New student center highlights diversity and inclusion

Contact: Michael Smith

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The new student center on the campus of Western Michigan University features spaces intentionally designed to foster a welcoming, inclusive and student-centered space, guided by the work of an Institutional Diversity and Multiculturalism (IDM) committee.

Starting in 2018 and continuing through 2020, the IDM committee worked with diversity consultants from CannonDesign, a Chicago-based architectural firm, to plan the design and layout of the new student center. The IDM committee included representatives from across campus with a focus on students from various affinity groups, such the Black Student Union, Latino Student Alliance, Western Student Association, Graduate Student Association and Disability Student Services. The committee’s process focused on reflecting a student-first approach while still balancing use by the WMU community. Departments and services that will reside in the building continue to adopt the focus of the IDM committee in the planning process.  

“WMU students desire a place where they can be themselves and share their culture and lived experiences with others,” says Paul Terzino, Bernhard Center director. “When that happens, positive engagement flows and students become enriched with learning more about the world outside their comfort zone. This is going to be a place that is welcoming, inclusive and supportive of all who enter.” 

Gifted tribal blanket

A gifted tribal blanket given to the University by representatives from the Three Fire Confederacy will be on display.

At the center of the IDM committee's focus was creating a space that centered on student inclusion and engagement. Ideas and discussions that occurred in this collaborative group resulted in new features for the student center, including a Mosaic Affinity Space, which will be a suite of five rooms for cultural and affinity-based programs, meetings, gatherings and events, as well as a "voices wall" that will feature student photos and quotes.

The new student center will also display a gifted tribal blanket given to the University by representatives from the Three Fire Confederacy. The blanket will be located on the first level across from the WMU Bookstore and accompanied by the following Land Acknowledgment Statement:

“We would like to recognize that Western Michigan University is located on lands historically occupied by Ojibwe, Odawa and Bodewadmi nations. Please take a moment to acknowledge and honor this ancestral land of the Three Fires Confederacy, the sacred lands of all indigenous peoples and their continued presence.”

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.