Delali Neonene, class of 2020, has a special gift to ask keen questions that reach shared solutions to challenges facing our community. As one of the two students on the University of Dayton's task force on diversity and inclusion, he has been at the forefront of asking critical questions of our University community as we strive to develop a comprehensive strategic plan that will enhance our excellence and our impact as an engaged, comprehensive research university. As a member of the Student Government Association since his freshman year, Delali created a program focused on the creation of difficult-but important-conversations. He brought together student leaders from all backgrounds, organizations, and perspectives for a series of conversations about challenging topics including race and the political climate in our country and found ways to enable a productive civil discourse. Delali does not just ask questions; he listens closely to his peers and those around him. Delali takes action by building a common vision.
My motivation for combating societal injustice stems from my upbringing. My father is a Ghanaian immigrant who instilled the values of justice, understanding and an empathy for all people in my life. After transferring from an inner-city high school to a suburban high school, I observed a great lack of understanding which created ideological differences. The only way for individuals to learn and accept one another is through dialogue rather than engaging in hate driven arguments. When I arrived at the University of Dayton, this issue was again apparent within the student body on issues pertaining to race, gender, and the political climate of the country. To facilitate a safe space where individuals could participate in meaningful dialogue, I created an event called Tough Talks. In this event, we used clips from films and television shows that depict racial, sexist, and political issues that occur on our campus. Along with Tough Talks, I have also worked to create a new cultural module that all incoming first-year students take as part of the University of Dayton experience. This "UDiversity" module includes scenarios of prevalent issues that occur to racial minorities, LGBTQ+ students, and international students on our campus.