MSU celebrates annual Diversity Dinner

The Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion hosted its 51st Annual Diversity Dinner on Friday where faculty, students and staff celebrated Minnesota State’s  diverse population.

Vice President for DEI Henry Morris said the dinners were started by his predecessor, Michael T. Fagin, when the population on campus was less diverse than today. When the first dinner was hosted, the university’s population of international students may have been about 1% and domestic students of color may have comprised about 2%.

“It was a way to highlight, let the university community know what’s happening with diversity in the region, what’s happening with diversity at Minnesota State,” said Morris. “Today, we want to celebrate our champions in diversity because there’s still a lot of pushback in the nation and the state about people questioning the need for equity, diversity and inclusion.”

After Morris gave an introductory speech to attendees, President Edward Inch opened the event by recognizing the work of the DEI and reminded about the main goals of Equity 2030.

“One is to make sure that every student that crosses our threshold and seeks education here will have an education that is equitable and will help spring them to success along the pathway that they choose,” said Inch.

Attendees had indigenous food prepared by guest chef Kim Brave Heart.

“It is crucial to pause and reflect on the roots of the culinary heritage, our connection to the land and the soil beneath our feet,” said Brave Heart. “Indigenous communities have developed a deep understanding of our local ecosystems, harnessing the richness of our native ingredients to create dishes that are not only delicious but viewed centuries of wisdom and tradition.”

Students from different backgrounds played music, danced and gave speeches during the event. One of the performances was a dance by the dance community Mexico Lindo.

“I’m here to represent Mexico Lindo, a dance community from the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Minneapolis, a group of children, youth and adults dedicated to maintaining the folklore dances of Mexico,” said freshman Kendra Hernandez. 

The keynote speaker for the event was Bukata Hayes, a vice president and chief equity officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. Hayes talked about addressing racism and its impact on health and invoked attendees to be proactive in solving issues in the community.

“I would say when we are courageous enough to continue to stand and speak to and declare our ideals,” said Hayes. “It provides a vacuum of source for someone to then say what we should not be able to enter a counter-narrative. And I think it’s important for us to continue to make those declarations plain and visible.”

Hayes said we need to think about the way people build systems of inclusion.

“How do we build systems of inclusion that will last as long as the systems of exclusion?” said Hayes. “The systems of exclusion we are currently in have lasted for centuries. If we think about how to lay the foundation, those systems of inclusion, those equitable systems we are trying to create will last as long as the systems of exclusion and inequity have lasted in our country.”

Attendees enjoyed seeing the diversity and feeling included.

“As a person who belongs to multiple minority groups, I felt like I was seen,” said senior Sachita Pokhrel. “I felt like I was included, which doesn’t happen a lot when you’re in a foreign country.”

Header photo: The Department of Diversity, Equity  and Inclusion hosted its 51st Annual Diversity Dinner on Friday, Feb, 9, 2024 at the CSU Ballroom. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)

Write to Amalia Sharaf at Amal.Sharafkhodjaeva@mnsu.edu

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