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Connection groups promote campus inclusion

KOSUKE YOSHII / ANTELOPE STAFF The Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion offers resources for LGBTQ+ students.

UNK’s Connection groups offer resources for faculty, staff and students. The group’s intentions are for the existing needs of international, LGBTQ+, veteran and service members among UNK’s community.

“Regardless of the membership, these groups promote a sense of belonging and facilitate communication about areas of concern to the UNK administration,” said Dr. Maha Younes, social work professor and Chief Diversity Officer.

As the Chief Diversity Officer, Younes supports them and addresses campus improvements to support their needs for equity and inclusion.

The NU Executive Memorandum 33, which was established in 2019 encouraged universities to implement employee resource groups for those who share a common identity, provide leadership to voice concerns about community needs and policies and seek an inclusive diverse workforce.

These groups were created by Dr. Ryan Teten, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. The current groups are called International and Intercultural Connection, LGBTQ+ Connection and Veteran and Service Members Connection. They met separately this last week on March 1-3.

“Dr. Teten and I decided that these groups can benefit the campus as a whole and decided to move them from the college-level to the campus-wide community level,” Younes said.

International and Intercultural Connection group is for all ethnically diverse UNK students and employees as well as non-ethnic allies who are dedicated supporters for the ethnically minority Lopers.

The group has been active in identifying curriculum challenges and has been creating partnerships and opportunities with universities and colleges abroad. They aim to promote a sense of community by recruiting and retaining faculty and staff that reflect diverse demographics and adapt to more inclusive policies for curriculum. 

LGBTQ+ Connection group is for any members of the LGBTQ+ campus community as well as friends and family members of LGBTQ+ individuals.

This group was part of the beginning of the CAS Critical Conversation series where UNK presents on issues brought to their attention. In Oct. 2021, CAS presented Destigmatizing and Seeking Help for Student Mental Health and Wellness by Kiphany Hof. The connection group was also part of representing Christianity in the LGBTQ+ community and discussing suggested bias and pronoun use. The goal for this group is to promote inclusion of UNK’s LGBTQ+ community.

Veteran and Service Members Connection group was created to support UNK community members who have served or continue to serve in the military and for anyone else that supports issues raised to service members. 

This group was involved with the opening of the UNK Veteran’s Center. They work to solve curriculum challenges for deployed members, address the obstacles service member families face and present issues of mental health, suicide and PTSD.

These groups are run by the members and they elect leaders who schedule meetings and share relevant information with the campus.

“We hope that these groups continue to grow and to meet monthly or bimonthly, whichever they decide, and hope to see other groups emerge in response to identified needs,” Younes said. “The focus is always on ensuring campus openness and inclusivity.”

Interested individuals can look for their meeting schedule on the UNK Calendar of Events. Attending a meeting is the best way to learn about these groups.

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