In the conference room in the KSU Foundation building, students, faculty and administrators fill in to empty seats. Dressed mostly in black, white and purple, the people meeting make up more than half of the 28 individuals that form the Multicultural Student Center Project Action Team.
The action team officially met for the first time this semester, having met a number of times over the last year to solidify the construction of the long-promised multicultural student center.
The team is an initiative, decades in the making, now led by Adrian Rodriguez, associate vice president of academic student services for diversity and multicultural student affairs, who arrived at Kansas State in November 2017.
This meeting in particular, Rodriguez said, is meant to get every member of the action team “up to speed” regarding the conversations that were held over the summer.
K-State remains the only school in the Big 12 conference that does not have any iteration of a space dedicated specifically to multicultural students.
Pat Bosco, vice president of student life and dean of students, said “there isn’t anything more important” to the university at this time than promoting diversity and inclusion.
As such, the construction of the center, emphasizes this priority, Bosco said.
“We weren’t starting anew, we were wanting to make sure that our work reflected a lot of the past work and we were building on that strong foundation,” Rodriguez said. “Of course we are also needing to move forward, right? So, it’s a combination of the work that had been done and the work of this new group moving forward.”
Rodriguez said the action team secured backing from the President’s Cabinet in addition to continued collaboration with the KSU Foundation in the continuation of the project during September.
In 2015, then-President Kirk Schulz announced plans to secure donations that would go toward the planned $16-million project that would build what he referred to as the “Campus Multicultural Center” in his letter to students at the start of the academic year.
As of right now, John Morris, senior vice president of development at the KSU Foundation, said to date, the Foundation has secured $2.7 million in donations of the estimated $5 million the project-as-planned will require.
Morris said he expects to have the rest of the money for the center secured by December.
By the spring, Rodriguez said he hopes the construction documents will be in order, which would set in motion the 14-monthlong construction process. Ideally, the center would be complete over the summer of 2020 and open for that fall semester.
“These are some goals,” Rodriguez said. “We start there depending on that fundraising.”
Based on the executive summary presented in the meeting, the center’s location is planned for the east side of the K-State Student Union and was selected based on a set list of specific criteria including location centrality from a list of seven locations.
While design development of the space is still in the drafting phases, the plans as of now show a public interaction zone for all students with a closed-off space that would be specific for multicultural student organizations.
“One of the concerns that have been brought up was, obviously, new space,” Rodriguez said. “We want to really reserve it, protect it, for its function and for its identity and what it means to us and so forth. And so I think that it’s really important, and I think this is really critical.”
Rodriguez said he thinks the distinction within the space between public and reserved space for multicultural students is the “heart” of the space, which is “built on identity.”
Lengthy conversations about the requirements of the space necessitated the building to be upward of 14,000 square feet to accommodate the more-than-40 multicultural student organizations operating at K-State, Rodriguez said.
The building, planned in coordination with Hollis + Miller of Kansas City, will have some room for the division of multicultural student affairs, divisible conference rooms, storage spaces and a kitchen as well as other multipurpose spaces.
Rodriguez said, at the moment, there is “a lot of momentum” supporting the center, mentioning the Student Governing Association resolution from the 2017-2018 governing term supporting the creation of a Multicultural Student Center and the Homecoming Committee’s decision to have the benefactor of the 5K Run-Walk event be the center.
Previously, Cindy Bontrager, vice president of administration and finances, and Ryan Swanson, vice president of facilities and university architect, declined comment until after KSUnite. Brandon Clark, student programs coordinator for diversity and multicultural student affairs, also declined additional comment.