Final candidate interviews for diversity officer position

Bryan Samuel, director of the Office of Equity and Diversity at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, speaks on diversity in the Kansas State student union in Manhattan, Kan. on Dec. 7, 2017. (Photo by Justin Wright | Collegian Media Group)

The third and final candidate for the position of chief diversity and inclusion officer interviewed in an open forum Thursday afternoon in the Student Union’s Wildcat Chamber.

Bryan Samuel, director of the Office of Equity and Diversity at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, shared his past experience in promoting opportunities for underrepresented students.

“It is in our best interest to help diverse students at the end of the day,” Samuel said. “To promote diversity, I proposed to Tennessee University a multicultural scholarship. That was met with much resistance. I then pointed out that scholarships are given to things that are valued, like football players. They went ahead with the proposal.”

Samuel emphasized the necessity of working to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.

“We have to help individuals all across campus and the state,” Samuel said. “It’s important to recruit and research. It matters. It really does matter.”

To do this, Samuel said the work must be intentional, institutional and incentivized. The incentive is the competitive advantage diversity lends toward institutions. He clarified his plan by differentiating between diversity, inclusion and equity.

“Diversity is the mixture,” Samuel said. “Inclusion is being involved. It is getting the mix to work well together. Equity is how we treat that mix.”

Samuel said his overall vision is to bring Kansas State to the forefront of collegiate diversity.

“Kansas State University will be a nationally recognized, thought-leading, opinion-molding champion for diversity where the commitment to diversity is the cornerstone for students,” Samuel said.

Lisa Tatonetti, professor of English and member of the Indigenous Alliance, praised the committee’s interviewee choices.

“I think the search committee did a really good job,” Tatonetti said. “It’s nice to see that because this is important and, not to mention, very historic. We will have a voice in the cabinet. Kansas State is on a turning point where a lot of things could happen.”

Several people who attended the interview appreciated the clarity of Samuel’s vision.

“He has considerable experience and strategies that have been successful in his institutions,” said LaBarbara Wigfall, associate professor of landscape architecture and regional community planning. “He was very specific, and not vague about his plan.”