IUP celebrates new multicultural center

Guests celebrate on Friday morning at a ribbon-cutting on Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s new $2.7 million Center for Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement in Elkin Hall. Photos by David Loomis.

By The HawkEye staff

INDIANA – University officials cut a ribbon Friday morning on a new multicultural center in an old building at the campus’ northwestern boundary. A diverse crowd filled the lobby of the renovated Elkin Hall to hear speeches and to brunch on breakfast sandwiches in an adjoining meeting room.

The $2.7 million Center for Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement (MCSLE), or “muscle” as speakers abbreviated it, provides space for administrative offices, for student groups, a multipurpose room and a dance studio.

MCSLE director Theodore G. “Theo” Turner thanked students for helping to design the space.

“’We want a dance studio,’ is one of the things they said they wanted,” Turner said. “We made that happen.”

The center offers “services to address multiple aspects of culture, identity and diversity,” according to a university news release.

MCSLE director Theodore G. “Theo” Turner spoke at Friday’s Elkin Hall ceremony.

Turner said the services respond to a 2015-2016 self-assessment conducted for a periodic university re-accreditation.

The study for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education identified “a serious undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the level of diversity at the university and the extent to which members of various minority groups feel respected by and included in the university community.”

The study also reported that minorities who choose not to attend IUP or who drop out soon after enrolling “cite the lack of racial-ethnic diversity in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and/or the lack of a multicultural center at IUP as determining factors.”

The findings echo shortcomings reported in a 2015-2016 campus climate study conducted separately.

The center’s focus on such “soft skills” as leadership and socializing reflects similar efforts at increasingly diverse U.S. college campuses, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

IUP’s enrollment grew slightly more diverse from 2007 to 2016, when white enrollment declined by 2 percentage points and black enrollment rose by 1 percentage point.

IUP President Michael A. Mike Driscoll and student Melissa Checo-Hichez await their turns to speak at Friday’s ribbon-cutting.

On Friday, IUP President Michael A. Driscoll touted the center as “one of the most important things we have created here.”

As he spoke, Driscoll clutched a bouquet during an extended metaphor on variety, inclusion and students facing an increasingly diverse globalized economy.

“We owe them a whiff and a chance to be part of the bouquet,” Driscoll concluded.

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