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New Multicultural Center opens at UMD

The tables with greasy remnants of pizza and chicken fingers are gone, along with the distinct aroma of an overworked deep fryer. Walking into the University of Minnesota Duluth's new Multicultural Center, there isn't a single piece of evidence s...

The tables with greasy remnants of pizza and chicken fingers are gone, along with the distinct aroma of an overworked deep fryer.

Walking into the University of Minnesota Duluth's new Multicultural Center, there isn't a single piece of evidence suggesting it was ever the old Kirby Cafe. But, as the new multicultural center, the second floor of the Kirby Student Center will still be a popular gathering place for students, faculty and staff.

"It's a place where students can feel a sense of belonging," said Susana Pelayo-Woodward, director of the Hispanic/Latino/Chicana Learning Resource Center. The multicultural center officially opened its doors on Tuesday with a well-attended open house.

In previous years, multicultural student groups were spread around campus, making it difficult for groups to interact with each other.

Now, eight different student organizations are housed together in the multicultural center, making it one of the most unique and inclusive centers in colleges across the country.

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When designing the center in 1998, multicultural program directors looked at 25 different universities that have established multicultural centers.

UMD decided to involve a wide range of multicultural groups, including Access for All, Asian Pacific American Association, Black Student Association, International Club, Latino/Chicana Student Association, Queer Student Union, Women's Resource and Action Center and Students Engaged in Rewarding Volunteer Experiences, or SERVE.

"We're hoping this is a place where faculty, staff and students can feel they are welcome," said Pelayo-Woodward. "We see it as a place where education can occur. To the rest of the campus, we are providing a space where people can come together."

The center was designed with facilities aimed at attracting students and encouraging education and participation, including meeting rooms, student organization offices, a multimedia and graphic room and a student lounge.

The new facilities also uphold the mission and goals of the multicultural center. The mission statement of the multicultural center is "to provide a forum for communication, discussion and understanding of educational, political, social and cultural issues of concern to students served in the multicultural center, to provide support programs and activities promoting appreciation and awareness, to serve as a catalyst for change and to provide personal and academic support, advising and disability accommodations."

Throughout the year, groups will organize workshops that will be open to all of UMD and the greater Duluth community, and groups will start combining efforts to host bigger events.

"We'll have a common calendar, and we'll be able to coordinate better, instead of having three big events on the same day," said Pelayo-Woodward.

Gabe Ekisola, a fourth year student at UMD, attended the open house.

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"It's pretty good. I think it was a smart idea," Ekisola said. Before this multicultural center opened, Ekisola said he'd never met so many diverse people.

"It's an open space, so anyone can come up here," Ekisola said. "I'll be coming up here. It's like a stop now."

Charles Thumbi, also in his fourth year, agreed.

"It's a nice place to chill out and get to know some people," Thumbi said. "I'll be coming up here to check it out."

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