top of page
  • Writer's pictureLa Voz Latina

Cultural centers bring community together

Written: by Laura Charleston 🇭🇹


Construction inside of Cole Student Activities Building on Feb 13, 2024. (Isai Amaya-Diaz)


After years of advocacy, the University of Maryland plans to construct five new cultural centers dedicated to the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA), Disabled, LatinX, Multiracial, and Native and Indigenous communities in the Cole Student Activities Building. 


This is a tremendous step forward in ensuring these communities feel recognized by the University and the students have a safe space to express themselves and study. 


“I think these centers will bring them community, bring them space, you know,” said Kyrsha Balderas, the Coordinator for Native/Indigenous Student Involvement and Community Advocacy. “ A place where they can connect with one another and talk about the big issues or the small issues. 


“We currently conduct the majority of our events on Zoom since that tends to be the most accessible option for planners and attendees, but many of us are excited about the prospect of having an in-person space designed for us,” said Lasair MacHa Ni Chochlain, the founder and president of UMD Graduate Students with Disabilities. 


Student organizations have a limited amount of space where they can host events and meetings. The Adele H. Stamp Student Union, McKeldin Library, and Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology Building - among other buildings - offer a variety of spaces, but no organization can truly claim them as their own. 


The Cozy Corner, offered by the Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy Office, is a popular room for student organizations to reserve, but its popularity makes it difficult to secure.


“That’s my hope, is that it can, you know, it can kind of serve a purpose in the community as a space to gather, but also that it can energize folks to really want more for the community,” said Justine Suegay the Coordinator for Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American Student Involvement. 


Smaller communities across campus are spread out and do not receive equal recognition compared to larger communities. For the past three years, native and indigenous communities are less than 1% of the student body, according to the UMD Undergraduate Student Profile


Cole Student Activities Building on Feb 13, 2024 (Isai Amaya-Diaz)

“I think that’s something that this culture center can do is that it can show students that are applying to the University that the University recognizes its indigenous students and wants them there and welcomes them there,” said Paulina Martinez, president of the Native American and Indigenous Student Union.


The Cultural Centers will be between the Purple Line and Jones Hill House in the Cole Student Activities Building. The space used for the centers was originally a locker room and bathroom. According to Ava Lamberty, a Multiracial Community Involvement intern and President of the Multicultural Biracial Student Association, there is some contention due to the centers being in a repurposed area instead of their own unique space. 


“It shows the University’s priorities in regards to student engagement. How they’re willing to put all this money and this work into athletics but not really student enrichment on campus,” said Lamberty. 


Another important aspect of the centers is inclusivity and preserving cultural elements. Artworks, artifacts, historical figures, awards and achievements, furniture to accommodate students and more are being considered to create a welcoming environment. 


“We will have furniture and rooms designed for us and our needs, the ability to install air filters and potentially mandate masks so that immunocompromised people can feel safe, and mainly just a place that we can gather freely without having to worry so much about accessibility,” said Chochlain 


Student organizations have advocated for a space to claim their own for decades. This is a step forward for the campus's strive for equity, inclusion and social justice. And a big step forward for the five communities listed and other communities on campus.

“It’s a start but is by no means an end,” said Lamberty. 



For more information on the student organizations involved in this article:







Comentarios


bottom of page