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With funding help, Office of Diversity and Inclusion hopes to reach more students

 

As Wichita State University pursues one of its most ambitious goals — increasing enrollment — greater focus is being placed on creating a campus environment that makes all students feel welcome.

That’s what the WSU Office of Diversity and Inclusion is all about.

WSU students Shamiece Banks, left, and Felipe Lopez take part in the annual Cinco de Mayo event sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

“As we look at a strategy for recruitment and retention, it’s important to make sure all students feel they are a part of campus and do not feel alienated,” says Alicia Sanchez Alicia Sanchez , director of the office located in the Rhatigan Student Center.

Universities recognize how challenging that can be for students in underrepresented populations such as racial and ethnic minorities, people of diverse faiths and religions, or those whose sexual orientation or gender identity is different from another’s.

With a staff of just four people, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion provides more than 100 events and activities each year to raise awareness about diverse backgrounds and lifestyles. Many activities have a social component that helps to promote participation.

As the office seeks to reach more students, as well as faculty and staff, Sanchez has identified four priorities that require new funds to accomplish. They are:

Students participating in the United in WU retreat listen to a speaker from the Kansas Leadership Center.
  1. Develop a speaker series to bring in nationally known figures. In 2015, the office co-sponsored an appearance by Laverne Cox, an actress and transgender person who is an advocate for the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community. A speaker series would require an investment of about $30,000 a year.
  2. Increase participation in an annual program called United in WU, a retreat that provides students with knowledge and training on multicultural and diversity matters. Students return with ideas for how they can help create a more inclusive campus. A contribution of $10,000 would double to 80 the number of student participants.
  3. Create a center specifically targeted at members of the LGBT community. “Some students still don’t see our office as serving that population as effectively as possible,” Sanchez says. “Having a center is a way to improve retention as well as student success.” Cost would depend on many factors.
  4. Increase the number of personal computers, laptops and tablets students can use in the office or check out. Currently, the five tablets and eight laptops are always checked out. The office has four PCs. A donation of $10,000 would enhance this service significantly. Since Wichita State is Kansas’ most diverse university in terms of race and ethnicity, it’s imperative that WSU does what it can to make students feel welcome and involved, Sanchez says

“We’re helping to prepare students to live and work in a global society where they will meet people from all walks of life, with different ideas, thoughts and values. The importance of that just continues to grow,” Sanchez says.