Graduate Student Raises Awareness

May 5 2006

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - With a can-do attitude, a friendly smile and a clear goal in mind, one Indiana State University student dedicated herself to educating campus on the importance of diversity while pursuing her master's degree.

Along the way, Katherine Betts earned the trust and friendship of those around her and learned more about herself.

"I've become a more aware and tolerant person," she said.

Betts, who will receive a master's degree in student affairs/higher education, came to the Hoosier state from California through a Minority Undergraduate Fellowship, which turned into a fulltime job at Vincennes University. When funding for her position ran out, she decided to pursue graduate school as a springboard into a career in student affairs.

Fate stepped in during her application process, leading her to ISU. In looking at ISU's Student Affairs/Higher Education program, she was impressed at its emphasis on multiculturalism, something not found in all programs.

When she visited campus, things fell into place.

"I liked the department and the atmosphere of the student union immediately," she recalled. "It was meant for me to be here."

Betts said ISU has given her numerous opportunities to learn and grow professionally and has made accommodations in order for her to do that.

"I've had the freedom to be me. I truly feel comfortable," she said.

Betts credits Denise Collins and Will Barratt with the Student Affairs/Higher Education program; Susan Moss and LaNeeca Williams in the office of Diversity and Affirmative Action and the staff of Student Affairs for giving her that comfort level which enabled her to achieve success.

"I learned different things from all of them," she said.

As part of her coursework, Betts worked as a graduate assistant in Student Affairs.

"I've had a lot of wonderful experiences and have worked with great people as a graduate assistant in Student Activities and Organizations. I've learned a lot about student programming," Betts said.

The Memphis, Tenn,, native assisted with planning the Black Leadership Conference and greek conferences, advised Greek Life and Union Board, Homecoming and Spring Week committees. She has been active in the Ebony Majestic Choir and the graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha.

While she learned programming skills, students and staff learned a lot from her.

Freda Luers, associate director of Student Activities and Organizations, said, "The students have worked well with Katherine. I have observed many of our students who were unsure of how to assist or approach her at the beginning of the academic year now feel very comfortable with 'jumping in to lend a hand' if needed."

Luers said Betts has helped the organization become stronger.

"She is able to bring ideas about programs to the students for them to consider. In addition to her love of planning activities, she is also able to be used as a resource by the students who are planning events to make sure all of our students are welcomed and have accessibility to the programs," Luers said.

Betts has served as both an inspiration and valuable resource person to the students on ISU's Union Board.

"Kathleen has taught me a lot about diversity and dedication. Working with her has been a wonderful experience because she has taught me so much about working with all kinds of people," said Megan Anderson, incoming Union Board president.

Maulik Khatadia, 2005-2006 Union Board president, said Betts has made her mark on the student organization.

"Katherine has influenced Union Board just by being a great graduate advisor and being available to the students."

Khatadia said Betts' work with two Union Board committees, the newly-formed Community Service and the Multicultural Committee, has resulted in new activities.

"With her help, they were able to bring some new programming to Union Board, one which was enjoyed by students tremendously was the Salsa dancing lessons," he added.

Not only has Betts made a difference in the lives of students, she's also served as an educator to campus in the areas of diversity and multiculturalism.

She's had to face number of challenges along the way, including the design and layout of campus, social and cultural barriers and being a person of color with a visual impairment.

"Whether I've wanted to or not, I've had to be a catalyst for change," she said.

Her role as a catalyst entailed presentations on diversity and challenging normal operating procedures. In the end, she's helped ISU accept that persons with disabilities represent diversity on campus.

"The campus should be designed to be inclusive and welcoming for all regardless of background or abilities," she said.

But Betts doesn't feel she was saddled with an unreasonable burden.

"Everybody has challenges. You have good days and you have bad days," she said, adding the good outnumber the bad in her case.

Betts has set a lofty goal for her future. After walking across the stage on Saturday, she will enter the workforce to get additional experience in student affairs to ensure greater opportunities.

Her dream job?

"I'd like to be director of multicultural affairs at a large public institution," she said.

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Writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications & Marketing, (812) 237-3783 or devmeyer@isugw.indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

With a can-do attitude, a friendly smile and a clear goal in mind, one Indiana State University student dedicated herself to educating campus on the importance of diversity while pursuing her master's degree.

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