A campus Multicultural Center will open this summer, providing a supportive environment for students while furthering the University’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Located at 301 South Main Street, the center was initiated by President Larry Dietz in 2019 and is led by Dr. Christa Platt.
“I envision this center having a long-standing impact on this campus. It’s an honor to have a hand in its development and implementation,” said Platt, M.S. ’09, Ph.D. ’17, who has served as the center’s director since last July.
Under Platt’s leadership, the Multicultural Center will foster a courageous and supportive environment that builds community, disrupts oppression, supports interfaith partnerships, teaches advocacy skills, and empowers change agents across the campus. Platt explained that the work of the center is crucial for the campus as a whole and students.
“I firmly believe that when oppression is disrupted and space, not just physical, is created for all humans to live out their identities, students will experience a sense of belonging,” said Platt. That goal is cemented through the center’s pillars, which are antiracism, identity, and belonging. The vision is for students to be equipped to value intersecting identities and commit to enacting a culture of antiracism, equity, and justice.
The center has five staff members determined to reach these goals. They will work primarily with students to facilitate programs, provide services, and engage in scholarship that promotes antiracism, equity, and justice in alignment with Illinois State’s core values. The facility will be an affirming environment where students can flourish, as the center’s mission includes focusing on historically minoritized/marginalized communities while amplifying their voices and experiences.
Staff will advise the Black Student Union, Association of Latin American Students, Asian Pacific American Coalition, and Pride. Each group will have office space at the center. While these four organizations are sponsored, the center will incorporate more student communities into the work of building stronger interfaith-based networks, Indigenous student support, and undocumented student resources.
The goal is for our most marginalized to know that the space is theirs, which is why the Multicultural Center staff used students as accountability through the entire development process. Students were heavily involved in not only the center’s design, but also in the hiring, policy development, and naming process.
The building that is located across from the Student Fitness Center will offer a multipurpose gathering and lounge space for students to comfortably connect. Two rooms are constructed so that they can be opened to create one large event space. There are an additional three conference rooms, a social justice library, a media room, staff offices, and a kitchen.
Gender-neutral restrooms and space created to embrace inclusivity will be available, including the gender affirmation station. This room, formally known the trans closet from The Queer Institute, is designed primarily for nonbinary and trans students to have access to clothing. It will also serve as a site for any student who has clothing needs.
A green room will be added as a self-care/wellness space for students to unwind and relax whenever needed. Many of the students who were a part of the development of the center spoke to the hard work of social justice and needing space to decompress. This is will be a primary place for their healing. A reflection/prayer room will be available for students of any faith. A lactation/family room will also be provided.
Platt hopes to do work on the surrounding area outside of the building in the future to make it more inviting. This may include gardening or possibly a mural. They are just a few ideas being considered for the center as it becomes a pivotal place on campus.
“It’s exciting to lead the charge for a space that so many are excited about and see the necessity for. I’m excited to continue listening to stakeholders, in particular students, to build out a center that meets their needs and positions the campus to be a forerunner in the work of disrupting oppression and championing antiracism, justice, and belonging,” Platt said. “I consider this a part of my life’s work.”
Learn more about the Multicultural Center on Twitter @ISU_MC, Instagram @isumulticulturalcenter, or online at IllinoisState.edu/Student-Life/Multicultural-Center.