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My MLK Reflections, One Year Later | A Letter from Mykala Sandifer

Mykala Sandifer, Director of Inclusive Programs and Talent Development at KU Alumni, shares her thoughts on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

A year ago today, when we last honored the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I shared my excitement along with my aspirations for how the KU Alumni Association could start to intentionally engage in the work of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. As the articles, blogs and social media posts began to fill my timelines, I noticed that so much of what was being shared centered the famous “I Have a Dream” speech. This historic speech has continued to be a focal point in how we’ve been taught to understand the essence of Dr. King and how his life should serve as an inspiration for us to seek unity.   

This year, I want to challenge each of us to move beyond the “dream.” Use the dream as a guiding light, while coupling it with action. My message this year is simple: Aim for progress over perfection.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. devoted his life to advocating for the progress of unity for all people. I’ve struggled this past year personally to really feel a sense of accomplishment as we began to analyze and understand the work we as an Association need to do to propel toward a more inclusive and equitable experience for our students and alumni. I’ve felt the weight of this work, and while there is still much to do, I’m proud of the progress we’re making. Some of these actions include: 

  • Culture & Values: We intentionally started at the foundational level to ensure alignment across the organization in who we are and what we value. We wanted to reposition ourselves as campus partners committed to inclusion and belonging and for that commitment to be reflected in our values. Through collective leadership across the organization, we refreshed our values: 
Mykala Sandifer
    • Appreciate the Unique: We empower our community to authentically shine. We believe that differences are strengths, all humanity has value, and all Jayhawks belong. 
    • Cultivate the Core: We co-construct shared experiences and memories extending from KU to our global community, connected by what it means to be a Jayhawk. 
    • Fuel the Future: We bravely reimagine the future together and boldly innovate to continue raising the standard for Jayhawk Excellence. 

The outcome we’re after is a culture in which all Jayhawks experience a sense of belonging and are valued by their KU community. 

  • The Jayhawk Welcome Center: The Jayhawk Welcome Center will be a physical representation of what we want all of campus to feel like for our future and current students, alumni, and Jayhawks from all walks of life. We want inclusion and belonging to live at the center of the experience felt by everyone who comes to our campus. We hope this Welcome Center will be a pivotal part of the KU experience, so students can envision themselves as future alumni and for alumni to feel a strong sense of pride in what it means to be a Jayhawk.  
  • Student Engagement: Our students are the future of our Alumni Association and the ways we engage them during their time here is critical to how they remember us and stay connected once they leave the nest. We have been focused on creating diverse experiences to engage our students across KU’s campus. We have introduced more inclusive programs this past academic year and been intentional in our recruitment efforts to find student leaders to help us meet and engage with students where they are. As a result, we’ve recruited the most diverse Student Alumni Endowment Board to date.  

As we continue to progress the work of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging as an Association, I continue to be inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and leave you with his words: 

“For all too long, we have had silent onlookers, but now there must be more involved participants who solve this problem and get rid of this one huge wrong of our nation. There must be a kind of divine discontent.”  

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