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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Making a house a home

Pictured from left to right: Natalie Walker Brown, Director for Student Inclusion and Diversity, Jennifer Dessus, Director for Inclusion and Diversity Access Programs, Maggie Oliver, International Student Advisor, Office of International Students and Scholars, Meryl Halpern, Director, Office of International Students & Scholars (Photo by Luke Malanga ’20).

Office of Inclusion and Diversity: One year later

On the one-year anniversary of its move to renovated space in Campion Hall, the Center for Inclusion and Diversity (CID) has become a place where students can feel at home on campus, according to the center’s director.

“They came early and often and felt like this was a place where they could learn a little bit, be themselves,” said Natalie Walker Brown, director for student inclusion and diversity. “I wanted it to be the home base that we knew it could be.”

The new CID, which is the physical space occupied by the Office of Inclusion and Diversity, opened Jan. 24, 2017.

“I’m even more pleased and happy about having this new space,” Walker Brown said. “We’ve really gotten to see what we can be, and there’s just so much opportunity and potential for our space.”

Last May, the International Students and Scholars moved into the space as well. Previously they had been located with the Center for International Programs on City Avenue.

Students talk in the lounge area of CID one year ago when the office first opened (Photo by Luke Malanga ’20).

Sydney Villard ’19 visits the CID every week and describes it as a safe space for her to be around “like-minded individuals and people who look like me.”

“As a black queer person on this campus, sometimes you’re not feeling the most open to engage or interact with everyone because you don’t know how people are going to take you,” Villard said.

Like Villard, Guillermo Caro ’21, who is from Puerto Rico, was looking for a space to call home on campus when he arrived on campus for freshman orientation. It was his first time in the United States.

“I was seeing there wasn’t much diversity on campus when I got here, and I remember I said that at orientation as well,” Caro said.

Caro was looking for a spot where he could find fellow students of color. Walker Brown offered him a work-study job, and the space quickly became on of his favorites on campus.

Guillermo Caro ’21, a work study student, welcomes students at the front desk in CID (Photo by Luke Malanga ’20).

“Since I got here, it’s one of the places where I feel most comfortable at,” Caro said. “When stuff wasn’t that good back home, everybody was asking and trying to help,, and it just made me feel like they really wanted to hear what I had to say.’”

Maggie Oliver, international student advisor in the Office of International Students and Scholars, said the CID is a perfect place for international students to acclimate to the new environment around them.

“Every week I see a new face hanging out here,” Oliver said. “I think you benefit the more that you talk with people and hang out with people and are around people that aren’t necessarily just like you.”

Joel Tharian, M.A. ’19 is a graduate student from India who spends time hanging out in the CID. One of the aspects he likes most is spending time with people from different cultures and understanding their mindsets better.

“It’s such a nice place, and I’ve gotten to meet so many people,” Tharian said. “They’ve understood my perspective as a person from India a lot better now, and I’ve understood their perspective a lot more. I’m not just talking about a certain race or a certain color people but religions as well.”

With more organizations and students, now calling the center home, Brown emphasized that the CID is for all St. Joe’s students.

“As much as possible we’re trying to make sure that everybody at the university feels like this can be a space for them rather than for a particular group of students,” Walker Brown said. “I think if you come to the space we do as much as possible to make you feel that way.”

Gabby Stevenson ’21, who frequncies the CID, works in the CID study room. (Photo by Luke Malanga ’20).

Walker Brown said she wants more students to use the CID space both “organically and intentionally.”

That works for Kiana Porter ’19, who visits the space during any free time she gets.

“People think that it’s only for certain groups of students, and I also think people are afraid of the word ‘diversity’ and feel like they don’t fit into it if it’s not a certain category so they just don’t come in here,” Porter said.

As the CID moves into its second year in its news space, its administrators are looking toward even more that they can do with it.

“We’re still looking at, given the offices that have their homes in the Center for Inclusion and Diversity, how do we facilitate more international and domestic interaction,” said Monica Nixon, Ed.D., assistant provost for inclusion and diversity. “That’s something we’re still working on. Also, how do we create a space where people who are interested in inclusion and diversity feel like they can come in and just learn and be present, that you don’t already have to know someone to go into the space but just be curious and want to learn more.”

But students who already care about inclusion and diversity are only part of the equation. They are already utilizing the space, Nixon said.

“I think seeing more a mix of students who already know that they care about inclusion and diversity and then the students who are newer to that conversation with themselves and others would be good,” Nixon said.

Such conversations could happen through programming or casual interactions in the CID, Nixon said. Walker Brown is looking to welcome those new students, too.

“I want it to be viewed as more inclusion, more welcoming, more education, more supportive, [just] more,” Walker Brown said.

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