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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

African American Faculty and Staff Association wants to ‘sit at the table’ for university collaboration

Taliyah Winn
Members of the African American Faculty Staff Association pose for a photo.

The African American Faculty and Staff Association (AAFSA) has existed at Wichita State since the 1980s, but after the COVID-19 pandemic and university-wide staff retention issues, the group is restructuring to better represent itself on campus.

The association was established to represent and support Black faculty, staff, students and alumni at the university level.

Derrick Veasey, director of the Upward Bound Math Science program at Wichita State, serves as president of the association. He is planning a retreat in April for the association members to discuss and refine the organization’s direction and goals. 

“I wanted this group to have a retreat so we can relaunch our focus and our vision,” Veasey said. “I want to know what everyone’s vision is.”

The association works to provide a scholarship opportunity for WSU students every year. It fundraises money through events and mixers, and the university matches its contributions, allowing the group to provide larger scholarship sums for students.

While the group caters to the needs of Black staff and students, it values overall diversity at the university.

“It (the scholarship) isn’t just for African American students,” Karen Wright, the assistant director of TRIO services and academic adviser, said. 

The group has had issues with communication and collaboration within Wichita State due to the university’s size and the division of college operations. 

“There’s not a lot of collaboration from colleges — for example, College of Health Professions, Engineering, (and) Education,” Wright said. “We’ve reached out on several occasions at different times during different years to reach out and collaborate.”

AAFSA would also like more representation during orientation, where many incoming high school students decide whether Wichita State is the place for them.

“Some of the students are looking for, ‘Did I make the right decision? Do I stay here? Do I leave?’” Wright said. “We’re not included to sit at the table.”

In addition to a presence at orientation, the group wants to rebuild and strengthen partnerships and communication with student organizations such as the Black Student Union and the National Pan-Hellenic Council. 

“It’s easy to feel isolated — especially if you are the one and the only in your area,” Valerie Thompson, AAFSA treasurer and assistant professor in leadership and psychology education, said. “I know I am, and I know a lot of us are.” 

The lack of university representation also impacts Black staff. At the AAFSA’s February meeting, new member Chukwunenye Nweke said he had worked at the university as a mental health counselor for three years before hearing about the organization. 

“If you were looking at this university, and you saw no (Black) staff and didn’t know about this organization, you would go, ‘Wow, am I gonna fit in?’” Wilma Moore-Black said.

Moore-Black the AAFSA historian, retired Elliott School director and former KAKE reporter, said the pandemic heavily affected AAFSA. The group also lost important members during this time.

“If you lose a president, if you lose a treasurer and the secretary — those three key roles … that’s your money handling, that’s your memberships in a limbo,” Moore-Black said. 

But due to the executive board members’ work and dedication, Moore-Black said the group is healing, growing and here to stay.

One topic frequently on the group’s agenda is how to retain students and faculty of color at the university.

“That’s the magic question. We’d like to have more answers for ourselves,” Moore-Black said.

AAFSA is open and willing to have more conversations and collaborate with the WSU community. 

“If anyone is interested in being a part of our group, we are open arms for you to come and join,” Veasey said. 

The African American Faculty and Staff Association meets monthly at the Rhatigan Student Center. For more information, contact Veasey at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Taliyah Winn
Taliyah Winn, Assistant News Editor
Taliyah Winn is the assistant news editor for the Sunflower. She is a sophomore at WSU, double majoring in political science and journalism. In her spare time, Winn relaxes by drawing, weightlifting, and crocheting - usually while listening to music, YouTube videos, or Dungeons & Dragons podcasts. Winn uses she/her pronouns.

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