The Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS), Office of Student Enrichment (OSE) and Gender Relations Center (GRC) will join to form a new Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the University announced Nov. 3. All three departments currently aim to promote inclusivity at Notre Dame through programming, resources and initiatives.
The center will be located in a newly remodeled space on the second floor of LaFortune Student Center.
GRC director Arlene Montevecchio said there will be a lounge or physical space of some sort for students of underrepresented backgrounds to relax, feel safe, discuss issues and access resources.
The three offices will maintain their separate identities and missions but will do so within a shared space, MSPS director Arnel Bulaoro said.
“Because we’re going to be in close proximity to one another, ideas will be shared back and forth,” he explained. “So, I don’t see our roles changing, I just see more synergy between the three offices.”
MSPS supports students of color, while the OSE works with under-resourced and first-generation students and the GRC does so primarily with women and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The MSPS, OSE and GRC will occupy the east side of the second floor of LaFortune. Conversations will be conducted in the first half of the spring semester to determine what will occupy the rest of the space, Bulaoro said.
There is not yet a timeline for when the center will be completed.
Student body president and senior Allan Njomo said since 1991 student groups have sought the establishment of a center to provide space for traditionally marginalized groups.
“We are hopeful for the potential for the Division of Student Affairs to solicit student and stakeholder feedback, among not only student leaders but also staff from the offices,” Njomo said.
Njomo said he hopes students will make the space their own by working with the University and the contractors who will design the physical space.
The center and some of its programming will be funded by a $1 million gift from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). PwC intends to raise $9 million more for the center in the next 5 years.
“We are very happy to have a donor who will go ahead and fund [this] for us,” Bulaoro said.
The class of 2025 is the most diverse class in Notre Dame history. The class is composed of 31.5% U.S. students of color, 12% first-generation college students, 7.3% international students and 14.% Pell Grant students.
“We welcomed the most diverse class in our history recently, and so we have to be prepared to meet the needs of those students,” Montevecchio said.
Montevecchio emphasized the importance of educating the entire campus community about issues of diversity and inclusion through the center.
“It’s really part of our Catholic mission and identity to honor the human dignity of every person as being created in the image of God and to treat people with compassion and respect and sensitivity,” Montevecchio said. “I think this center is critical to achieving Notre Dame’s mission and Catholic identity.”
Bulaoro said that, no matter how well an organization or person is doing with regards to inclusivity, there is always room for growth. He expressed a belief that one of the most visible ways to improve is creating spaces where the community can come together.
“A long time ago, I remember Fr. Ted Hesburgh talking about the importance of space,” Bulaoro said. “I now see why it’s so important. Space at a university brings together folks to have conversations, particularly around the center or the space’s mission.”
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