After years of students fighting for a dedicated space to promote diversity and equity, Kansas State built the Morris Family Multicultural Student Center in 2020. The center’s student project coordinator Brandon Clark said that now — after one year on campus — the center’s popularity proves it was a need for students, not just a want.
“The center is something our students have been asking for, for decades,” Clark said. “A designated, freestanding space on campus dedicated to promoting diversity, inclusion and equity.”
Clark said since the ribbon-cutting this past November, the center has been busy and full of life.
“The students have been in here doing their programming, having meetings and hanging out,” Clark said. “I think it has met all the needs that students initially had in providing that space on campus, and that is evident in how busy the center always is.”
Clark said the student programs, meetings and social events the center hosts promote a sense of belonging for all students.
“I cannot overstate the importance of giving particularly our multicultural students on campus their sense of belonging,“ Clark said. “They were always longing for a place on campus because many places here are designated for various majors or departments, which can make students feel rejected and frustrated.“
The multicultural center has no specific criteria for who can use the building, Clark said.
“Now there is a building and a center where you can do your programming: no one is saying you do not belong or that the building is not for you,” Clark said. “Students are like, ‘This is where I find my place and my space here at K-State.'”
Having a physical building helps students see their community on campus, Kevin Santos Flores, director of diversity and multicultural student affairs, said.
“I believe having the center, especially the physical structure, helps validate students’ sense of their own identity and development because we do live in a country with people who come from various backgrounds,” Flores said. “So having the building provides that support and shows a sense of community and acknowledgment that people are here.”
Flores said rooms in the building that help spark a sense of community are the kitchen and performance room.
“The use of the kitchen shows a connection with cooking and culture, and the performance room gives students another outlet to grow and be around their peers,” Flores said.
Clark said The Gabriel Hernandez Common Room is another place where students can express themselves and let loose.
“While it may look like just another pretty area in the building, it is a place where community comes together. They do everything from study to hang out and lounge to having robust conversations,” Clark said. “If you want to see the liveliness of the center, you go to the Gabriel Hernandez Common Room.”
Marche Thompson, junior in hospitality management, said students constantly fill the common room throughout the day.
“I am in here all the time, either studying or hanging out. I love that every time someone walks up the stairs, they will add to the variety of people in the room,” Thompson said. “Everyone is different, but we all love to use this space together.”
Now that the building is completed and in daily use by students, Clark said he loves showing the center off to alumni.
“I have even seen alumni tear up because they just cannot believe the center is finally here, these people fought for something they knew they could never enjoy, but just to see current students enjoy it makes them feel accomplished,” Clark said. “It gives them hope that our current students will have better experiences now that the center is here, and it shows our current students that they stand on the shoulders of those who came before and fought for them to have this place on campus.”