Indiana State University Newsroom

University embraces differences at inaugural Fall Diversity and Inclusion Social

September 22, 2015

On a given day, senior psychology major Leroy Richardson admits that diversity and inclusion aren't topics he thinks much about.

But at Indiana State University's inaugural Fall Diversity and Inclusion Social on Monday he realized just how necessary the event was to helping bring people together to begin a conversation that have been a long time in the making.

"It's more likely that I'll hang out with people just like me on most days and not really think much about diversity on inclusion on campus," said Richardson, who hails from Washington, D.C. "Then, I come to something like this, where I meet new people from all around campus who I wouldn't likely meet on a normal day and we begin to facilitate a conversation that we all really need to have more of - both on and off this campus."

Indiana State faculty, students and staff began those frank discussions, some in small groups at tables while others took the stage to dialogue with everyone in the room about how diversity and inclusion have touched their lives as Sycamores.

"Everyone should feel they have a place on this campus and this was a way to connect people to each other and to resources available to them at Indiana State," said Indiana State's new vice president for student affairs Willie Banks. "We're showcasing students and asking for people to share their stories."

Wanting to ensure all students, faculty and staff feel connected to campus and have a voice, Banks made it his mission to host the social within his first few months on the job.

Sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs, Center for Global Engagement, and College of Graduate and Professional Studies, the Fall Diversity and Inclusion Social brought together a diverse group of students, faculty and staff to celebrate differences and similarities within the campus community.

It also offered students, like Bhavya Shyamala, a first-year graduate student from India, a chance to see the opportunities that are open to her as a Sycamore.

"I want to know more about the campus and the community because I want to be involved," Shyamala said, as she browsed with representatives from tables for the United Campus Ministries, ISU Counseling Center, It's On Blue initiative and the College of Graduate and Professional Studies.

"We have to be tolerant and bring awareness to campus to make sure no students, faculty and staff members feel like they are excluded," said Lynn Maurer, dean of the College of Graduate and Professional Studies.

To create an inclusive environment, a diverse community must be accepting and tolerant of each other's differences, said Lindsey Austin, a junior human development and family studies major from Noblesville.

After writing her definition on a paper leaf and posting it to a board beside others bearing definitions such as "one, caring, love variety, unity, unique, equal and all," Austin added: "We, first, have to recognize that we are different and it's a great thing. Then, we need to be tolerant of what makes us unique and embrace our differences."

For Loren Papin, a graduate student from Cincinnati, Ohio who is majoring in student affairs and higher education, diversity means addressing hard topics with everyone.

Those hard truths were offered by some international students, who addressed how their struggle for acceptance isn't always but it is worth fighting for in a place they now call ‘home'.

"(International students) want to be treated as more than cultural entertainers because we are Sycamores," said Esther Musau, a junior from the Congo. "ISU, I am asking one thing - put (international students) on your agenda."

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or