Cross Cultural Center offers a place for students to learn, make connections
When Southwestern’s Strategic Plan for 2020 came out last year, the Coalition for Diversity and Social Justice (CDSJ), a student organization on campus, made it their mission to make sure that fostering a sense of diversity on campus was not only talked about, but also enacted.
So with help from CDSJ, the Office of Intercultural Learning and Jerry Brody, the vice president for student life, the Cross Cultural Center was formed
“We wanted a space where we could all come together in a relaxed setting,” says Isaac Bernal, a sophomore and SDSJ representative from Latinos Unidos. The CDSJ is an umbrella organization that includes six student groups: Latinos Unidos, E.B.O.N.Y., Kappa Delta Chi, Pan Asian Association, SU Allies and SU Native. The Cross Cultural Center, which is located on the second floor of the Prothro Center, provides a meeting space for these groups as well as the support of the assistant dean for multicultural affairs. “It is meant to be a safe space, a resource center, as well as a place to just talk, with the understanding that we won’t offend people knowingly,” Bernal says.
While the Cross Cultural Center is a space for students who are members of underrepresented groups at Southwestern, it also is open to the rest of the campus community. “One thing we try to advocate with the Cross Cultural Center is that it is not just for certain people,” Bernal says. “It is open to everyone if they have questions or if they just want a place to get away.”
The center, which is open 24/7, consists of a resource library and study lounge, formal meeting room, and the office of the assistant dean for multicultural affairs. “It was the work of a lot of different people to make this dream a reality in such a beautiful and visible place,” says Paige Schilt, interim assistant dean for multicultural affairs.
Over the summer, Schilt plans to expand the center’s resource library to include course-required texts as well as reading on topics of social justice and diversity. She also wants to increase awareness of the center as a resource to all students.
“Research suggests that informal interactions with diverse peers in college can have a big impact on lifelong learning,” Schilt says. “The Cross Cultural Center is an informal yet intentional space, where students can make genuine connections and discoveries.”
Schilt notes that this spring, the Black History Month lecture series, Cesar Chavez Day dinner and lecture, Latino Heritage Symposium, Asian Heritage Month events and the 7th Annual SU Native Powwow were all put together by groups that are a part of the CDSJ and based in the Cross Cultural Center.
She said student-driven initiatives such as these are part of the center’s contribution to the campus as a whole. “You can make a formal place for meetings and you can make a formal work space with resources for students to use, but there actually has to be a student culture and vibe that makes people want to hang out there, and I think that is exciting,” she says.
Kamna Tripathi, a sophomore and co-director of CDSJ, says the Cross Cultural Center has opened up an informal way of making diversity a priority on campus. “Our hope is that someone wanders in to use one of the computers and reads what is on the walls, checks out a book, or talks to one of us,” she says. “It is our small way of doing activism on campus.”
− Rosalie Bonner