all domains, including gender, ethnicity and religion.”

The TCIC plans to frequently seek feedback on the inclusive climate at the Center, as well as helping plan and conduct at least two inclusivity trainings at the Center. Members are working with experts at the University of Missouri Office of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity moving forward to better inform next steps.

With the framework in place and the will to create change, the TCIC is well on its way to making a difference in the lives of everyone who comes to the Thompson Center, either for work or for help.