- Associated Press - Friday, November 27, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Universities around the state - and the nation - have recently grappled with concerns about lack of inclusion and representation of different voices on campus. One of the ways Washburn University has addressed this is through its Diversity Committee, which held an event entitled “Other Stories.”

Event moderator Nick Marshall said the purpose of the forum, which is held each semester, is to promote conversations about diversity in a safe environment on campus.

“It’s a really powerful event,” Marshall said.

The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/1Omv0Tj ) reports that four people shared their stories with an audience of about 25 people.

Corey Boehmer, who was diagnosed with autism in fourth grade, spoke about being disabled. He suffered a stroke in utero that affected the left side of his body.

“People made fun of me all the time,” he said.

However, he describes himself as “spiritual” and said he learned to forgive.

As a child, Francisca Alonyo witnessed rebels from Joseph Kony’s army killing and raping people, some of whom were family members, in her village in northern Uganda.

Alonyo later won the visa lottery, enabling her to come to the U.S. One thing she doesn’t understand about living here is how some people can complain about minor problems.

As a student in the nursing department, Alonyo said she is a living testimony of diversity at Washburn.

Sociology professor Sangyoub Park said food is an easy way to experience a different culture and can be a good conversation starter. He spoke about some of the differences in food in South Korea, where he was raised, and the United States.

Music is another route into diversity. Martha Placeres told the audience she became interested in music around the age of 7 in Puebla, Mexico. Her family, many of whom were musicians, pitched in money to help buy a violin for her. Since there were limited programs in Mexico for conducting - especially for women - she came to the United States to continue her studies.

Placeres noted the music she has played was created by composers from around the world.

The forum was held at Washburn’s Mabee Library.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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