Group caters to diversity

Three pre-existing campus organizations have joined forces to create a new center aimed to raise cultural awareness among students, staff and faculty.

The Center for Inclusive Excellence is an on-campus group that was created over the summer to raise cultural awareness among students and create a hub for the GLBT, Black Resource Center and Hispanic/Latino Resource Center.

The group is located in Woody Hall’s C-Wing, where the offices of each group can be found.

Sapphire Cureg, the center’s director, said the merge will keep all groups informed on the activities of others. She said there will be an increased understanding among different minority groups, which will help give the organization more opportunities to create the best possible learning experiences for each student.

Cureg, who has experience in directing multicultural affairs, was appointed to her position over the summer and began work July 1 to get a head start
on coordinating events for students.

She said her first priority of the school year is to raise awareness for the new group.

Once people realize they can use the outlet to ask questions and get answers in a judge-free environment, more events will be planned to accommodate students’ needs and expose them to this resource, Cureg said.

She said beyond raising awareness and learning what students’ need most, the group has one specific vision that everyone involved strives to uphold.

“We will be recognized for our commitment to an inclusive work, teaching and learning environment where everyone — no matter who they are — will feel comfortable, welcomed, see a pervasive reflection of themselves on the campus and feel they belong at SIU,” Cureg said.

Derrick Williams, assistant director for the Center of Inclusive Excellence and coordinator of the Black Resource Center, said even though these groups have come together as one, he believes each will continue to maintain its individuality.

Williams said bringing the individual groups to one place will create a progressive environment that is crucial to understanding different cultures, a skill he believes is extremely important in today’s world.

He said the university is the perfect place for a center such as this to flourish and provide knowledge for students that other universities could not such as the struggles some minorities face and how they can best cope with them.

“One of SIU’s hidden gems is their rich diversity,” Williams said. “It is a unique university where you have all of these different ethnicities and social classes coming together, and I think the university hasn’t always had a mechanism to make these things work and intersect. That’s the point of the center.”

The populations of Hispanic, Latino and black students have risen significantly over the past couple of years, and the black community makes up about 30 percent of the population at SIUC, Williams said.

“It’s basically providing support for those students in how to acclimate themselves on campus, work with different faculty as well as be a supporting mechanism for those particular students on this campus,” Williams said.

Williams said although most of the center’s participants and members are part of their respective minority groups, information on those minorities will be made available for people who might not identify themselves with any of the groups.

He said understanding cultural competency is important for everyone.

“This generation will actually be hindered by not understanding other cultures and not knowing what’s going on around the world,” Williams. “The center will teach students how to be global citizens.”

The center will also benefit each individual group because of the added funding each will receive, said Wendy Weinhold, coordinator of the GLBT Resource Center.

“All of these groups are continuing to gain momentum, and momentum is such a critical part of our efforts,” Weinhold said. “By being all in one central place and having the attention and concerns of the university in making our efforts valuable, this center will benefit everybody that much more.”

Weinhold said while each group will still coordinate their own events, the center will also create its own in hopes to bring the whole university community together, which is one of the center’s main goals.

The Center for Inclusive Excellence will hold a meet and greet from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 6 on the C-Wing’s third floor in rooms C319-C326. It also offers translation services for Hispanic/Latino students upon inquiry.

Luisa Ballester-Concepcion, coordinator of the Hispanic/Latino Resource Center, was contacted but unable to comment before press time.

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About Austin Flynn

Austin Flynn can be reached at aflynn@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext.252.

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