MC pic

Visitors walk through the Arkansas Union International Connections Lounge May 19. The lounge includes a flag from every nation-state the U.N. recognizes.

The UA Center for Multicultural and Diversity Education gives people a place to connect with others who have varying cultural backgrounds.

Freshman Fernanda Alcantara, who is a first-generation Mexican-American college student majoring in communications,  heard about the Multicultural Center from classmates who referred her to it after hearing she was having a hard time finding a place to fit in, she said.

“I feel like my high school had a good amount of diversity, and oftentimes, the UofA does too,” Alcantara said, “but it can be hard to find that when there are so many students at the school.”

Alcantara thinks it is refreshing to see everyone come together in a location centered around diversity and inclusion, she said.

“The Multicultural Center is not just a location or a place you can go study,” Alcantara said. She thinks it is a place where students can come together to find people who they can relate to.

At the Multicultural Center, staff members offer various academic, cultural and social programs that are intended to make students from all backgrounds feel welcome on campus, said alumna MyKayla Bowser, who majored in sociology and was a staff member at the Multicultural Center last year, in an email.

“The MC hosts college readiness workshops, diversity and inclusion months and academic enrichment programs,” Bowser said. “We are a campus community focused on welcoming all students while valuing, engaging and empowering them to achieve their full potential.”

People in the Multicultural Center are welcoming and provide a place where people are not sitting quietly and ignoring each other, Alcantara said. Students and staff in the Multicultural Center are always open to conversation, and it is a great place to make friends.

“The faculty and staff that work in the Multicultural Center somehow act as mentors for everyone who steps in,” Alcantara said, “which I find completely incredible.”

Alcantara thinks that the relationships people form at the Multicultural Center are natural and do not appear forced, she said.

Inside the Multicultural Center, there is a kitchen, various study areas and big tables that anyone may use, Alcantara said.

Alcantara is the chairwoman of the Cultures and Concepts committee for University Programs, and she had the opportunity to help the Multicultural Center present several events, including the Black History Month keynote speaker event, she said.

For fall 2019, Alcantara is working with the Multicultural Center to plan events during the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15-Oct. 15, she said.

The Multicultural Center sponsors a student-faculty LGBTQ mentorship program which pairs a student from that community with a faculty member who is also a member of the community, according to the Multicultural Center’s website. The program aims to help students develop a positive attitude toward their sexual orientation and gender identity while developing knowledge, skills and tools to success navigate life in the fullness of who they are and want to be.

Junior Daniel Webster, who is a psychology, sociology and criminology major, was a mentee in the program, and he thinks that it gave him a window to comfortably join the LGBTQ community, he said. Having an older mentor who is already out helped him learn important nuances in the community.

Webster, who is a mentor for the Accelerate Student Achievement Program run by the Multicultural Center, thinks the Multicultural Center’s events are good at making students feel included, and he thinks the staff members do a good job of genuinely communicating with people, he said.

“The events that are put on by the MC are really community based,” Webster said. “They are meant to educate people on cultural experiences and to provide a safe space for people to learn and ask questions.”

The Multicultural Center provides a pancake breakfast every Dead Day, and at this event, staff members connect with students and talk to them as they serve breakfast, Webster said. He thinks events like this give people a good opportunity to make connections.

Bowser recommends that students explore and engage with the campus, especially the Multicultural Center, she said.

“We are a family, and we take care of each other. It's important to find a space that feels safe and validates your experiences,” Bowser said.

The Multicultural Center staff is focused on making every student they engage feel welcomed and included, Bowser said. Students can connect with each other and have a genuine, positive experience.

 

Andrew Elkins is the associate news editor of the Arkansas Traveler. He worked as a reporter and photographer from 2018-2019.

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