ABOVE: Joseph Shepard, program associate for business initiatives at the Kansas Leadership Center, speaks to students, faculty and staff who attended his “Diversity in Leadership” presentation Tuesday evening. The event was a part of Southwestern’s annual Diversity Week, sponsored by Residence Life and StuFu (Tessa Castor/Staff photographer).
By Tessa Castor
Jan. 22-28 serves as Southwestern’s annual Diversity Week. Over the course of eight Residence Life and StuFu-sponsored events, students learn about the importance of diversity in the school, the office and beyond.
Tuesday night’s event, held at 6:30 p.m. in Wroten, was “Diversity in Leadership,” a presentation given by guest speaker Joseph Shepard, program associate for business initiatives at the Kansas Leadership Center based in Wichita. A graduate of Wichita State University, Shepard served two years as WSU’s student body president. Among the many duties of his job, he strives to advocate for underrepresented populations in the Wichita area.
To begin the event, Shepard led a team icebreaker with the attendees, asking them questions about their sexuality, race and religion in order to highlight the diversity in the room. Shepard’s presentation that followed dealt with society’s loathing of diversity, and how leaders can combat racism, sexism and general prejudice.
“When we choose to conform to society’s expectations, we lose diversity,” said Shepard.
Shepard said that highlighting diversity on a campus like Southwestern could motivate someone to do something profound and powerful. He expanded on difficulties of minorities such as poverty cycles and educational retention and success in a collegiate setting. He said that, once someone find their passion and life purpose, they are able to celebrate their diversity.
“Leadership is risky,” said Shepard. “Diversity and inclusion is tough work. It’s tiring. If you’re gonna be in this fight, you have to be passionate about the work you do.”
Anjaih Clemons, director of campus life, said that she hopes events like the presentation will help combat the societal “negative energy” about diversity, as well as start and continue conversations about diversity on campus.
“It’s important because not only is it a time to celebrate differences and diversity, it’s also good to educate individuals on the importance of accepting others,” said Clemons. “My hope is that attendees will walk away with a better understanding of diversity and be more open.”
The week’s events will continue with Stufu’s Poetry Night at 9 p.m. Wednesday night in Stir & Bustle. A complete schedule of events can be found in the Jinx Tale.
Tessa Castor is a sophomore majoring in English. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.