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MSU Denver to measure food and housing insecurity among employees

The University will participate in a national pilot program that brings the #RealCollege Survey to faculty and staff.

By Lindsey Coulter

October 7, 2019

MSU Denver employees gathered in King Center lobby.The 2018 #RealCollege Survey, distributed to students last fall, reinforced what many Metropolitan State University of Denver faculty and staff members already knew anecdotally: Housing insecurity, food insecurity and homelessness present significant barriers to success for too many Roadrunners.

Data showing that 70% of 871 respondents experienced some form of basic-needs insecurity in the past year was grounding, said Will Simpkins, Ed.D., vice president for Student Affairs. Breaking that data down, 62% encountered housing insecurity, 44% reported food insecurity and 17% reported experiencing homelessness.

“We shared the numbers with the Board of Trustees and our community, and everyone was really taken with this idea that it’s not enough to just get students in the door and enrolled in classes,” Simpkins said. “Supporting them to graduation also means that they have (access to) child care, health care, housing, food and transportation.”

Now, MSU Denver and a number of other institutions across the country are participating in a pilot program that turns the focus on institutional faculty and staff. This month, Simpkins will distribute a similar survey via email that is specific to MSU Denver employees. The goal is to collect critical data on the MSU Denver employee experience, specifically with regard to food, housing, child-care and transportation needs.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations at MSU Denver about what it means to work on this campus, from salary to benefits to working conditions,” Simpkins said. “Now we need data because we don’t even have a baseline. This survey will show us, based on employee classification … how the paid members of our community are experiencing their lives.”

Stacy Dvergsdal, associate vice president for Human Resources, notes that the baseline data collected will help the University further identify how it can best support employees, serving as the foundation for conversations about what employees want and what services or resources could be helpful.

“This is one of the areas where MSU Denver excels: by being part of national conversations and talking about tougher issues,” Simpkins said. “Whether it’s the stance we took on serving undocumented students or our work as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, our role in downtown Denver, our workforce-development work, we’re recognizing that we’re not alone and saying, ‘We’re struggling with this issue, and we’re going to figure it out. If you want to be a part of the conversation, welcome.’”

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