UNL’s Black Symposium helps future leaders


Almost everyone pictures themselves in a future they are proud of. It’s easy to imagine yourself in a position if the person holding it mirrors your image, but for others it may be hard to find someone that resembles them in their dream job. The UNL Black Diversity Leadership Symposium set out to conquer this issue by holding a seminar to help young black individuals see themselves in their ideal future.

On Nov. 6 the University of Nebraska-Lincoln held a Black Diversity Leadership Symposium for black students from Omaha and Lincoln. Their goal was to help students explore and build on their strengths and succeed in their future.

Seniors’  Black Symposium • Front Row: Nyayian Biel ’20, Davia King ’20, Malaika Opiyo ’20 and Zoey Armstead ’20. Back row: Nayah Mbilain ’20, Achay Kual ’20, Aker Ajak ’20, Agoum Monydhel ’20, Cori Davis ’20, Bri Eilderts ’20 and Amaya Bang Hendon ’20. Photo courtesy of Erica Steiner.

The symposium also showed the seniors what college looks like, and helped to break down the requirements needed to get into their college of choice. Several Marian girls attended the Symposium accompanied by Kris Hennings and Mary Steiner. Only black seniors were allowed on the trip.  The students who attended had a meeting with their counselor discussing the symposium and received a permission slip for their parents and teachers to sign. There was no money involved, being that the trip was free, which also included a lunch.

The day started with a registration and check-in, which then led to sessions and panels that ranged from student success advice to a panel focused around community engagement. They also hosted sessions to focus on individual student’s future academic paths. This helped students learn more about their individual fields of interest, and see if UNL fits their plans.

Senior Agoum Monydhel described a panel she enjoyed. “They discussed pre-law and the different opportunities you have at UNL if you study law, which is interesting.”

Senior Nyayian Biel enjoyed the overall setup. “I enjoyed choosing where I got to go because we weren’t forced inside one big room and had to stay there the whole time. We got to walk around and experience UNL,” Biel said.

There were several amazing panels, but the day also gave insight to campus life. Senior Brianna Eilderts said she enjoyed learning about the students and teachers experience explaining , “It was good to see what college was really like and see the good and bad things about it, and to hear people’s opinions on it.”

Senior Malaika Opiyo said she also enjoyed experiencing campus life, describing her favorite part of the day, “I really enjoyed seeing the food court and learning about Greek life and the sororities.”

The teachers and faculty at the symposium also contributed to the girls’ day. “It was nice to be surrounded  by people who wanted to uplift me in the right direction, and I was surrounded by leaders that looked like me,” senior Achay Kual said.

The symposium gave the students long term lessons they  can carry throughout their whole life. “The main thing I took away was that because we’re different we shouldn’t see ourselves as inferior,” Monydhel said “But in my mind because we’re different, we’re unique, not inferior. We’re all unique so we should use that to promote, not demote.”

“I learned to not back down from what you want. A doctor there talked about how you should never let someone else’s opinion of you sway your dreams, and you should go for everything you want because it might just come to you,” Biel said.

Opiyo also explained the importance of the day stating, “It was important for me to go so I could see just how diverse a campus like UNL could be.”

The UNL Black Diversity Leadership Symposium helped show students what they are capable of and how their future is in their hands. Students learned more about the importance of diversity in and out of the classroom, as well as in their future and everyday lives.

The symposium helped to show if someone looks around and doesn’t see someone who represents them they should try not to feel too discouraged, but instead inspired to make a difference. Kual expressed this idea stating, “With leadership and diversity you can’t be discouraged if a ton of people don’t look like you. You can be apart of the change to build a community that looks like you and does stand for what you believe in. It can start with one and not with many.”

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