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Someone You Should Know: SDSU Chief Diversity Officer strives to create inclusion in Brookings

Published: Nov. 4, 2020 at 4:00 PM CST
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BROOKINGS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Kas Williams has been the Chief Diversity Officer at South Dakota State University in Brookings since 2014. Her favorite part of the job is working with students.

“Watching their growth, they come here. They’re nervous. They’re not sure what SDSU is going to be like, and a lot of them come and say, ‘Wow I’m glad there’s a space like the Multicultural Center,’” Williams said.

Sometimes, she works directly with the students. But other times, she works with their professors and people they come in contact with, like police officers.

“When you’re in a town or space like this, it’s important that diversity and inclusion is a collaborative effort with both the community and the university,” she said. “Because we can train our students, talk to our students about certain things, but they live in a Brookings community. So how do we work hand in hand in doing those particular things?”

The dean of the Van D. and Barbara Fishback Honors College, Becky Bott-Knutson, is one person Williams works with. Bott-Knutson said she walks away from conversations with Williams feeling happier and with more attention on the good in the world.

“I go to her and seek mentorship on how to make sure that we are providing a safe and welcoming environment for everybody apart of this community,” Bott-Knutson said.

This is what keeps Williams in Brookings. She’s originally from Louisiana, and her friends often ask her when she’s moving back.

“And my answer to them is quite frankly, I’m needed here. The work that we need to do are in these spaces, especially in the Midwest, because a lot of our students aren’t exposed to people who are different from them,” Williams said.

Williams also started Jack’s Cupboard at SDSU, which is the food pantry on campus.

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