After more than a year in concept and development, Stanislaus State unveiled its Diversity Center on Wednesday, Nov. 29.
Located on the second floor of the Vasché Library, the Diversity Center is a space dedicated to unity, diversity, peace, multiculturalism and committed to the principle of inclusion. Programs hosted by the Center will aim to support students — especially those from underrepresented groups — in exploring their own diverse identities and perspectives in a spirit of collaboration and with appreciation for the richness of the student population.
“This is a place where all are embraced,” said Stan State President Ellen Junn during the 90-minute dedication ceremony. “A place that not only allows individuals to embrace their own sometimes-complex identities, but also allows everyone the freedom to learn from each other as well as the freedom to embrace and validate each other.”
The Center was established in direct response to student voices seeking a space where Stan State’s diversity could be celebrated, and where greater understanding between University groups could be fostered through education and discussion in a safe and inclusive environment. It’s being called a “Diversity Center” for now, but the University community is encouraged to visit the space and suggest a permanent name.
President Junn thanked those who played a role in the development of the center, including the students who spoke out about the need for such a space. She also thanked the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion (PCDI), as well as other individuals who have been involved in identifying, securing and preparing the space — most notably Matthew Lopez-Phillips, associate vice president, and Stephanie Hubbard, special assistant, from the Office of Student Affairs.
The ceremony featured blessings and inspirational words from Stan State political science instructor Andrew Conteh, Sonoma State diversity center director Mark Fabionar, The Very Rev. Mack Olson of Vacaville’s Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, PCDI co-chair Kilolo Brodie and ASI Director of Diversity Mi’Shaye Venerable.
Conteh, who was Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the USSR from 1976-81 and later a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, spoke of the need for spaces where people can be free to express themselves.
“We need to understand that all human beings have the same human rights, and feeling safe is one of those human rights,” he said. “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.”
President Junn also announced a search for a new full-time staff member to oversee the Diversity Center. “Our vision and our hope is that the center becomes the heart of a campus-wide connection, not only between the PCDI, ASI and Student Affairs, but part of a process that establishes collaborative links between all divisions, all units and all academic departments,” Junn said.
“The dedication of this Center is part of our continuing effort to deepen and make visible our strong support for a diverse, inclusive and welcoming campus environment.”