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April 24, 2017
Northwest Missouri State University student Deven Stepney has dreams of helping people embrace their individuality through safe spaces, organizations and giving people the opportunities he received at Northwest.
It would have been easy for Stepney to stay in his hometown and not attend college, but his ambition and interest in education prompted him to enroll at Northwest. Now, he’s graduating with his bachelor’s degree in human services.
Deven hopes to work in an office such as Northwest’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to educate and impact future generations about accepting who they are as individuals.
“Obtaining a college degree is important to me because I wanted to beat the odds,” he said. “Being from St. Louis, I saw so many people I grew up with who didn’t necessarily make the best out of their lives. Just seeing what they went through showed me what I don’t want in life.”
Stepney enrolled at Northwest as a theater and education major but found himself called in a different direction.
“I’ve always loved helping and teaching people, but it wasn’t until I really got involved in some of my core classes that I realized human services was more my passion,” Stepney said.
The connections he made at Northwest impacted his experiences. Deven was involved in organizations and built relationships with faculty and staff. With more than 150 organizations to choose from, Northwest offers a niche for all students and encourages students who can’t find a fit in a student organization to start their own.
For Stepney, one of his proudest accomplishments at Northwest is starting the Queer People of Color student organization.
“It was designed to represent the underrepresented people within the LGBTQ community and offer an inclusive space,” he said. “A lot of people don’t like to speak openly about their sexuality or to really publicize who they are because they don’t have that safe space. I took pride in the fact that I was not only able to create that safe space for them but that we were able to welcome other people as allies to help us feel comfortable in who we are.”
Northwest offers 17 student organizations for marginalized students through its efforts to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion,
“I’ve interacted with so many people from different cultures and backgrounds that I never thought I would meet,” Stepney said. “That alone has been crucial to who I am as a person.”
Faculty and staff also impacted his journey at Northwest. He values their relationships and the influence they had on his college experience.
“There isn’t one person who was my biggest influence,” he said. “I like to give equal credit to the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and my professors in the psychology and human services departments. Everyone has been so supportive on campus.”
If he could give one piece of advice for students, it would be to keep an open mind.
“It’s not until you try new things or have new experiences that you will fully learn, understand and appreciate who you are as a person,” Stepney said.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468