California State University Stanislaus, known as Stan State, recently dedicated a new Diversity Center after students requested such a space on campus.
Unveiled at a ceremony this week, the new center, located on the second floor of the Vasché Library, is, according to officials, dedicated to unity, diversity, peace, multiculturalism and inclusion.
The Diversity Center came to fruition after more than a year of planning and development from students, faculty and staff. Center programming throughout the year aims to support students “exploring their own diverse identities and perspectives in a spirit of collaboration and with appreciation for the richness of the student population,” according to university statements.
“This is a place where all are embraced,” said Stan State President Dr. Ellen N. Junn during the ceremony. She called it “a place that not only allows individuals to embrace their own sometimes-complex identities, but [that] also allows everyone the freedom to learn from each other as well as the freedom to embrace and validate each other.”
Noriel Mostajo, a senior business administration major and a peer advisor at Stan State, said the diversity center will be a new cultural resource for students who have wanted to engage in more thorough conversations about diversity.
Students previously advocated for a space where Stan State’s diversity among university groups – especially underrepresented groups – could be celebrated and discussed in a safe and inclusive environment. In the months leading up to the center’s opening, the institution held a series of open forums for university community members to provide feedback and input on the creation of the space.
The new space will “attract more people to think outside of what they learn in the classroom,” Mostajo said.
A Filipino-American, Mostajo is involved in multicultural clubs and student government and finds himself among the relatively small Asian student population at Stan State. He said that the diversity center will give him a place to connect and learn more about his Filipino background and possibly learn a new language.
“I really want to be bilingual in another language as soon as possible, so maybe learning more of the cultures there, maybe even learning a new language through the center is something I’m really looking forward to,” he added.
Guest speakers at the dedication discussed the necessity of embracing diversity. They included Stan State political science instructor Dr. Andrew Conteh.
“We need to understand that all human beings have the same human rights, and feeling safe is one of those human rights,” said Conteh, a former Sierra Leone ambassador to the USSR and delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. “Regardless of race, all of our human rights are indivisible and must be respected. Diversity is a fact of life and the failure to understand that can lead to conflict.”
Center organizers are calling the space the “Diversity Center” for now, but said that a permanent name for the center is expected soon. Junn also announced that Stan State is searching for a full-time staff member to oversee the facility.
Junn said the university would like to see the center become “the heart of a campus-wide connection,” adding that the development of the center “is part of our continuing effort to deepen and make visible our strong support for a diverse, inclusive and welcoming campus environment.”
Tiffany Pennamon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanypennamon.