UE student to host panels on diversity, experiences


Photo courtesy of Summer El-Khodary

Summer El-Khodary will moderate the first panel titled “Living in America” Dec. 9 from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Media Suite at Innovation Point at 318 Main Street.

Summer El-Khodary is planning events to invigorate her love of spreading diversity.

The senior public health major at the University of Evansville is hosting a series of discussion panels called “Cultural Communications” on Dec.19, Feb. 20 and April 9, from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Media Suite at Innovation Point. 

The first panel will be called “Living in America” and will be focused on the perspectives of first and second-generation immigrants and international students. The topics of the other panels have yet to be decided.

El-Khodary said she is usually a shy person, but decided to branch out due to her many personal frustrations with instances she’s had working with patients, co-workers and other students at a mostly white college. She became interested in spreading diversity when she brought activist Isra Chaker to speak at UE in April. El-Khodary found out that Chaker was offering to speak at universities through social media. 

El-Khodary said she follows a lot of people on Instagram that wear hijabs and headscarves because she doesn’t get to see a lot of people who look like her in media. Bringing Chaker to campus started her love of stirring diverse conversations and answering questions people have and let them learn about identity.

“I’d rather have people ask questions than not know,” El-Khodary said.

El-Khodary got the idea for the discussion panels after she pitched the idea for a Culture Fest for the University of Evansville Community Changemaker challenge. Her idea for the event would include panels and when she failed to get funding for the event she decided to focus on the panels because she wanted people to learn more about diversity on a deeper level by seeing the experiences of people. 

El-Khodary’s panels will include five people of different races, ethnicities, ages and cultures to talk about different perspectives on a topic with her moderating the first one in December.

I want a platform of multiple people being able to talk about their experiences rather than hearing one perspective…I want people of all different races, ethnicities, religions to be able to showcase their feelings and to showcase their stories because it’s not just me that’s struggling and it’s not just those people that have stories,” El-Khodary said. “Everyone has stories to tell so, through a panel that’s the best way I thought we would be able to get the best representation.”

El-Khodary said organizing the event has been much more work than she expected. She learned that if you really want to make something happen, you have to contact people. She said she wants people to come to the panels that haven’t gone to events like them before since they’re the ones who need to hear the messages.

El-Khodary said students can promotive diversity at USI by including diverse people in social gatherings, conversations and making them feel a part of the campus community. She said she gets excluded from conversations because of what people think of her and how she looks so it’s important to do research and to start a conversation to see commonalities between people rather than seeing what’s different.

“Just because I look like this, doesn’t mean I’m not somebody to talk to or I’m not another person who could be your friend,” El-Khodary said.

She said she really enjoyed the process of the event because she’s had a dream for years to start her own business and this event is the start of her pursuing a project from scratch. She hopes to do something bigger, like a series, one day and maybe start consulting different organizations and groups on diversity.

Zuha Adeel has been friends with El-Khodary since middle school and she currently works as a Research Associate in Brooklyn, New York. Adeel was brought in to help design posters, flyers and create branding that reflected El-Khodary’s vision. 

 “(El-Khodary) is one of the most impressive people I know,” Adeel said. “She’s a very big dreamer. She doesn’t let anyone quiet her down or squish her voice or her dreams and I really admire that about her.”

She said the importance of the event is keeping an open mind, discussion and hearing other people’s voices.

El-Kodary said everyone, college students included, should come to the event because they need to learn how to deal with people from different backgrounds and be decent human beings by learning about the struggles of people not like them.

The event will be free with refreshments provided and an opportunity for a Q&A at the end.

“(Students) should just come out to this event to broaden their world view and to hear the stories of diverse people and to try to resonate and see the similarities between us rather than the differences,” El-Khodary said.