The Leadership in Practice class (LEAD 450) held a Cats for Inclusion meeting Monday for students, organizations, faculty and the community to discuss how people could feel welcome at K-State.
“We want to try to understand the issues that people care about — the activities and things that are going on — so that we can share those back,” Kerry Priest, associate professor for LEAD 450, said. “Hopefully we can serve in a role of doing some meaning-making and thinking about what’s next and how can we help mobilize and connect people to make change.”
Attendees watched a video made by the university last year called “#YouAreWelcomeHere,” as well as viewed a PowerPoint about headlines from the blackface incident last fall, the noose found on campus this spring and the posters on campus last week. They were then split into groups of roughly six people for discussion mediated by LEAD 450 students on how to make K-State more inclusive and what everybody individually can do to reach those goals.
The groups reconvened to discuss together. Some of the themes discussed were raising awareness for other cultures, being an ally, providing support for one another and creating and opening up conversations so that every opinion can be heard.
Some attendants mentioned that the target audience for this discussion would not be in attendance, but Jessica Elmore, associate director of diversity programs for the K-State Alumni Association, said she disagreed.
“For Cats for Inclusion, the idea is to bring all voices and for people to take the initiative that it’s an earnest effort to want all sides of whatever story to come,” Elmore said after the meeting. “I encourage people who are thinking it’s not for them to just come and then see. They don’t lock the doors behind you, so you can leave whenever you want to, but it’s important. Don’t make the assumption that everybody here thinks the same. It’s easy to self-silence when you don’t feel like it is that type of environment.”
Mary Abounabhan, senior in business management and multicultural affairs director for the Student Government Association, attended the event for several reasons.
“With everything happening, I wanted to challenge myself, and I wanted to challenge others,” Abounabhan said. “I wanted to be present in a room where dialogue is happening so I can create the change that I want to see. Or I can make better decisions as a member of SGA that represents what people think, to have that authentic conversation.”
Cats for Inclusion will hold another meeting about leadership dialogues in Town Hall at the Leadership Studies Building Sept. 25 at 5:30 p.m.