Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Multicultural Center Changes

Posted on November 12, 2016 in News
By USM Free Press

By Mary Ellen Aldrich, Free Press staff

Mariana Cruz, the first assistant dean of diversity at USM, has many things in store for the Multicultural Center.

Cruz has organized many events and programs for the coming weeks at the Multicultural Center to help students feel more at home at the Multicultural Center. It’s planned that each month will have a theme that will then be reflected in each of the center’s programs.

A few of the upcoming events are monthly film screenings, monthly dialogue opportunities and art and creative expression opportunities. For the art and creative expression opportunities, Cruz plans to have participants generate art for the Multicultural Center.

The program,called Conversation Canvas, will include dialogue and conversation around a particular topic. Participants will then create a piece of art around that theme to be put up in the Multicultural Center with a note underneath that tells of the theme and some of the issues that came up around the theme.

Another program at the Multicultural Center will be Coffee and Tea Hour held every other Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. starting on Sept. 21, 2016. In addition to each month having its own theme, each Coffee and Tea Hour will feature different representatives from different USM offices and organizations . This month’s theme is education and social justice, and will have David McKenzie, the new dean of students, talk about a life lesson and personal education experience from which he learned something, about his work at USM and about how diversity and inclusion does, or can, fit into his work. McKenzie will speak for about 30 minutes, and he will then be followed by about 15 minutes of Q&A. Subsequent speakers will be from the counseling center, the financial aid center, the career center and from academic advising.

There will be many different opportunities for programming and events that will feed into the Multicultural Center’s larger mission of inclusion and maintaining an inclusive space that supports student success. While the Multicultural Center is still short-staffed, Cruz will soon be joined by Reza Jalali, the new coordinator. After Jalali joins Cruz, they’ll begin sending out announcements for the weeks’ programs.

Cruz believes in creating a dynamic space that revolves around the students. Her mission is to create a supportive space for students and for the Multicultural Center to help students thrive and succeed at USM. In addition to the educational and program changes, Cruz also recently replaced furniture in the Multicultural Center to help with the aesthetic side of the center.

The changes Cruz has made thus far must be heading in the right direction, as it drew the attention of Iman Mohamed, a freshman studying computer science. In regards to her first visit to the center, Mohamed said, “I felt this is a place where I can come and do my homework and interact with other people. I needed a place. It’s nice, people were playing games, studying. It was really exciting.”

While Mohamed is excited about the Multicultural Center and its anticipated changes, she also hopes to see more open dialogue with everyone. Reminding people that difference in opinion is useful and welcome would be a good improvement.

In high school, Mohamed participated in a student organization that focused on racial and educational equity within the school and having open dialogue at different schools. She hopes to see this type of organization here at USM.

William Chrysler, a freshman majoring in secondary education and biology, agrees with Mohamed on the subject of open dialogue. He believes USM needs more open dialogue, but that the mediator should be someone who has traveled outside of the U.S. or is from, or has lived in, another country. “We should have more discussion on different races,” Chrysler said, “and it should be mediated by someone who is multi-cultured to educate people more. Instead of people thinking one’s better than the other.”

Under the guidance of Cruz and the rest of the Multicultural Center team, this increase in open dialogue should come to fruition. While the changes at the Multicultural Center seem to be going well, there’s one more change that may need to be made. That change would be better advertisement of the Multicultural Center. Chrysler wasn’t even aware USM had a multicultural center.

“There’s one in Portland?” Chrysler said, surprised. “First and foremost, Gorham should get one. We have a lot of foreign exchange students in this area. It’s kind of weird that Portland has one and we don’t”

Tyler Engleheart, a USM employee working as a Sodexo supervisor, was equally surprised that the Multicultural Center wasn’t advertised better: “All the dorms are here, so the student center should have one here for easy access for all students of different cultures. This is where everybody is.” Engleheart added that the location does make sense to an extent, as many people have heard of Portland, Maine, but not many have heard of Gorham.

Engleheart and Chrysler both came to the same conclusion: the Multicultural Center should hold an event to spread awareness of its existence.

“Maybe they should throw an event,” Chrysler commented. “Anything with food in it because college kids love food.”

Engleheart added: “The center should have an international or multicultural food event.” Overall, the changes to the Multicultural Center look promising, and the staff will work hard to ensure student support and success.

“This is all gonna be really good,” Cruz said. “At the core of it all is student success and thriving intercultural maturity. Just watch us go.”