Ag Diversity Programs Office persists in mission in spite of COVID-19

Waters Hall is home to the College of Agriculture, as well as its Diversity Programs Office. (File photo by Dene Dryden | Collegian Media Group)

Like many organizations, the Kansas State College of Agriculture Diversity Programs Office had many of its normal activities uprooted by COVID-19.

The DPO was established to promote leadership, understanding, and diverse opportunities among students and faculty in the College of Agriculture. Its main goals include recruiting, retaining, graduating and placing minority students in the college.

In a normal year, the DPO hosts many events in hopes of accomplishing these goals.

Events include Cargill College for a Day, where potential students participate in hands-on activities, facility tours, interacting with current K-State agriculture students, the MLK Jr. Diversity Student Leader Reception, which teaches students about the civil rights movement and current diversity issues, as well as the Growing Our Mindset Forum, where industry leaders, student panels and moderators challenge and engage student perceptions and preparedness for becoming leaders.

For obvious reasons, these events did not happen as they normally would have.

“We have had to move our events online,” Mckenzie Stevens, undergraduate assistant and sophomore in animal sciences and industry, said. “We were able to have the speaker and some attendees in person, but most of the attendees were online.”

Though COVID-19 caused events to move online, Josephine Gianni, senior in feed science and a new member of the DPO, said it hasn’t been all bad.

“It was really neat to see how many students were able to get on Zoom,” Gianni said. “Personally, I was nervous about the turnout, but seeing as many people as I did, I was excited.”

When it comes to everyday operations, Summer Smades, junior in agricultural economics and undergraduate assistant for the organization, said things have been difficult. In October, Smades said COVID-19 made things especially hard for the department when they couldn’t come in and work in person.

“We have three undergraduate assistants that really come to the office … all of us have had to go virtual for part of that time,” Smades said.

Everything considered, the DPO worked to keep up in the constantly changing semester and taken precautions when necessary, whether remote or in person.

“I’m happy that even though we are restricted with COVID-19 regulations, we are able to have students in the office, the ones that are allowed to be of course, properly social distanced.” Zelia Wiley, assistant dean and director of diversity programs in the College of Agriculture, said. “It’s been really great that they still have the comfort to come to the office. We are proud to have created a safe space for people to safely be in the office in person.”