Mabee celebrates campus diversity

Tales of Diversity Washburn students and staff share their personal stories of triumph over discrimination. The Mabee Library hosted the “Tales of Diversity” event on November 14, 2011 as part of the Washburn Diversity Initiative.

Brad Pechanec / Washburn Review

Diversity. It is such a strong word that can take on several different meanings. 

Jinato Hu, the current leader of the People’s Republic of China defined diversity as “a basic characteristic of human society, and also the key condition for a lively and dynamic world as we see today.”  That quote mostly represents what the third Annual “Tales of Diversity” from the Washburn community segment did.

On Monday, the Diversity Initiative group sponsored the event for a large crowd of students, faculty and members of the community at Mabee Library. 

This year’s segment included a wide variety of speakers that conquered diversity. Luke Eeinsell, a student at Washburn University spoke about his experiences with being homeless. He had a very good job, but he lost it and that caused him to lose his home. 

“I felt shameful and that was a very traumatic experience,” said Eeinsell. “The hardest part was admitting that you were in that situation.”

Bassima Schbley, a social work professor, told her tale of hard times in Lebanon.  Schbley was not allowed the freedom to go wherever she wanted to or go to school. That all changed when she met her husband. 

“I looked at it as an opportunity to have freedom from confinements of Lebanon and my house,” said Schbley. “My husband encouraged me to pursue an education. He changed my life.”

Jason Drinker, a student teacher told an emotional story about growing up poor with his grandparents. Drinker was able to conquer the diversity to pursue his dream of teaching. 

“We lived in very harsh conditions and didn’t have the finer things in life like city water and indoor bathrooms,” said Drinker.

Another professor, Brian Ogawa, talked about his heritage. Ogawa’s name originates from Japan, where family preservation is more important than family diversity.  In 1924, Ogawa’s father immigrated to the United States where he worked in a potato field to survive. The workers at the fields would call him Frank because they could not pronounce his real name. However, his last name still stuck and went on to the next generation as Ogawa.

Briel Stenaker was the next to share her story.

“Ever since I was younger, I have had an obsession with Military History,” said Stenaker, who recently joined the National Guard.

Stenaker did not really know her true calling in life until becoming inspired by a friend.  However, it is not at all easy being a female in the military.

“Higher ranked officers don’t take you seriously when you are a female lieutenant,” said Stenaker. “You have to stay strong.”

Issac  Fisher and Shelby Jeffrey, both Washburn students, were the last two to go. Fisher told audience members about his rough journey of coming out about his sexuality.

Jeffrey, who was adopted,  never really knew who she  was until she went to her first Native American Pow Wow and discovered who she really was.

The stories by these individuals touched everyone’s hearts.  They made them laugh and cry. The speakers truly inspired everyone in the room to not give up, no matter the situation.

To tell a story about diversity or to take part in the Diversity Initiative, go to washburn.edu/diversity or facebook.com/wudiversity.