New Diversity Center on campus a safe haven for students from all walks of life
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According to the “U.S. News and World Report,” the University New Orleans is ranked among the most diverse in the country. The university’s newly opened Diversity Engagement Center will further embrace and engage with its diverse communities by providing a physical space for students to meet.
Peggy Gaffney, director of Diversity Affairs, said that the main goal of the center is to promote and empower the university’s groups and individuals.
“The Diversity Cabinet has been around since before Katrina,” Gaffney said, “but it has also been one of the best-kept secrets on campus.”
The Diversity Engagement Center began as an idea generated during a recruitment retreat in 2015. The retreat itself was the idea of then-university Provost John Nicklow, who created a task force from the retreat group.
Gaffney was a member of the original task force, which eventually evolved into the Diversity Engagement Center. The process included student involvement in naming the center – originally the Diversity and Inclusion Center.
“I think that’s what our goal is,” Farley said, “is to engage the student body, to engage the community. And, personally, through talking with students, that’s what resonated…and when we brought it up to the [Diversity] cabinet, overall, that is the name that we all liked the best,” said Gaffney’s co-worker, Matt Farley.
While center’s the main priorities, right now, are to make sure students are aware of the presence of the Diversity Engagement Center as a resource, Gaffney said its future goals are still growing and evolving. She also said she hopes to hire additional staff so that someone can be in the office all day; currently, Gaffney and Farley are the only employees in the center.
Gaffney and Farley said they both hope the center can provide an additional layer of support, individually, for students “because not all students who belong to a community belong are part of the student groups who represent that community,” Gaffney said.
Farley said that he hopes the center can become a “one-stop shop,” similar to other on-campus student leadership organizations. “If students have questions related to funding or creating groups, we can help them or assist in letting them know these opportunities exist.”
“Even if a student just wants to talk about something on campus, we’re here. Obviously, we’ll direct students to counseling services if they need it, but sometimes students just want to vent and talk through a situation. We’re here to listen. We’re here to see what the next step will be.”
Moving forward, Farley said, is about “continuing to create campus partnerships.” This includes reaching out to student groups that haven’t been represented as well in the past and working to increase the center’s visibility to those students.
Farley said, “This is the hope: that student groups who have been sort of marginalized or haven’t had the same access to resources will be able to benefit from the center, either by having a place to come in and vent, to congregate, or to be assisted and supported.”
The center is located in Room 201B of the University Center next to the Interfaith Prayer Room.