Multicultural Student Center celebrates one year at U.Va.

Center provides an inclusive space for students, organizations

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The center is an open, welcoming space for students to study, attend various events and meetings or hang out with friends. 

Sarah Lindamood | Cavalier Daily

The Multicultural Student Center, located in the lower level of Newcomb Hall, celebrated its one-year anniversary this week. The MSC held a series of events throughout the week to honor its first year, beginning with a tour, panel and reception on the history of prejudice and student activism at the University. 

Other events included a film screening, an open stage night and a lecture, culminating with a birthday bash Friday. 

The idea for the MSC was started by a group of students in the fall of 2014 with the intent of creating a multicultural center on Grounds. In collaboration with the Office of the Dean of Students, the Multicultural Student Center Initiative opened the MSC last fall 

“This space opened right after the [presidential] election and so immediately people just coming together with other people who had a shared experience of what this was like for them and kind of a safe space for people to just talk and share their emotions,” said Eileen Chen, a third-year College student and programming and leadership intern for the MSC.

Marc Guzman, assistant director of Multicultural Student Services, said the MSC has a three-pronged mission — creating a space for dialogue and multicultural education, leadership development and identity development. 

Today, the center is an open, welcoming space for students to study, attend various events and meetings or hang out with friends. There are couches and chairs spread throughout the room as well as desktop computers and a printer with free printing access. Leaning against the glass wall beside the entrance is a giant poster covered in phrases called “Love Speech Wall.”

First-year Engineering student Hana Nur said she heard about the MSC from her Resident Advisor. She has since used the space to study and has attended some of the events held there.

“It’s just a nice place to study and it’s a nice environment because it is a multicultural center,” Nur said. “Having different people and race [are] celebrated in here. And I think that’s really nice to have a place to study and know you’re accepted.”

Third-year College student Kenny Darcy discovered the MSC through friends. He said he uses the space to study and socialize.

“I definitely think there are a lot of people who see this as a valuable space that they can retreat to,” Darcy said. 

Student groups can reserve the MSC for meetings and events after 5 p.m. Chen said the space is usually used every night.

Guzman said there previously wasn’t a place on Grounds focused on multicultural identities. In its first year on Grounds, the MSC has filled that missing space.

“We serve a need … By providing a space that specifically speaks to cultural organizations and their events,” Guzman said. “Seeing people who we probably would never see before using that space and using Newcomb has been fulfilling.”

The MSC also has a student programming internship with four interns, each focusing on one of the center’s mission statements — a leadership development intern, an identity development intern and two multicultural education and dialogue interns.

Guzman and MSC Student Director Attiya Latif, a fourth-year College student, both said they are happy with what the MSC has done over the past year and how it has been received by students. They are still, however, always looking towards what they can improve and do in the future.

The center has a live feedback loop to receive constant opinions and suggestions from students. The MSC also has an advisory board that consists of students from minority and multicultural student organizations on Grounds.

“We do our best to fulfill those needs and listen to their concerns and talk about what’s going on on Grounds,” Latif said.

Looking to the future, Latif plans on having more specific and long-form programs to teach students certain skills and knowledge, as well as a dialogue series to promote productive discussion.

“We want to make sure that the center is giving the academic tools that they need … To be the most successful students that they can be,” Latif said. “We also want to make sure that it’s a space for productive dialogue where students can come and talk about the intersectional aspects of their identities and they can share those stories with other students and they can learn together.”

According to Guzman, Multicultural Student Services is planning on initiating a multicultural peer educator program which can take place in the MSC. Guzman also noted how the MSC interns are focusing on expanding the reach of the MSC in the University community.

“A big part of the work that the interns are trying to do now is trying to establish the brand of the MSC, outreach into different community groups and faculty and staff to share this is what we are and what we can be doing together so that it becomes a normalized part of the Grounds community,” Guzman said.

At the end of the day, Latif said the goal of the MSC is to create an inclusive space where students can gather, study, learn and create change.

“We want this to be a really collaborative space, a place that students can call their own and use to kind of model the culture that they would like to see in the larger University community,” Latif said. “I think that’s really what we’re going for here this year and hopefully in the future years.”

Kate Walz contributed reporting to this article. 

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