KSUnite, a movement focused on discussing inclusivity within the Manhattan community, held its annual three-day diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging conference from Nov. 14-16 in the Student Union.
Emmanuel Ugwuegbu, senior in biology pre-med, served on the committee for KSUnite. Ugwuegbu said he thinks now is the time to start conversations about becoming a more inclusive campus.
“There are a lot of things that go on in the country, a lot of microaggressions, injustices,” Ugwuegbu said. “And within our campus we want our students to know that we care, and we know what they are going through and we want to work towards change.”
KSUnite had breakout sessions, conferences and hosted two guest speakers.
“I want the biggest takeaway for people to be that KSUnite is an opportunity to connect, find a place where you belong at K-State and have discussions that might be rather difficult to have outside of a safe environment,” Ugwuegbu said.
One guest speaker was April Hernandez Castillo, an actress in “Freedom Writers” and author. Ugwuegbu said guests watched Castillo’s movie and then listened to her speak about the film.
“April’s message was our communities should be judgment-free, and anyone should be able to open up about their experiences and should be able to talk about what is going on in their life and have the support of their community,” Ugwuegbu said.
Castillo is a survivor of domestic violence. In her book, “Your Voice, Your Choice,” she opens up about her personal experience with interpersonal partner violence, according to Your Voice, Your Choice.
According to her website, she is, “a committed and fierce activist in raising awareness about Intimate Partner and Teen dating violence.”
Shamiel Gary, former Oklahoma State and NFL football player, also spoke at KSUnite. Ugwuegbu said Gary talked about showing up, being present and making intentional connections.
Hannah Strecker, freshman in kinesiology, listened to Gary speak.
“I learned talking to everyone can really make a difference and that every day is game time, so you need to be fully available and do your best every day,” Strecker said.
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After retiring from football, Gary became a father and dedicated his career to motivational speaking, according to Shamiel Gary’s blog.
According to his website, Gary’s motto is, “Discipline and focus is the bridge between who you are and who you want to be.”
Ugwuegbu said one goal of KSUnite is to help students and community members meet and talk about their shared experiences and differences.
“I’ve met some new people through the event, and now when I see them, we have a conversation to talk about, which is cool,” Strecker said.
Ugwuegbu said the students and staff who helped organize the conference have been working since the spring semester of 2022 to plan the event. He said there are already big ideas for KSUnite next year, and he hopes the event will only get better.
“Watch out for KSUnite 2023, because it is going to be amazing,” Ugwuegbu said. “I believe it is going to be way better and more immersive and inclusive of not just our Manhattan community, but we are going to reach out to many more people.”