KOKOMO, Ind. — When Nicole Robinson watches the news, she often feels scared, or worries about the future for herself and the LGBTQ+ community.
“It’s easy to get discouraged and upset. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on,” she said. “There’s a lot of big concerns out there. You’re nervous, you’re scared, and you wonder who it’s safe to talk to about your fears.”
As a student at Indiana University Kokomo, Robinson now has a new place to go for resources — the Multicultural Center, which opened this semester in the Kelley Student Center.
“It gives me a sense of hope,” said Robinson, who is president of Spectrum, a student organization that raises awareness of LGBTQ+ issues. “I believe every university should have something like this today. It shows that our campus is an inclusive environment, that provides resources and a definite safe space. It’s incredibly beneficial.”
The Center, open to all students, is home to the Black Student Center, the LGBTQ+ Center, the Latinos Unidos: Hispanic Center, International Student Services, and the coordinator for student life and campus diversity.
It’s an important resource at a time when the country is dealing with heightened awareness of race and the impact of it on people’s lives, said Tess Barker, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management.
“The Multicultural Center provides a way for us to think about how we can better support the goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the entire campus community, and the region we serve,” she said. “We’ve been very successful in growing our enrollment of students from diverse backgrounds, so our enrollment reflects our communities. The center’s mission is to provide services and support to all of our students, including those from diverse backgrounds, to support them through to graduation.”
It also aligns with the anti-racist agenda announced by IU President Michael A. McRobbie, who asked all campuses to look at their role in supporting this movement.
Barker said the Center plans to perform a needs assessment, surveying all students to determine what they want the center to do in terms of programming and support services, and also will host focus groups with student volunteers.
For example, students involved with the Black Student Center have asked for a mentoring program, and research shows it can be beneficial.
“We will be looking for more connections between what students want, and what we know can help them to be successful,” she said.
Planners are also considering how the Center can add programming and support for events like Black History Month, Hispanic History Month, and other commemorations, to provide cultural education.
Barker added that the Center benefits all students, if they take advantage of what it offers.
“We hear from employers they want to hire graduates who have the ability to work in diverse settings, and with diverse customers or populations,” she said. “The more we can provide our students these opportunities to engage, it will enhance and better prepare them for when they enter the workforce.”
The Multicultural Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, go to iuk.edu/diversity.
Directors include Colie Shelwick and J.C. Barnett III, Black Student Center; Benjamin Liechty and Whitney Shaffer, LGBTQ+ Center; Coordinator for Student Life and Campus Diversity, Kate Aguilar; Latinos Unidos: Hispanic Center, J.R. Pico and Christine Taff; and International Student Services, Chad Broeker.