University of Iowa

In the news: Students find home away from home thanks to UI cultural center coordinators

October 26th, 2017
From left: Jesus Payan, VP for Student Life Melissa Shivers, Tab Wiggins, Prisma Ruacho, and Jamal Nelson sit outside the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center during an interview with Shivers and leaders from the UI cultural and resource centers on Frid

From left: Jesus Payan, VP for Student Life Melissa Shivers, Tab Wiggins, Prisma Ruacho, and Jamal Nelson sit outside the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center during an interview with Shivers and leaders from the UI cultural and resource centers on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

By Marissa Payne, The Daily Iowan

Creating a place that feels like a home away from home for underrepresented students is a full-time job for some on the University of Iowa campus.

A boost in funding to the UI’s four cultural and resource centers has resulted in the hiring of more student employees at the centers and three full-time coordinators, with another coordinator position waiting to be filled.

IMU Executive Director Bill Nelson noted a commonality among the centers: They are largely the result of student activism. The Afro-American Cultural Center was the first to be founded in 1968, and the most recent is the LGBTQ Resource Center in 2006.

“The common theme was students wanted it, and the university responded,” Nelson said.

It’s a theme that remains relevant in the present. Nelson said commitment from students and the Office of the President played a major part in the renewed focus on improving the centers. He said the UI committed $200,000 to the centers this year.

The 2016-17 UI Student Government President Rachel Zuckerman held community conversations with UI President Bruce Harreld at each of the four centers in fall 2016 to speak with the students who use the centers. Students responded with improvements they would like to see made and discussed larger issues their respective identity groups face.

Programming this year includes events such as history and heritage months celebrating the identity groups the centers serve — most recently, this month’s celebration of Latinx Heritage Month. There have also been discussions of boosting academic-support opportunities through supplemental instruction.

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