Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging focus of KS Board of Regents area conference

13 News at Six
Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 12:11 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The landmark legal decision, Brown vs. Board of Education, helped inspire a conference Friday on Washburn University’s campus.

Dr. Royel Johnson is a professor at the University of Southern California and the keynote speaker of the Kansas Board of Regents conference on diversity and multiculturalism.

“My talk is going to focus on sense of belonging. What does it mean to accept personal and institutional responsibility for making sure that all students have the opportunity to experience belonging,” he continued saying, “Which I am excited about because this is the home place of Brown v. Board and one of the legacy outcomes of that is the promise that students would have the opportunity to experience a safe and equitable education experience.”

Dr. Johnson said his work focuses mainly on black and institutionally marginalized populations.

“We have done a lot of work to open up access for underrepresented and marginalized groups, but outcomes are not as equitable as they can be,” he added.

Dr. Johnson hopes participants leave with a new mindset.

He said, “I want to hopefully give folks some tools, some resources to go back and be the best educators they can be to be a threat to racial inequities in educational spaces.”

Aniya Williams, Vice President of Washburn University’s Black Student Union said she has seen progress on campus, but more work still needs to be done.

“There is not a lot of color on campus, there is not a lot of people who look like me on campus, and besides having a black student union on campus, we want faculty and staff to see that we want more diversity and inclusion to where we don’t feel like we’re alone,” she said.

The conference was started by the Kansas Board of Regents Council of Chief Diversity Officers in 2018.

Friday’s session began with an opening address from Dr. Alex Red Corn, a citizen of the Osage nation and Kansas State University Assistant Professor.

He said, “For a long time our institutions were actually used to eradicate American Indians and were used to destroy cultures, so we are hoping to think about how we can use those institutions and reform them, remake them so they can actually be responsive to our American Indian students.”

The conference also included several breakout discussions and workshops on a variety of topics.