Newman University’s new Director of Multicultural Engagement Joseph Shepard has been busy planning trainings, initiatives and events that help support diversity and inclusion since his first day on the job. His most recent accomplishment was creating the Diversity Round Table.
“The Diversity Round Table exists to enhance cultural awareness, political awareness and social events, provide support for the students and aims to advocate, celebrate and educate Newman’s community with diversity initiatives,” said Shepard.
The Diversity Round Table consists of 10 student ambassadors who will help build on progress already been made on diversity and inclusion at Newman.
Shepard said, “The Diversity Round Table ambassadors serve as a resource for Newman’s Department of Student Life and Newman University students, exemplifying a broad knowledge of campus culture, programs, policies and procedures. The ambassadors’ goal is to show the amazing benefits of becoming more culturally conscious as well as highlighting the office and programs that are great resources for students.”
Shepard drew most of his inspiration for the Diversity Round Table from his own student life experience. At Wichita State University, Shepard was student body president, president of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and president of the Multicultural Greek Council. He was heavily involved as an ambassador, worked as a diversity intern and much more. All of these experiences taught him the importance of valuing diversity and how it enriches the college experience for students.
After doing some research and reflecting on his experience as a student, Shepard concluded that Newman University needed more diversity and inclusion initiatives on campus. “These are things that other colleges and universities are doing and in order to be competitive with our sister institutions and empower our students, we have to start doing these things.”
Shepard originally had planned on having only six ambassadors as part of the Round Table but after interviewing all the applicants, there wasn’t a single one he could let go.
He said, “I was so impressed by all 10 of the interviews. It’s a testament to the great job that Newman University administrators, faculty and staff are doing because they had interviews that just hit it out of the park, there was no question or not whether I should pick all 10.”
The ambassadors will meet with other multicultural organizations such as the Black Student Union, Asian Student Association, Multicultural Leadership Organization, etc. once a month to find ways they can collaborate, communicate, support and form camaraderie with each other.
Many events have already been planned for the spring semester.
The first event for the organization will be Jan. 17 to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Wichita and Newman communities are invited to attend the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March across campus that will end with a small program and tribute to MLK. Nominations are now open for a special MLK Distinguished Service Award that will be announced that evening to honor a Newman community member for their outstanding service and principles.
The Diversity Round Table has filled the month of February with events dedicated to celebrating Black History Month, many of which will be held in collaboration with the Black Student Union.
The largest event will be the 100 Black Men Conference that will take place Feb. 16 on campus.
“One hundred black men from across the city will visit campus to empower and uplift students to change their communities,” said Shepard. “This aligns great with our mission to transform society and not only help students transform society but help our community transform society as well.”
During the month of March, the group has planned a SHEro week to celebrate women. The week will include “Thank a Woman’ Day,” an event for students to write cards to women at the Women’s Crisis Center and a banquet honoring women on campus.
The month of May will include an InspirASIAN week and possibly a multicultural graduation to honor and recognize marginalized or underrepresented students for their accomplishment of reaching graduation.
“I’m super busy to say the least,” said Shepard, “I’ve only been here a month; I came in on my first day and hit the ground running.”
He also added, “There is this myth that Newman University is not diverse and I don’t believe that. We are very diverse, we just need to do a better job at creating a platform where we can showcase our diversity and all that we can offer to not only our current students but perspective students as well.”
Shepard applied for a TEDx license on his first day in the office in hopes to have more diversity speakers visit campus in the future.