“How do we create a community where everyone belongs?” Eddy Gonzalez, student development coordinator for Housing and Dining Services and Wildcat Dialogues facilitator, asked his small group. “We call ourselves a K-State family, but sometimes, we have to be intentional with creating that family.”
Monday night, Gonzalez said 800 to 900 first year students were getting together in various small groups via Zoom to share their stories with each other for the third annual session of Wildcat Dialogues.
Hosted by the Staley School of Leadership Studies, the mission of Wildcat Dialogues is to promote conversations and connections between diverse members of the community to build a more inclusive Kansas State.
The theme of this year’s session was “My Story, Your Story, Our story.”
Participants in the online event were showed videos featuring K-State students of various backgrounds and identities. The students spoke of their life experiences as minorities in terms of their race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion and more.
Gonzalez reminded his group that opening dialogue requires listening to understand, not to respond. He then opened the floor for the first-year students to share how their backgrounds and cultures have impacted them.
Student were given a change to share ways they’ve struggled with and also been able to appreciate their identities and the way they’ve impacted their lives.
Questions like, “What would it look like to create a K-State community that was open to all?” were posed to students to promote thinking about ways to pursue inclusivity outside of events like the dialogues.
“Wildcat Dialogues is the beginning of the dialogue, not the end,” Gonzalez said. “What are you intentionally going to do to help create that space of belonging for other people?”
An extension of Wildcat Dialogues, Mini-Dialogues, will become available throughout the semester and will be announced in future editions of K-State Today.