Shelby Perez promotes diversity, leadership and wellness on campus

For Shelby Perez, assistant director of inclusion and wellness programs, her job is all about the students. From Topeka, Kan., Perez began her college education at Washburn University and then transferred to Emporia State University, where she graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications.

During her college years, Perez liked to be involved with the groups and activities on campus, including the Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority and the American Sign Language (ASL) club.

Following her graduation, Perez attended graduate school. Perez worked as a graduate assistant in the Emporia State Center for Student Involvement. In graduate school, Perez received a Bachelor of Science in School Counseling. This got her involved in higher education and student affairs.

During her time at Emporia State, Perez oversaw the Community Hornets, which focused on community service and aided in managing a food pantry, where she also sat on the Food Security Coalition to fight for food security.

“My time with the Community Hornets is some of my favorite work that I’ve ever done,” Perez said.

Perez also interned at the Kansas School for the Deaf, with her final internship at Shawnee Heights High School, where she went to high school. Perez graduated from graduate school in May 2020.

Perez really wanted to work in a student affairs position near Lawrence. She began her work at Baker in at the start of the 2020 fall semester.

At Baker, one of the biggest parts of Perez’s job is advising Mungano, a multicultural organization, that strives for uniting people of different cultures. Perez also works with the KC Scholars, a program designed to offer scholarships to low or moderate-income adult learners in the Kansas City area, who have completed some college credits and plan on returning to school. Perez also taught an Interterm in January 2021 dedicated to teaching students ASL.

Vice President of Mungano Cheleia Marshall is impressed with Perez’s dedication to her job and the students of the University. The two frequently share laughs together while collaborating.

“She always has a smile on her face even on the snowiest of days,” Marshall said. “She is very determined and motivates me not only as a student but as a person.”

Marshall believes that Perez has immensely contributed to the Mungano organization.

“Shelby has changed the dynamic of Mungano,” Marshall said. “She has allowed for more inclusive activities.”

Marshall sums up her high opinion of Perez by saying, “I am very thankful that Shelby is a part of the Mungano family. She is an amazing person to learn from. She will definitely do great things, not only with Mungano but with the Baker community.”

Perez also works with the My Brother’s Keeper and My Sister’s Keeper programs, which help connect alumni to current Baker students. She also coordinates the Intramural sports programs at Baker.

Along with the inclusion aspect of her job, Perez also focuses on the wellness side. Perez releases information to students regarding STIs, provides condoms and is a huge proponent in students taking care of their mental health. Education about COVID-19 safety, substance use and mental health are all very important to Perez.

“I think all students should take advantage of the free counseling services that we have here. Because you can’t do well for yourself, your job and your academics if you aren’t well yourself,” Perez said.

To Perez, the most exciting part of her job is that no two days are ever the same. Along with working closely with Mungano, Perez loves working directly with students. Perez loves seeing students develop, especially when students take leadership positions and learn new skills.

During her time at Baker so far, one of Perez’s projects has been forming the Diversity Ambassadors. Perez’s goal through the Diversity Ambassadors is to connect the different diversity groups on campus, including Mungano, Total Equality Alliance (TEA) and Molcajete. Perez hopes that Diversity Ambassadors will provide more leadership opportunities for diverse individuals and groups on campus.

“We want to represent and show what inclusion looks like on Baker’s campus and to show prospective students that we are a diverse campus and are taking these steps to do a little bit more,” Perez said.

For Perez, her biggest goal during her time at Baker is to empower students.

“I really want to empower student leaders…especially the executive board of Mungano, and committee leaders, like the first-generation committee and all the committee leaders that we have,” Perez said. “I want to give them what they need to be successful.”

Prevention, Awareness and Campus Education (PACE) Project Coordinator Rachel Gadd-Nelson frequently collaborates with Perez, considering her to be a wonderful coworker. Gadd-Nelson and Perez work together on Wellness programs and events, as well as on Diversity & Equity projects.

Gadd-Nelson loves how student-centered Perez is.

“Everything she does, she does for students and is so incredible at keeping their needs at the forefront of the work that she’s doing and promoting on campus,” Gadd-Nelson said.

Along with working with Perez, Gadd-Nelson and Perez work together on planning iLead, Baker’s social justice event for students. The event is set to take place on Feb. 27.

The event will feature student presentations, group discussions, a student panel and staff presentations. The keynote speaker will be Bualong Ramirez-Hall, director of the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity at the University of Kansas.

Gadd-Nelson sees how committed Perez is to the students at Baker.

“Shelby’s position as Assistant Director of Inclusion and Wellness Programs is incredibly important, as it represents our University’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Gadd-Nelson said. “I think Shelby has particularly excelled in this by supporting the students in their work to make change here at Baker.”

Perez’s biggest inspiration is the students at Baker.

“What they inspire me to create next and what we can work on together inspires me,” Perez said.