Since he was selected as Kansas State’s new chief diversity and inclusion officer in December and officially starting his post in March, Bryan Samuel has been working to make K-State a more welcoming campus.
Samuel grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee. Before his journey to K-State, Samuel was in a very similar role to the one he is in today, serving as the chief diversity officer at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. That is were he collected both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees before receiving his doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“I have practical experience,” Samuel said. “I have a number of years of experience, both on-job and lived experience as a member of marginalized communities. It is that real experience that really helps.”
While Samuel had heard interest from other places he could have worked for, he said K-State stood out to him for many reasons, including KSUnite, the 2025 plan and the university being the best in the nation in several programs.
“There were a lot of positive things around diversity and inclusion that made it a great opportunity for me to see what I could do to help it achieve its goals and objectives,” Samuel said.
Michelle Broccolo, events coordinator for the president’s office, said she has been very impressed by Samuel in his short time here.
“He is kind in his interactions with people and has been meeting with many individual groups these last few weeks,” Broccolo said. “There is lots of work to get done at K-State, and I think Dr. Samuel can lead KSU in a positive direction.”
Mirta Chavez, director of multicultural programs for diversity and multicultural student affairs, said she thinks Samuel came to K-State with a wealth of experience as a leader of diversity and inclusion initiatives.
“He truly cares about improving our efforts at K-State, and that in itself will make a positive impact,” Chavez said. “He is understanding the challenges that are faced by those of diverse backgrounds, and is currently reviewing programs and practices on how to further improve diversity efforts.”
Samuel said diversity is about all individuals being valued, represented and recognized for their legitimate contributions without regard for what walk of life that they come from.
“I kind of see diversity as a great big salad,” Samuel said. “It is the diversity of those ingredients that makes it great. When you put them all together, they become greater than just one part.”
The biggest challenges Samuel said he has faced so far are learning the culture at K-State, meeting lots of new faces and cultivating new relationships with the people he works with.
“You have to be able to identify the things that not only work well but things that we can improve on,” Samuel said.
Samuel’s main priorities include enhancing the university’s reputation and having K-State emerge as a nationally known bastion of cultural understanding and competency. He said the university needs to make sure the faculty, staff and administration are as diverse as the public that they serve.
“It goes back to the salad — the more diverse, the better,” Samuel said. “We need to look like the world we are preparing people to serve in.”
Samuel said he also enjoys being able to go home to his wife and 8-year-old son. Students might catch Samuel spending time with them, playing golf, reading a book or watching sports.
“I do lots of things to keep me grounded,” Samuel said.
Though the future is bound to hold many challenges, Samuel thinks K-State will be well-equipped to handle those problems when the time comes.
“I am really happy to be in this inaugural position for K-State and looking forward to some wonder years and a great time here,” Samuel said.