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The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Interim executive director of student engagement wants ODI to be ‘home away from home’

With Gabriel Fonseca as the interim executive director of student engagement, he is now temporarily the lead of three departments: the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI); Student Engagement, Advocacy and Leadership (SEAL); and Student Government Association (SGA).

Fonseca stepped into his new role shortly before the fall 2023 semester, following the departure of ODI director Harold Wallace III.

At the ODI Open House on Wednesday, Fonseca told The Sunflower that things have been going well for the past six weeks. Fonseca said he can balance leading the three offices with a “great team” in place and support from each department and Teri Hall, the vice president of Student Affairs.

“Thankfully, so far, there’s so many people in the offices really being able to allow some new leadership in SEAL to kind of focus there, (and) leadership in SGA and ODI to help restart some things and rebuild some things,” Fonseca said.

Starting his 10th year in higher education this fall, Fonseca has previously served as the Student Involvement assistant director, SGA assistant director and Student Involvement interim director. Before taking temporary charge of the three departments, he has been SEAL director since January 2022.

With Fonseca’s connection to ODI as a facilitator for Men of Excellence, an ODI program supporting men of color at Wichita State, Fonseca said he was excited to have the chance to invest more into the office.

“It’s the next piece of my career that I’m excited to have the opportunity to work in and do something different, while kind of helping ODI to expand its work a little bit differently,” Fonseca said.

Fonseca said he plans to prioritize what students need from ODI, hosting a listening session with students, faculty, staff and others interested in “this kind of work.”

 “Kind of think about, if we could start from scratch, what would that look like?” Fonseca said. 

Fonseca also wants to ensure that students feel like ODI is “a home away from home” for them, noting that that desire extends to programming for Latinx, Black and LGBTQ students.

“But (I’m) also really thinking about when we talk about diversity and inclusion and how kind of everyone fits into that boat … and can feel connected to it,” Fonseca said. 

When asked about including programming for disabled students, Fonseca said that’s “definitely an aspect that’s been missing” from ODI. He said he hopes to use his listening sessions as an “opportunity for all students,” including disabled students and other groups on campus.

“I’m looking forward to being able to learn from those (planned listening) sessions of what students need,” Fonseca said. “And to think about, what does our programming look like for our disabled individuals and students on campus? What does our services look like for other populations of campus that definitely need that resource and that support?”

Along with Fonseca, the ODI has four other new staffers this year: Christian Shepherd, an academic coordinator who runs Promoting Academic Student Success (PASS); Jillian Belden, who does LGBTQ+ programming; Cameron Morgan, who runs Black Excellence and Men of Excellence; and Dhristy Hossain, who does marketing.

Shepherd, who also attended the ODI Open House, said she hopes to help with the student retention rate through PASS and support students’ academic process. She also has enjoyed being around her new co-workers.

“We all get along really well,” Shepherd said. “There’s a lot of fun energy in the office, so I think we feel good.”

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About the Contributors
Courtney Brown
Courtney Brown, News Editor
Courtney Brown is one of the news editors for The Sunflower. She previously worked as a reporter and assistant news editor. Brown uses she/her pronouns.
Kristy Mace
Kristy Mace, Photo Editor
Kristy Mace is the photo editor for The Sunflower. She's majoring in psychology. Currently a junior, Mace hopes to go on to get her Ph.D. and become a neuropsychologist. She also plays for Wichita State's bowling team and does professional photography aside from The Sunflower.
Lee Frank
Lee Frank, Former photographer
Lee Frank was a photographer for The Sunflower.

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  • J

    JoeSep 5, 2023 at 3:30 pm

    The student in the photo is Valeria, not Valerie. ODI already includes the word “Office.” Fonseca was not just the assistant director for SGA, he served as the Association Advisor.