Saturday was the big day for many Kansas State students—graduation day. But Friday night, in a much more intimate setting, graduating seniors, faculty members and alumni celebrated multicultural involvement and relationships during a celebration at the KSU Alumni Center.
Jessica Elmore, assistant director of multicultural programs for the K-State Alumni Association, said the multicultural graduation celebration is open to all multicultural students and their families.
“It’s a way for us to congratulate them on such a wonderful accomplishment and also to introduce them to the alumni association,” Elmore said. “This is just a way for us to say we appreciate the culture you bring to campus and the diversity that you bring.”
Elmore said it was the first year the celebration was the Friday before commencement, so the students’ families could take part. She said it’s a great way for grads to make connections with alumni and reflect on their time at K-State.
“It becomes emotional sometimes for some of the students when they think about their time here,” Elmore said.
The celebration also recognizes four students, nominated by Multicultural Alumni Council, with a multicultural leadership award. Brandon Hall, a senior in marketing and leadership studies, was one of the four recipients.
Hall was a former president and executive board member of the Black Student Union and chair of the Big 12 Council on Black Student Government. He was also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, a historically black fraternity, and the Mortar Board senior honor society.
“I think it developed me as a person,” Hall said of his involvement in the multicultural community at K-State. “When I first came here to K-State, I didn’t know how to tie a tie. I didn’t own a suit. I was a really quiet kid; I was shy.”
Hall’s involvement taught him to work with other people and how to be a leader. He said it also allowed him the opportunity to travel and be an ambassador for the university. But of all his experiences, Hall said serving as president for the Black Student Union was probably the most memorable because it was his first leadership role.
“Prior to that I had never really been involved at college or high school,” Hall said. “It was hard, it was nerve-wracking, but it definitely allowed me to learn a lot of things about myself.”
But as Elmore noted, the night was not just for students.
Ian Bautista, president of the non-profit United Neighborhood Centers of America and former K-State student; and David Brown, an architect, attended the event in their roles on Multicultural Alumni Council.
“We’re here to serve in an advisory role and in an active role to help re-energize, or re-engage, alumni constituencies of color,” Bautista said.
Brown said their goal is to see how how multicultural alumni can make a contribution to the university.
“Many people of color, for one reason or another, are slow at coming back to support the university,” Brown said.
He said the council is beginning to brainstorm events that will attract not only alumni but also current students.
“After students graduate, they figure they’re done, so it’s kind of hard to get across the fact that we really still do need you to help with future students,” Brown said.
But Bautista and Brown both remember what it was like to be students at K-State.
“I found Manhattan to be a little bit of a cultural adaptation, coming from Kansas City, Kansas, but really felt warmly welcomed,” Bautista said.
Bautista said Pat Bosco, the current vice president for student life and dean of students, convinced him K-State was the right place for him. After that, he got involved with student government, the Hispanic American Leadership Organization and a fraternity.
Brown came to K-State as a first-generation college student and had not heard much about college life.
“Things were much different then, but there was a network of African-American students and advisers who helped us navigate through basically being at a white school,” Brown said.
Both said they were just happy to be present to see students celebrate such a major accomplishment.
“This is what it’s all about when students are able to cross the goal line,” Bautista said.
Hall said it’s an amazing feeling.
“It’s a huge milestone in my life,” Hall said. “I’m the second person in my family to get a college degree, so it’s just a proud moment for me and for my friends who are here to support me.”