On Monday, Feb. 19, students, faculty, and community members gathered at the Leadership Studies Building to engage in the first Cats for Inclusion community dialogue of the spring semester.
The Cats for Inclusion campaign was established in 2015 as a partnership between the Black Student Union and Staley School of Leadership Studies. This student-led initiative seeks to address issues of racial injustice and other forms of oppression within the K-State and Manhattan communities.
The partnership is facilitated through participation in a special section of LEAD 405: Leadership in Practice. This spring, there are 31 students enrolled in the section, led by instructors, Drs. Mike Finnegan and Kerry Priest, and Ms. Erika Davis.
“What’s really cool about the Cats for Inclusion Campaign is that it started because students saw a need to engage in meaningful conversations around inclusion and diversity,” said Finnegan.
The purpose of the February 19 dialogue was to cultivate a better understanding of the campus climate and experiences of students, as well as build a network of individuals, groups, and organizations working toward a more inclusive K-State.
Kicking off the evening, LEAD 405 students McKenzy Umscheid and Erin Graber provided context and history of the Cats for Inclusion Campaign and shared the #YouAreWelcome video as a way of instantly creating a space that celebrated diversity and fostered inclusion.
A panel of five students then volunteered to share their own “inclusion stories.” These stories highlighted challenges around race, gender, ethnicity, and privilege. Each presenter modeled what it means to be courageous and vulnerable in sharing their story at a public forum. The five participants were Julissa Andazola, Samantha Rose, Sarah Ward, Anna Faust, and Darrell Reese Jr.
After the panel, participants dispersed into small groups that were facilitated by LEAD 405 students. Emily Lavery, a junior in human resource management, helped to facilitate a group discussion alongside her peers. “I hope that people walk away with an action plan. I don’t want it to be one of those things where people just sit and listen. I hope that everyone here brings this information into their [own] circles.”
As vulnerability was embraced and stories were exchanged, individuals were able to identify shared values and cross-pollinate visions and ideas of how to help advance inclusion on campus and in the community.
“Cats for Inclusion supports the idea that we all can exercise leadership to make progress on the challenges facing our campus. Whether it is talking to someone new each day, or developing new courses and events, we all can do something,” said Dr. Priest.
Learn more about Cats for Inclusion at https://catsforinclusion.wordpress.com. Keep an eye on the Staley School of Leadership Studies and Black Student Union’s social media for upcoming events centered around inclusion and diversity.