Q&A: Three students on KSUnite planning committee discuss this year’s event

Students gather outside Anderson Hall for the first KSUnite event on Nov. 14, 2017. (File photo by George Walker | Collegian Media Group)

Marcus Kidd, student alumni board adviser and graduate student in counseling and student development, Paloma Roman, student senator and senior in athletic training, and Ryan Kelly, speaker of the student senate and junior in communication studies, are three individuals who served on the KSUnite planning committee.

The trio discussed the conversations that went into planning this year’s KSUnite and how the event is intentionally aimed at addressing areas of diversity and inclusion that are often forgotten at Kansas State.

Kaylie McLaughlin, news editor: “Why have another KSUnite event?”

Kidd: “The topic of diversity and inclusion is definitely important for any institution, not just K-State, to celebrate — whether the culture is at a point where an event has caused for diversity and inclusion to be a topic of focus or not. I believe that with K-State, this is an excellent time for us to continue to celebrate the topics of diversity and inclusion so that we can further unite the campus and continue to educate students, faculty and staff over embracing diversity in all forms, whether it be through race and ethnicity, through LGBT status, gender expression, et cetera.”

Roman: “I would definitely say the same, in the present tense where our work isn’t done yet. Last year, we did it because events happened, but I think that we’ve progressed a lot from where we started. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean that we should just stop and expect that the change is done. There’s going to be incoming freshmen every year, so I think they need to know what K-State expects of them, and also, we get to set the example.”

McLaughlin: “You guys already touched on this a little bit, but is KSUnite going to be an annual event?”

Roman: “I think so.”

Kidd: “In the meetings and the discussions that we’ve had, I believe it’s building to that point to hopefully be someday celebrated annually. As far as the time of year, that’s still up for debate. Yes, like we said before, it’s definitely an opportunity for K-State to be proactive with situations such as diversity and inclusion to where it’s celebrated regularly. It’s something that should be celebrated every single day, and with that, we hope that KSUnite can be that one spark for current students, for incoming students, for alumni to help remind them of K-State’s dedication to diversity and inclusion.”

McLaughlin: “What can the university community learn as a whole from events centered around intercultural learning?”

Kelly: “I guess I’d say that KSUnite is not the only event that we do during the course of the year that is aimed at that intercultural learning and understanding. We’ve been talking a lot within the planning group about how we are trying to establish a spectrum specifically aimed at first year students through events like the KSBN book series as well as Wildcat Dialogues and now culminating to KSUnite. Also, we are incorporating some components of this conversation around diversity and inclusion within our homecoming events, right? I think that all these components that the university is really supporting contribute to this understanding within the K-State community.”

McLaughlin: “What kind of conversations went into the planning of this year’s event specifically?”

Kelly: “Our new chief diversity and inclusion officer — when we were interviewing candidates, one of the questions that was asked to them was, ‘What does this event look like to you in future years. Do we do it? How do we do it? What does it look like?’ And I think that after Bryan Samuel was hired as our chief diversity and inclusion officer, one of his focuses has been on creating this event and seeing it come to life.”

Roman: “Given that Dr. Samuel came in after the fact, after KSUnite originally happened, I think a lot of the conversations we had is what happened last year and what did it look like, what were responses that we had and what could we do better for this year. And that was obviously making sure that we make it better and basically mold it better for what K-State needs.”

Kidd: “If I could … add to that, just some of our decisions on logistics for planning it: ‘Why during Homecoming? Why not any other time?’ That question did come up with the conversations that Dr. Samuel had when he was contemplating when KSUnite would happen sometime throughout the year. In regards to speaking on behalf of why Homecoming [and] why that time, we decided it would be a great time for all constituents involved. For students, it’s Homecoming — celebrating the university itself, how elements of being a Wildcat, being family, how that’s kind of woven into our fabric throughout the years. You know, adding KSUnite … on top of that to add that additional layer for … promoting the topics of diversity and inclusion.”

McLaughlin: “How does KSUnite reflect the values of community at K-State?”

Kelly: “I would say that, overall, the event is focused on sharing perspectives [and sharing those] stories with all of campus. … At the end of the day, this K-State family thrives best when we’re on the same page and we can have those conversations and come together [to] make collective progress.”

Kidd: “Absolutely. And examining how KSUnite went last year, for this year, we are just trying to be more intentional about the different sessions that we’re offering, since diversity is so multi-faceted and encompasses so much, just to make sure that we are not excluding any particular groups or any particular identities or perspectives.”

McLaughlin: “The first KSUnite came out of a place of crisis at K-State. Why is it important to continue to celebrate something in the aftermath of that?”

Roman: “I think … although maybe we haven’t heard about anything major happening, things still happen, and I think it’s important to remind students that at K-State, we don’t accept that kind of behavior. In a way, it’s almost preventative, where we set some kind of expectations for students to know that we care for everyone — for who they are, for their identity as a whole and also to celebrate those identities. … I think that we shouldn’t have to wait for something big or bad to happen.”

Kelly: “I’d say similar. I don’t think that we need to wait for a crisis or a similar situation to have the opportunity to progress intercultural learning on this campus and to be able to hear from students.”

Kidd: “What I’d say is that students that do have specific identities — they’re facing micro-aggressions on a daily basis, and so those are things that, unless you’re in those spaces, you will never see, and so that’s what we hope to kind of help shed light [on] with this year’s KSUnite. … Not only just addressing the big events that were happening last year, but for this year, just … taking a different lens or different viewpoint to what diversity and inclusion is — helping make sure that people are knowledgeable, helping make sure that expectations are fully laid out and can be clearly seen by members of our community, the K-State community and abroad … that are willing to help make K-State as successful as it can be.”

Roman: “It can also be used as a place of learning as well. I think lots of times we forget that everyone comes from different places and things like that. And a lot of times, this is the first time people experience such an environment as K-State, and I think it’s important for students to learn and get to know each other — not just for what they may look like, but what they actually share as far as what they believe in and their specific identities.”

McLaughlin: “Anything else?”

Kidd: “Students [should] look forward to continuing to work with faculty to develop ways that events such as KSUnite can be successful — that can create a co-curricular, outside-of-the-classroom learning experience that does not interfere with what’s happening inside the classroom. Or better yet, to work with faculty to develop ways to fuse intercultural learning in a better sense so that what we are learning, whether that be any subject matter … [we] can always go back to an important topic such as diversity and inclusion.”

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.