Q&A: Chief diversity officer discusses KSUnite, time at K-State

Kansas State University's new chief diversity and inclusion officer Bryan Samuel plays a crucial role in the restructuring of the office of diversity. (File photo by Hannah Greer | Collegian Media Group)

Bryan Samuel, chief diversity officer for the office of the president, discussed his time at Kansas State over the last six months with Collegian staff members.

Kaylie McLaughlin, news editor: “What does your day-to-day job look like?”

Samuel: “Wow. It’s kind of all over the place; it depends on what’s going on. Here, recently, it’s been a lot about KSUnite. I usually go wherever the priorities take me. I’m working on a number of high priority projects for the university … not only KSUnite, but figuring out a forward direction for the campus climate survey, revising a diversity plan and looking at accessibility for the campus as well.”

McLaughlin: “What role have you played in the planning of the second KSUnite?”

Samuel: “I’ve been a bit of a contributor — thinking about how best to leverage the campus resources and make something that’s workable for students, faculty, staff [and] community members if they are so inclined to participate. We’ve been meeting since May — since school got out — to start planning and working on what the program might look like, what it may include and how best to get a good representation, involvement and engagement from students, faculty and staff.”

McLaughlin: “You mentioned high-priority projects. Might one of those projects be the Multicultural Student Center?”

Samuel: “I’m on the Multicultural Center Action Project Team.”

McLaughlin: “So, what can you tell me about the conversations so far that have gone into planning it?”

Samuel: “I can tell you that we’ve been working for a while and that we’ve had some good conversations. I can tell you that the team is made up of students, faculty and staff.”

McLaughlin: “What do you have planned for the rest of the semester after KSUnite?”

Samuel: “I’m going to continue working with the President’s Commission on Multicultural Affairs. I’m going to continue working with a number of different faculty and staff groups [and] student groups around preparing for a campus climate survey. I’m going to plan a few programs for the spring semester including, but not limited to, [the] MLK luncheon … and I’m going to continue working on a couple of task forces and committees and some other projects. So, work continues.”

McLaughlin: “You’ve been at K-State for about six months now. What has been your impression so far?”

Samuel: “I have been very pleased with the campus. People have treated me very nicely, a lot of good things are happening and taking place and I’m honored to be a part of the many things that are going on here. I recognize that there are some places where we can expand our work and do a little more in the area of diversity and inclusion — looking at graduation rates across many different populations. For example, recruitment of faculty and retention of faculty … recruitment of women and minorities and others in leadership positions across the institution. It’s been great; a lot of good things happening, a lot of work yet to be done.”

McLaughlin: “What is KSUnite Part Two hoping to accomplish? Since last year’s event came out of a campus crisis, how do the goals of this event differ now that the university isn’t in the same loop?”

Samuel: “Last year was fueled by a number of crisis events, or tension, if you will. My thinking about KSUnite is that first and foremost, you don’t fix challenges and issues by just holding a single event and then they’re gone. I think the big takeaway for KSUnite in 2018 is that we are proactive; we are engaging our students, faculty and staff across the diversity continuum about a number of different things that are important to us and we are doing so before there is a crisis in efforts to help limit the probability that a crisis will arise. The more we have an opportunity to inform students and faculty and staff about some issues, then the greater the probability that we can sustain the climate that we desire.”

McLaughlin: “Why is it important for K-State to emphasize topics of diversity and intercultural learning?”

Samuel: “When you graduate from an institution like K-State, a degree should signify two things: one, that you have a mastery or a proficiency of a certain program of studies, whether that’s business or agronomy or economics or history; and then two, that you have a willingness and ability to interact with people whose background is different than yours to solve problems. The more diverse your team is and the work environment, the greater the probability that you can work on and solve problems for the world.”

McLaughlin: “What role does inclusion play in our land grant mission?”

Samuel: “The land grant mission says that we are supposed to advance opportunities for residents of the state of Kansas, and so the land grant mission and diversity and inclusion, in my professional opinion, are tightly melded because we have to think about … all our populations across the state.”

McLaughlin: “What do you think in your professional background has prepared you for the job here at K-State?”

Samuel: “I had quite a bit of training and experience around diversity and inclusion, but I also had a lot of practical experience. I’m a minority male, I’m a person with a disability, I’m a first-generation college student, I come from a low socioeconomic background, so I have quite a few touch-points in the area of diversity and inclusion, and some of these experiences helped shape me and make me a well-rounded professional and enabled me to be a diversity officer for the entire campus community.”

McLaughlin: “Why allow students to own the conversation about KSUnite and other intercultural learning opportunities at the university?”

Samuel: “Students have to have ownership. They have to have their stamp on everything that the institution offers, right? Student engagement, learning with and from each other. Capitalizing on the learning opportunities [that] differences can create is one of the most powerful learning tools that we have … in the classroom or curricular activity programming event. Exchanging ideals and thoughts and concerns with others who are going through the educational processes same as you is a very, very powerful tool.”

My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the ex-managing editor and audience engagement manager of the Collegian. Previously, I've been the editor-in-chief and the news editor. In the past, I have also contributed to the Royal Purple Yearbook and KKSU-TV. Off-campus, you can find my bylines in the Wichita Eagle, the Shawnee Mission Post and KSNT News. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a senior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third-generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage.