Multicultural Center officially reopens after renovation

Students and faculty officially reopen the Multicultural Center with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the spaces main entrance. Photo courtesy Kirby Student Center

Students and faculty officially reopen the Multicultural Center with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the spaces main entrance. Photo courtesy Kirby Student Center

The Multicultural Center reopened their doors with an official ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday morning, Sept. 18.

The space played host to an open house, welcoming the campus to explore the newly renovated facilities and offered a delectable variation of international-themed food from UMD Catering.

Senior Doreen Mokeira introduces speakers and welcomes guests to the Multicultural Centers grand reopening. Photo courtesy Kirby Student Center

Senior Doreen Mokeira introduces speakers and welcomes guests to the Multicultural Centers grand reopening. Photo courtesy Kirby Student Center

UMD Senior Doreen Mokeira, President of the Black Student Association and Intern at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, kicked off the Multicultural Center’s grand reopening commencement ceremony by reading UMD’s land acknowledgement. Afterwards, Mokeira introduced speakers.

The acknowledgment is as follows. 

We collectively acknowledge that the University of Minnesota Duluth is located on the traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of Indigenous people. The University resides on land that was cared for and called home by the Anishinaabe people, and the Dakota people before them, from time immemorial. Ceded by the Anishinaabe in an 1854 treaty, this land holds great historical, spiritual, and personal significance for its original stewards, the Native nations and peoples of this region. We recognize and continually support and advocate for the sovereignty of the Native nations in this territory and beyond. By offering this land acknowledgment, we affirm tribal sovereignty and will work to hold the University of Minnesota Duluth accountable to American Indian peoples and nations.

“We’ve been waiting a long time to renovate the space,” Susana Pelayo-Woodward, the director of the office of diversity and inclusion said. “We were very fortunate to work with the Kirby Center and Facilities.”

Pelayo-Woodward stated that the Multicultural Center creates a sense of belonging, conceptualizing a strong sense of community with the students who enjoy the space. According to Pelayo-Woodward, the Multicultural Center officially started in 2004. 

Susana Pelayo-Woodward expresses her gratitude towards students, UMD and coworkers for all the effort put into the renovation. Photo courtesy Kirby Student Center

Susana Pelayo-Woodward expresses her gratitude towards students, UMD and coworkers for all the effort put into the renovation. Photo courtesy Kirby Student Center

“I love my job because I love working with students,” Pelayo-Woodward said during her speech Wednesday. “I have been very blessed to be among amazing people, amazing colleagues, amazing students and it’s always a joy for me to be a part of this process.”

Vice Chancellor of Student Life and Dean of Students Lisa Erwin expressed gratitude and love by quoting one of her “favorite philosophers” Stephen Colbert at the event. 

“Stephen said ‘Service is love made visible,’” Erwin stated in her speech. “You serve what you love so if you love money, you serve money. If you love your community, you serve your community. [Stephen] concluded by saying if you only love yourself, yourself is all you’ll have.”

According to Erwin, the Multicultural Center “exemplifies” the idea of service and love being made visible towards students and their academic success. 

“So many students have shared that this place has been the difference maker for them as they navigated UMD,” Erwin said.

Jeni Eltnki, the Director of Kirby Student Center, voiced that Kirby would not be the same without the Multicultural Center offering a home for students.

“This is your place, this is your space,” Eltnki said. “[Kirby’s] role, Susana’s role, my role is to be a constant factor so that, once you graduate and you go out and you do wonderful things, and you come back we’re going to be here and this place is going to be here for you.”

The Multicultural Center’s renovation allowed the location to offer 13 adaptable spaces for student organizations, includes various study locations and offers a common area for students and faculty alike. According to Chancellor Lendley (Lynn) Black, the Center was partly designed by students, with students in mind. 

“It’s a space for inclusion and diversity,” UMD Senior, Secretary of the International Club and Director of Diversity of Inclusion, Marissa Seibert said. “It brings students together and gives them a place on campus to find a community and a home.”

Seibert expressed her gratitude for the spot and said that she’s been involved in the Multicultural Center since her first year at UMD. Siebert stressed that the space is for all students.

The new design of the Multicultural Center was created with students in mind. The space was completely renovated and comes equipped with brand new furniture, new decor, original art by artist  Jimmy Longoria , new office space, study lounges and so much more. Photo courtesy Kirby Student Center

The new design of the Multicultural Center was created with students in mind. The space was completely renovated and comes equipped with brand new furniture, new decor, original art by artist Jimmy Longoria, new office space, study lounges and so much more. Photo courtesy Kirby Student Center

“You don’t have to be a part of any cultural orientation to join,” Siebert said. “There’s really a space for everyone.”

Student Dechelle Taibrell commented on how the previous version of the Multicultural Center had larger offices for student organizations, but they were more closed off. 

“This design makes a lot more sense to be together,” Taibrell said. “It’s more welcoming.”

Student Hodan Lucas agreed in stating that the extra communal space allows people from other organizations a place to talk. 

UMD Alumni and Previous Office of Diversity staff member, Quintina Abraham talked of how there was no Multicultural Center when she attended UMD in 2002. According to Abraham, all student organizations had offices scattered around campus. 

After she graduated, Abraham stated that she worked as an advisor for the Black Student Association in the Multicultural Center.

“During that time I realized there were so many students of color showing up at UMD with missing tools in their tool box,” Abraham said. “Like financial issues, family or [they’re] just not equipped to handle being on their own, pursuing a degree.”

The Multicultural Center has offered a home to many, with a rich history of inclusivity.

“The center is very unique,” Pelayo-Woodward commented. “There’s not many in the country that are as inclusive as we are. It is not possible without the collaboration and the solidarity of everyone. It takes a whole village to do what we have done here today.”

The Multicultural Center is located on the second floor of Kirby Student Center.

NewsZack Benz