ODI named leader in diversity by Wichita Business Journal

Wichita State’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion has been recognized for their commitment to advocacy for unrepresented groups on campus and in the community.

The Wichita Business Journal — a weekly print and digital publication — named ODI one of its Leaders in Diversity for 2016, alongside Equity Bank and Exploration Place, as well as several individuals from the Wichita community.

The award, which is in its second year of existence, celebrates those who have “demonstrated respect or inclusive treatment for others, advocacy for unrepresented groups and a commitment to the advancement of cultural diversity in the Wichita business community,” WBJ editor Bill Roy said in a written announcement.

ODI program coordinator Danielle Johnson said she sees this as one of the more significant endorsements the organization has received.

“I feel like it’s pretty prestigious and it’s a great honor,” Johnson said. “It’s good for us to see that they’re looking at diversity and taking it seriously.”

ODI offers mentoring programs for underrepresented students and diversity training for prospective allies in the social justice cause. The office has also brought speakers to visit WSU, like actress and transgender activist Laverne Cox and anti-racist writer Tim Wise.

The office itself is also a popular hangout spot and something of a safe space on campus for marginalized students. Johnson said those at ODI feel vindicated by this recognition of their efforts.

“I think diversity work is a daunting task,” Johnson said. “To see that we are receiving this recognition for the hard work we’re putting in is very validating.”

Johnson also said validation comes from seeing the effects of ODI’s work on a daily basis at WSU.

“When we are helping to shape and change opinions, when students are working with other students they would never have worked with because of their own preconceived notions,” Johnson said, “I think that is a testament to the work that we’re doing.”

While ODI has come a long way in recent years, Johnson acknowledged there is still work to be done. She said the long-term goal is to create a student and faculty population that takes serious action to affect change for racial minorities, those in the LGBTQ community, and any other marginalized groups, instead of just promoting diversity as a talking point.

“We want to start being more impactful,” Johnson said. “We want to do more applied learning so that when anyone walks in our door, they walk away with the ability to create change, to mobilize people and to work with others that are nothing like them.”