Tanya Gonzalez views the people on the Manhattan Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee as community experts. Together, they will create recommendations for the city of Manhattan as to how they can improve many areas of life.
“Almost like consultants for thinking about it in this holistic way as possible — the myriad of ways we can make Manhattan better,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez, Kansas State English professor and committee co-chair, said she received a call from then-mayor Usha Reddi in late December asking her to join the committee.
“This was one of the initiatives that she felt was really important,” Gonzalez said. “Given the conversations that we have been having as a city and university and USD 383 community … so kind of bringing together the different voices of the community that have been interested in these issues for a while and have been working on these things.”
Corey Williamson, executive director of the K-State Student Union, co-chairs the committee with Gonzalez.
“I was asked to serve as a co-chair of the Manhattan DEI Task force by former mayor Usha Reddi,” Williamson said via email. “I was honored to have an opportunity to serve my community in this capacity.”
Gonzalez looks forward to working with Williamson.
“I’m excited — in terms of co-chairing — is to learn about the breadth of the things that are happening across our community,” Gonzalez said. “I’m being as open-minded as possible. I don’t have any personal agendas. I think it’s about what do we care about the most as a community and how can we move forward as open-minded as possible.”
Other Manhattan organizations on the committee include the Black Student Union, the Riley County Police Department, USD 383, Pawnee Mental Health and others.
Throughout 2021, the committee aims to meet monthly and recommend improvements to the city.
“We’re looking at several different areas,” Gonzalez said. “Individual and family support — that’s one of the ways that we’re hoping to focus on. Sort of how diversity, equity and inclusion can help with that. Thinking about economic opportunities for underrepresented groups in our community. … Public safety and thinking about livability — we use that word because … we’re gonna kind of keep it as this really flexible way of thinking about the quality of life in Manhattan for as wide a variety of people as possible.”
Other areas include health and wellness.
“Which is such an important part of everyone’s existence,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a basic need and sort of thinking about like … what are those basic needs, what they look like and how can we meet those for the majority of the people that are in our community.”
In order to create a more inclusive community, Williamson said, having people of diverse backgrounds is important. That way, the committee can focus on building cultural, racial, socio-economic and ethnic diversity in Manhattan for the future.
“The task force will serve as the starting point for identifying opportunities to create a more welcoming and inclusive community,” Williamson said. “I hope the efforts of this group brings to light the things our community is doing well to enhance inclusion within our community. I also believe this group will identify gaps in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion that will make Manhattan a more attractive place for students, businesses and families from all backgrounds to thrive.”
The committee met at 6 p.m. Feb. 18 and will meet at 6:30 p.m. March 25 and at 6 p.m. April 22. The meetings are recorded and available on the city of Manhattan website. All meetings are open to the public.