When Olivia Henderson ’23 first joined the Syracuse University community, she discovered the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) through her participation in a program supporting academic excellence and leadership development for first year students. Now a sophomore, Henderson says her involvement with OMA programs, and the other services and centers she discovered through them, inspired her to embrace aspects of her identity she had not previously explored.
The exploration, expression and celebration of identity takes a central role in the newly reimagined and renovated Schine Student Center, where the OMA joins the Disability Cultural Center (DCC) and the LGBTQ Resource Center on the first floor in an area called the Intercultural Collective. Here, the three offices, which were previously geographically distant from each other on campus, will share communal space where students can connect.
The co-location of these services in a central, easily accessible place on campus honors the intersectionality of identity and allows for coalition-building and collaboration, says Meredith Davis, associate vice president of student engagement. “This allows us to better work together across specializations so we can provide robust programming that meets a multiplicity of identities,” she says.
Each office has its area of expertise and will still focus on specific populations, explains Huey Hsiao, associate director of OMA and the Kessler Program, but the physical proximity and attention to intersectionality means that students who identify with more than one marginalized identity don’t have to prioritize one over the others.
It’s this synergy that Henderson looks forward to. “The Intercultural Collective will allow students to explore the many intersections of their identities all at once, rather than having to face those identities separately,” says the communication and rhetorical studies major. “No one should feel like they have to code switch, or be different versions of themselves, when they move between different communities.”
Another value of the co-location is the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation around areas of tension or potential conflict. “Sharing space allows us to hold each other accountable—and to model to the larger community how to respectfully engage in challenging and important conversations around our intersecting identities,” says Jorge Castillo, director of the LGBTQ Resource Center.
Christian Buonadonna ’22 thinks the education generated by the Intercultural Collective’s programming will be one of its most valuable features. Buonadonna, who majors in sport management in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics , has served as a peer leader in a number of capacities during his time at Syracuse, often with a focus on diversity and inclusion. The experiences he values most are those that have opened his mind to new perspectives.
“The Intercultural Collective is there for all students. It helps us be the kind of community we want to be,” Buonadonna says. “There are so many students at the University who are involved in initiatives that support underrepresented communities—there’s so much energy and so much passion around these topics. These conversations and collaborations are really what our community stands for and what Syracuse University is all about.”