Thursday, March 16, 2017

Diversity Engagement Center Opens as a Hub for Underrepresented Student Groups

The University of New Orleans on Thursday celebrated the opening of the Diversity Engagement Center, a space dedicated to enhancing the University’s efforts to reach underrepresented minorities and marginalized student groups.

Located on the second floor of the University Center inside the Gallery Lounge, the center will serve as a hub for diversity-related activities, especially for student groups that do not have a house or advocate at the University.

“This is about helping find a home for those who don’t have formal representation on campus,” said Peggy Gaffney, director of Diversity Affairs at UNO.

The center will also coordinate efforts by MoMENtum, a mentorship program for African-American male students, Cultural Cafes, Diversity Book Discussions and Diversity Celebrations.

UNO President John Nicklow and Gaffney cut the ribbon on the new space before the Progressive Black Student Union held its Soul Café in the Gallery Lounge, celebrating the occasion with food, music, dancing, a fashion show and cultural demonstrations.

The center is the result of a faculty- and staff-led initiative that began in 2015 under the leadership of Peter Schock, chair of the Department of English, and then-provost Nicklow.

Nicklow said the center’s creation is just one more way the University continues to build on what he described as an already “wonderfully diverse and inclusive” campus.

“I’m hoping this center will be a home for lots of conversations,” he said. “I’m really proud to be president of a university that has diversity at its fore.”

The Diversity Engagement Center is an initiative resulting from the recommendation of the Faculty and Staff Recruitment Task Force formed in 2015 under the leadership of Schock and Nicklow. It became a reality thanks to the work of a multicultural task force led by Pamela Kennett-Hensel, chair of the Department of Management and Marketing.

Matthew Farley, a graduate assistant working toward his doctorate in educational administration, will be the primary contact for the center. He said those who are interested in being a part of the center’s efforts and programming can email or stop into the center, which will be open weekdays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“I think it’s incredibly important for all campuses to be culturally diverse and it’s great that UNO is kind of that beacon,” Farley said. “This is just the beginning.”