Thursday, June 13, 2024

Diversity, unity center seeks name

While the new multicultural center in the Angell College Center is still under construction, Plattsburgh State students have been asked to find its official name.

On Nov. 1, students received an email from Student Association President Jessica Falace asking for students to participate in a poll to name the new center. Mona El-Shahat, director of the new center, and Portia Turco, interim chief diversity officer, thought it important to have student participation in one of its foremost decisions.

“The poll was designed because we wanted to set the stage for this to be collaborative,” Turco said. “We don’t get to do things without consulting and collaborating and having conversations.”

To El-Shahat and Turco, collaboration and unity is the center’s purpose. Under El-Shahat’s direction, the center will be a place for underrepresented groups.

“We’re looking for diversity throughout the whole spectrum,” Turco said. “This is not race. This is not gender. This is everything.”

They both explained the scope of the center’s diversity to include people who are different through their ability, socio-economic standing, orientation, nationality and any other aspect that makes PSUC diverse.

As well as being an inclusive space for every student, the center wishes to educate PSUC students on underrepresented groups and to “bridge the relationship between the two,” El-Shahat said.

Falace thinks the center’s timing is perfect.

“I wish we had a space similar to this in the past,” Falace said. “But I also believe that the timing for this change is better than ever. After last semester’s events, our campus community is very aware of what they would like to see on our campus.”

El-Shahat has been meeting with PSUC clubs and organizations to discover what content these student leaders want out of the center, most of which include preparation for post-college life.

“They were even asking for adulting 101 classes,” El-Shahat said. “We have a whole curriculum of things we are trying to put together to meet all the needs of the students based off what they’ve been expressing”

These possible adulting 101 classes would include topics such as budgeting and financing, things that some students find they aren’t prepared for.

To put an emphasis on collaboration, El-Shahat said they would work with on-campus experts to bridge the gap, such as, having someone from the PSU chapter National Association of Black Accountants come to give a lesson on basic financing.

Other programs would utilize experts from all departments on campus. El-Shahat and Turco hope to cultivate collaboration and unity though their programs whether it be education, training, workshops or bonding events.

“I think that the most important word for us is ‘unity,’” Turco said. “We want this to be a unified space for all students so people can come in whether they have a concern, whether they want to say hello, whether they want advice, support or resources.”

Although Falace has not been directly involved in the planning portion of the center, she has high hopes for the impact it has on the campus.

“My hope is that this center will be well-known for positive reasons around campus,” she said. “My ultimate hope is that this center helps to redesign our campus community when it comes to diversity and inclusion efforts.”

If construction goes as planned, the center will be open for the spring semester. El-Shahat and Turco are hoping to find the perfect name. The two are still accepting name suggestions through the anonymous poll in Falace’s email open until Nov. 30. El-Shahat suggests that students submit their ideas on a computer due to the mobile complications they are experiencing.

In the end, the premier of the name — one of its inaugural decisions — will be a student collaboration.

“It’s important for the students to have a part in the center that’s for them,” El-Shahat said.

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