The role of higher education leadership and the non-profit corporate sector in valuing diversity and promoting inclusive excellence

11:15 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., Thursday, April 20, 2017
PSU 313

Institutions of higher learning can lead in efforts of valuing and promoting diversity and inclusion. How does the president of a public university, executive director of a non-profit foundation, and CEO of the convention and visitor’s bureau champion such efforts? What is the impact and potential of such leadership on campus and in the local community?


President Brian Fogle

Brian Fogle

Community Foundation of the Ozarks

Brian Fogle is president of Community Foundation of the Ozarks. He holds 30 years experience in the Springfield banking industry.

Fogle is an active member of numerous civic and non-profit groups. He chairs the Good Community Committee and is on the board of the Healthy Living Alliance, Every Child Promise, Mercy Health Systems-Springfield and the Downtown Council of Champions. He was appointed by Governor Jay Nixon to the Coordinating Board for Higher Education in 2012, and served as chair this past year.

He received the O Franklin Kenworthy Leadership Award in 1990, the National Community Leadership Award in 1993 and the Springfieldian Award in 2010. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Drury University in December 2011.

Fogle’s hometown is Aurora, Missouri, where he is a graduate of Aurora High School. He has his BBA and an MBA in banking and finance from the University of Mississippi.

His motto in life is “Often wrong, seldom in doubt.”

Assistant Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion Juan Meraz

Juan Meraz

Assistant Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion
Missouri State University

Juan Meraz is the assistant vice president for diversity and inclusion at Missouri State University, where he works to bring a better understanding of different cultures to the faculty, staff and students and the greater Springfield area.

Meraz is an executive board member for the MBAA International, assistant director for the Latin American, Caribbean and Hispanic Studies program and is a certified diversity professional providing training for various organizations and companies nationally and internationally. He has served as the provost fellow for diversity at Missouri State, and a faculty advisor for MoState Movement, director of the Student Diversity Training Team and director of the Latino Leadership Institute.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Management, a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and a Master of Business Administration from Missouri State University. Meraz is a graduate of Leadership Springfield Class 31 and member of the Springfield Public Entities Diversity Committee and co-chairs the Public Entities Diversity Performance Measures Sub-Committee.

Assistant to the President/Chief Diversity Officer H. Wes Pratt

H. Wes Pratt

Assistant to the President/Chief Diversity Officer
Missouri State University

H. Wes Pratt began making a difference as a student community activist. He has worked in local and state government, non-profit corporate administration, youth program development and higher education, all while always championing empowerment through valuing the inclusion of diversity.

Pratt was appointed chief diversity officer at Missouri State in January 2016. He is charged with developing the Inclusive Excellence model for diversity and inclusion on campus and in the community. He previously served as the university’s director of institutional equity and compliance/equal opportunity officer, Title IX coordinator and diversity outreach and recruitment coordinator. Pratt was a member of the university’s “Diversity Dream Team” which assisted in the development and implementation of various diversity initiatives.

Prior to his university service, Pratt served as San Diego City Council member, state director of the California Conservation Corps, attorney in private practice and deputy director of the Maryland Job Corps.

Pratt continues to serve the general community as the president of the Minorities in Business (MIB), member of the NAACP-Springfield Chapter, co-founder of the Gathering; a Brother2Brother mentor and co-owner of Pratt Consultants. He was recognized in January 2017 as the first ever 417 Breakthrough Award winner for his life-long career in public service and work in promoting diversity and inclusion at MSU and in the Springfield community.

Pratt is married to Francine M. Pratt and is a father, grandfather and mentor who believes in and lives the motto that: “Public service is the noblest good!”

Director Mary Ann Rojas

Mary Ann Rojas

Workforce Development

Mary Ann Rojas has been with the City of Springfield since June of 2013 and serves and the Director of Workforce Development. She brings over 20 years experience in the field of workforce development. She has served as CEO of Workforce Boards in Lubbock and Corpus Christi Texas and also has experience owning and operating her own business. She works closely with the Ozark Workforce Development Board and is responsible for the administration of federal workforce grants which support the operations of the Missouri Job Center and other workforce initiatives in the Ozark region. She is married to Joe who is employed by Mercy.  They have two daughters and a granddaughter who reside in Texas.

President Clifton M. Smart

Clifton M. Smart

Missouri State University

Clifton M. “Clif” Smart III is president of Missouri State University. Smart is known throughout campus and the state of Missouri for his collaborative leadership and strong relationships with students, faculty and staff. Having lived in Missouri for more than two decades, Smart maintains strong ties with leaders throughout the state and is actively engaged in the local community.

He served as president of the Council on Public Higher Education in Missouri and on the NCAA Division I Board of Directors.

Prior to joining Missouri State University, Smart practiced law for 15 years with the Strong Law Firm. Smart and his wife, Gail, have two sons: Murray, who along with his wife, Amy, graduated in 2012 from Southwest Baptist University and live in Rogers, Arkansas, with their daughters, Addy and Emery, and son Parker; and Jim, who is studying law in Oregon.

Vice President, Administrative Services Laura Whisler

Laura Whisler

Vice President, Administrative Services
Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau

Laura Whisler is the vice president and director of marketing for the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, where she leads a team of seven, develops and implements marketing programs for the CVB and manages an advertising budget of more than $1 million.

Whisler earned her Certified Destination Management Executive certification from Destination Marketing Association International and received recognition as a member of the inaugural 30 Under 30 class from DMAI. Whisler was recognized as a 40 Under 40 from Connect Magazine for her leadership in developing several award-winning marketing campaigns and most recently as a 40 Under 40 from the Springfield Business Journal. Whisler is a 2016 graduate of Leadership Springfield Class 31. 

Whisler is a wife and mom of three adorable kids and is a 2001 graduate of Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri.