Dear campus community,
As part of our collective goal to ensure that every campus community member feels welcomed, affirmed and experiences a sense of belonging at the University of Maryland, the Division of Student Affairs leadership has prioritized meeting with students who belong to communities that have experienced exclusion and underrepresentation. During these meetings, we asked questions to better understand new and different ways to strengthen the University's commitment to inclusive excellence, and we listened.
The Division of Student Affairs is leading this process with strong support from the Multicultural Involvement & Community Advocacy (MICA) Office, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and leadership within the Student Government Association and the Graduate Student Government. The conversations were rich and the feedback received included a deep desire for spaces on campus, such as the Nyumburu Cultural Center and the LGBTQ+ Equity Center, that offer valuable opportunities designed to not only celebrate and honor students' diverse cultures and identities, but also help create, build, and sustain the communities with which they identify.
We value this input from the many campus stakeholders who have been part of these conversations and are pleased to share that we will begin the process of designing five cultural centers and gathering spaces to be held in the heart of the campus, in Cole Field House, to support the following:
- Asian Pacific Islander Desi American
- Native American and Indigenous
- Multiracial and Biracial
- Students with Disabilities
The impact of cultural centers is unequivocal. They help students feel validated and uplifted by recognizing their cultural knowledge and assets and give them the tools to navigate some of the challenges they might face both in and outside of the classroom. These spaces help students to be successful and thrive by better supporting their acclimation to university life and developing greater cultural awareness, allowing them to feel part of community and know that they matter.
This work must be collaborative and actively involve our community members. Thus, beginning mid-November, Dr. James McShay, the university's new Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, will work with the MICA staff and other campus stakeholders to convene members of these communities to gather input on designing and co-creating their spaces. Please feel free to reach out to James should you have any questions.
We want to offer a special thanks to MICA leadership who have been a key partner in this effort over the past 18 months. We also want to acknowledge the labor of students, faculty and staff within these communities who participated in the conversations that made this all possible.
We believe this is a significant step forward in our ongoing efforts to be TerrapinSTRONG: to acknowledge the University of Maryland's role throughout its history in denying access and full participation, and take actions to advance diversity, equity and inclusion.
Darryll J. Pines
President, University of Maryland
Vice President for Student Affairs
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion