Students, faculty seek funding for multicultural student center

Students socialize at the Black Student Union back to school barbecue in the K-State Student Union Ballroom on Aug. 27, 2016. (File Photo by Miranda Snyder | The Collegian)

Since 2002, multicultural student enrollment at Kansas State has grown more than 50 percent, according to an informational pamphlet provided by the Office of Diversity. With the number of multicultural students increasing every year, the need for a multicultural student center has grown as well.

Zelia Wiley, interim associate provost of diversity, has been working with many individuals inside and outside of K-State to start the groundwork on the project.

“We want students to have that home,” Wiley said. “To really bring the awareness for our faculty and staff to be culturally competent and culturally sensitive, we want to have a building. We want to have something to represent that. Everyone needs a cultural home. What we plan to do is to use this center to really be that platform to show that excellence that we want to observe in cultural competency, inclusive and diversity.”

Wiley said the foundation of the project has been laid, including the rendering and investigation. An architect was contracted and designs were made for a building that will cost more than $15 million. The final design of the building will most likely change for cost as the project is still lacking major donors.

Nicole Askew, director of development of university programs, said most of the buildings on campus are funded through philanthropy, and believes the multicultural student center can be completed for a lesser amount.

“As far as fundraising, we’re looking to alums and friends of K-State as well as corporation and (Kansas State University) Foundation support,” Askew said.

Wiley said although most of the planning and consultation surrounding the project has been with campus leaders and possible donors, students have still been involved in the process.

Muenfua Lewis, former Black Student Union president and senior in finance, has been working with the Diversity 2025 initiative, which is focusing on the needs of students of color at K-State.

“Regardless if you’re a student of color, whether you’re a minority or not, this building benefits everybody,” Lewis said. “To me, everyone has a stake in making sure this building gets built and that it’s built to serve the community as well as highlighting and definitely standing firm to being a multicultural building. It will definitely benefit students in the long run and will educate the entire Kansas State University community. It will serve as a reminder of Kansas State University’s commitment to diversity.”

Tamyia Rowell, senior in operation supply chain management, agreed with Lewis that the construction of a multicultural student center is needed on campus.

“We as multicultural students, we need somewhere to go that is just full of us,” Rowell said. “We go to class every day and we see people that are the majority and we’re always the minority. We want somewhere where we can be the majority. BSU has their own efforts towards getting it done and we partnered with Jessica Elmore over in the Alumni Center. So just staying in contact with her and letting her know when we can be available to talk to sponsors or things like that.”

According to Wiley, in order for ground to be broken, more awareness needs to be brought to the project and a lot of funding is needed.

“If we break the ground for this, it will speak volumes to the students that we recruit,” Wiley said. “We say we’re the university of choice for multicultural students in the state of Kansas, but you can’t do that if you’re not putting it in action.”