Features

Pandemic or Not, The Multicultural Center Continues to Shine

by Whit Anderson, Staff Writer

Despite this pandemic creating numerous obstacles for Manhattan College organizations, the Multicultural Center is still doing all they can to achieve its goals this semester. 

Located on the third floor of Kelly Commons, the Multicultural Center was created as an area where students of all different backgrounds and identities can feel comfortable. Hayden Greene, the Director of Multicultural Affairs, has made it his mission to provide the resources in this center for students to learn about others’ cultures while having the voice to spread their own. 

Greene has many goals and plans for the center this spring. 

“Every semester is different,” Greene said. “The fall semester is always about welcoming new people in, making sure they understand who we are and what we do. We also discuss with them what they’re bringing to campus to try and figure out who we have coming in. The spring semester is about celebrating different identities and celebrating who we are. But no matter the semester, our main theme is to always be brave.” 

Greene emphasized celebration in the spring. This includes celebrating Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Irish Heritage Month and many other notable celebrations that commemorate accomplishments of various groups. But unlike previous spring semesters, this one can’t only be reserved for celebration. On top of the numerous traumatic events of 2020, the historic storming of the United States Capitol in early January has left so many students confused and emotionally distressed. However, the Multicultural Center can provide the support needed during these trying times. 

“We continue to have listening circles and healing circles,” Greene said. “We are also working on a workshop about how to discuss political issues with people who are diametrically opposed to you on different ends of the spectrum. We want people coming out of these being able to have constructive conversations with those they may not agree with. We are always here physically and virtually for people who want to talk.” 

The Multicultural Center is living up to its promise of providing that space and comfort for students of all backgrounds to express themselves, along with going the extra mile to make sense of these trying times. 

Thankfully, the students most closely involved with the Multicultural Center can confirm these expectations are being met, and they are also reciprocating that same energy. 

Junior Isabel Vazquez and sophomore Chelsey Leveque are two of the most closely associated students with the Multicultural Center, and they both have unique stories of why they got involved with the organization.

“I lived in Queens, which is a very diverse area,” Vazquez said. “I’ve always been very connected to multiculturalism. The center is a space where people from all different backgrounds can meet and have interesting conversations on a range of topics. I wanted to get involved because it felt like a space where I could really connect with everybody.” 

Leveque’s journey to the Multicultural Center was similar, but it was also closely tied with her joining the Emerging Leaders Program. 

“I first learned about the Multicultural Center during my freshman year orientation,” Leveque said. “I learned about the space and all it had to offer. We did other activities involving expressing our identity, and then Hayden Greene gave a speech about the ELP. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to break out of my comfort zone, and joining the program paved the way to my current involvement in the Multicultural Center. ELP taught me how to appreciate diversity and provided me with the tools necessary to become a leader.” 

The Multicultural Center provides numerous leadership opportunities, whether they’re through the ELP, The All Of Us retreat or other various conferences. Under normal circumstances, the ELP is heavily involved in event planning. Due to the challenging roadblocks of the pandemic, the ELP had to be suspended this spring to go along with other modifications to ensure student safety. 

“We’ve learned a lot of lessons from being in the pandemic,” Greene said. “The main lesson was that students aren’t on campus to attend daytime events.”

Greene comments that the center has made itself accommodating to these students by making events later in the evening and utilizing technology. Many events were hosted in a hybrid fashion, allowing students to attend both in person and online. 

“It’s been a tough road, but we’re very thankful because as we are learning, our students are learning,” Greene said. “The level of programming now compared to before the pandemic is similar.” 

The limitations for the Multicultural Center have been trying, but each day the organization is learning from their mistakes to continue to provide for the students in the same manner they did before the pandemic. Part of this support is through the numerous events taking place this spring. 

Leveque was asked to work alongside the Black History Month Planning Committee within the center. Leveque collaborated with Gregory Cowart to create an event entitled “Beyond the Green Gates.” This hybrid symposium is to be held on Feb. 27 and will feature panel discussions, engaging workshops and other events focused on preparing multicultural students for a successful future. 

Even with this ELP suspension, students are finding other methods of involvement, planning events that live up to the aspirations of the Multicultural Center. 

Greene mentioned other events that will be on the same scale as Beyond the Green Gates. These include an entrepreneur series, an art exhibition that will showcase the work of black artists, and various Tiny Talks with notable speakers. 

The multitude of events is a testament to the success of the Multicultural Center. Not only does the organization give students of all backgrounds a space where they can be heard, but they also provide the tools to be the leaders of tomorrow. These tools encourage the bravery needed to take action, and students demonstrate what they’ve learned through giving back to the organization, creating a symbiotic relationship. The events are a byproduct of an unbreakable foundation that each side has contributed to. 

“I met tons of people through the Multicultural Center,” Vazquez said. “It’s been so impactful because I’ve met a lot of my friends there and I’ve been comfortable enough to have conversations that I might not have had anywhere else.”

Leveque expresses the same sentiment. 

“The Multicultural Center has given me the confidence to further embrace and appreciate my individuality,” she said. “It has opened my eyes to the cultural mosaic that makes up our student body. By providing me with a safe space to connect and learn from other students of color, the Multicultural Center has easily become one of my go-to places to socialize and get work done at the same time.”

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