Husker Dialogues: Q&A with Carlos Ortega

Thursday, August 10, 2023 Husker Dialogues: Q&A with Carlos Ortega

Carlos Ortega [Photo by Craig Chandler, University Communication]

The annual Husker Dialogues is happening from 7 to 8:30 p.m. September 6 in the Coliseum. All first-year students are expected to participate in this community-building activity. Students will hear from their Husker peers before breaking out into small groups with conversation guides about how to build an inclusive campus for everyone. Meet one of the Husker Dialogues speakers, Carlos Ortega.

Carlos Ortega, a senior Secondary Education Social Sciences student from Lincoln, Nebraska works diligently in his academics and extracurricular activities to build a more inclusive campus. As a Husker Dialogues Speaker, Carlos hopes to empower first-year students to build confidence and a community of belonging.

What drew you to become a Husker Dialogues speaker?

"I first have Dr. Amanda Morales to thank for playing a role in me becoming a Husker Dialogues speaker. Not only was she one of the people that impacted me in a positive way back in freshman year, but she personally introduced me to Charlie Foster while I was representing the Future Teachers of Color RSO at the Club Fair last year. Charlie Foster later reached out encouraging me to apply to become a Husker Dialogues speaker. I came in as a freshman in the year 2020, which was a year in which Husker Dialogues were not held in person. There is something powerful about face-to-face connection, and I want to make sure that the incoming students know every possible resource that is in their toolbelt to propel them to success."

Explain why Husker Dialogues is such an important event on campus.

"Husker Dialogues fosters inclusivity, it helps build community, which in turn creates a positive campus culture. Something that may be overseen is that Husker Dialogues extends beyond the event itself. The lessons and connections made during their dialogues continue to influence students’ perspectives, behavior, and interactions throughout their time at the university and beyond."

Who or what inspired you to become involved in organizations and events such as Husker Dialogues?

"As a Secondary Education major, my career path is centered around young individuals. I understand how important it is to create a supportive and inclusive environment for anyone, especially during formative years. Seeing firsthand how impactful orientation programs and events can shape students’ perspectives, Husker Dialogues stood out to me as something that aligned with my educational aspirations."

Explain why it is important to learn and connect with Huskers from all different backgrounds.

"One of the core principles of university is to prepare its students for the real world. It is important to interact with individuals from various backgrounds because that exposes us to diverse perspectives, experiences, and viewpoints. In return, this broadens our understanding of the world and helps us develop a more comprehensive and empathetic outlook. "

What does having “brave conversations” mean to you?

"Having “brave conversations” to me means embracing open and honest dialogue about challenging or sensitive topics, even when it may be uncomfortable or difficult to do so. It is an opportunity for growth and learning for all parties involved."

What is the best way for students to build connections on campus?

"The best way for students to build connections on campus is to reach out. That can be seen in a variety of differing ways. For example, that first week of classes, everyone is trying to adjust to their new schedules. Make friends in your classes, introduce yourself to your professors, and start thinking about joining Recognized Student Organizations. If you connect with one person, they have the ability to connect you with another person, and it becomes this ripple effect that can benefit you personally and professionally."

Who inspires you?

"My mother inspires me. For most of my life, my mom was a single mother taking care of me and my younger sister. I have lived the hardships that she was faced with, and she managed to propel herself and her two children forward in times of distress and depression. I aspire to have the same tenacity that she possesses, and I look up to her in many ways."

What steps are important to you to build an inclusive campus for everyone?

"There are many steps that I believe are important in building an inclusive campus for everyone, these are my tops ones:

  1. Promote Diversity: Actively recruit and support students, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds to foster a vibrant and representative campus community.
  2. Celebrate Diversity: Organize events, cultural celebrations, and awareness campaigns that celebrate diversity and educate the campus community about different cultures and identity.
  3. Accessible Facilities and Services: Ensure that campus facilities and services are accessible and inclusive, accommodating the needs of all students, including those with disabilities.
  4. Collaborate with Community Partners: Partner with local organizations and community groups to leverage resources and support initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion beyond the campus.
  5. Continuous Learning and Improvement: encourage ongoing learning and self-reflection among all stakeholders to ensure a commitment to continuous improvement and a culture of inclusivity."

How have your campus involvements shaped your collegiate experience?

"My campus involvements have been one of the various things that have kept me afloat through hard times. I get to exude my passion for music through Varsity Men's Chorus, the Amahl Opera every December, as well as when I was in Big Red Singers. I am constantly being lifted by my peers in the Teacher Scholars Academy and we all have a mutual relationship where we keep each other in check career and academically wise. I have met some of my lifelong friends through working with New Student Enrollment, and I love being involved in important campus events working for the chancellor's office on the events team. My campus involvements have helped me grow as a person and have had a major positive impact on my collegiate experience."

Talk a bit about your passion for Future Teachers of Color.

"Another one of my campus involvements is the Future Teachers of Color RSO. I, along with a few of my friends, established this Recognized Student Organization in the Spring of 2022. Before then, we were an unofficial club per say, but we were still around. The mission of FTOC is to provide incoming and continuing Black, Indigenous, & Students of Color (BIPoC) in CEHS space for engagement, mentorship, leadership and professional development opportunities, critical reflection, support, and community building with other BIPoC students in CEHS. In other words, I am a minority in a few different ways, and I want to make sure that every identity has the same amount of success as everyone else. I was fortunate enough to serve as the Vice President of FTOC, where I connected with various persons around the community in the education system who have shown interest and commitment in our future educators of color."

What impact do you hope to have on campus and in our community?

"Being born and raised here in Lincoln, Nebraska, as well as then attending UNL, I am incredibly passionate about fostering an inclusive and welcoming campus community for all first-year students. One of my goals is to help empower first-year students. I want to ensure that every student, regardless of their background, feels a sense of belonging and has access and the confidence to use the resources that are available to them to help them thrive."

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