Expanding Diversity Center creates space for DEI programming to develop

DEI growth and a new directorial position in the works

By Chiara Profenna | September 16, 2022 1:00pm

The new Diversity Center is located in Buckley Center on the first floor.

Media Credit: Gavin Britton / The Beacon

The small unassuming classroom in Buckley Center that was used as the Diversity Center in the past is getting an exciting expansion.

Originally housed in Buckley Center 102, the expansion is incorporating the adjoining classroom to allow for more space.

“We started with not having any Diversity Center, to having something that was a bit smaller, and it’s expanding.” James Peña, the Wellness Education & Prevention Program Coordinator said. “So I think it says something about progress.” 

Peña worked on a subcommittee with student leaders that helped inform the layout and contents of the space. Many of the students involved have graduated, but left behind their legacy in the Diversity Center.

Formally opening in October, students can expect a multi-functional space furnished with flexible seating options to lounge, study or hang out.

The dedicated diversity space marks a turn in the University’s commitment to improve and create safe spaces for marginalized students on campus.

“For me it’s encouraging, and I hope it can be an encouragement to others, to have the commitment from so many people in our community to diversity and helping our students feel like they belong here on our campus,” said Peña.

Eduardo Contreras, Associate Provost for International Education, Diversity and Inclusion, hopes that the new and improved Diversity Center can be a welcoming and inclusive space for all students.

“I always say that it should feel like a living room in a family house,” Contreras said. “Where you're comfortable to come as you are with your full authentic self and just be there.”

The new opening to the Diversity Center, formally opening in October.

by Gavin Britton / The Beacon

Also included in the design is a small kitchenette, lockers and offices. One of these offices will house the incoming Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, a new position that UP hopes to fill during the fall semester.

The hiring of this new position falls in the wake of the DEIJ Report made by Elizabeth Ortiz last semester which proposed a whole list of recommendations for the University. As the University addresses the concerns, a dashboard has been created to monitor the progress of each recommendation.

The new position holds a prominent place in the University as the new director would oversee all diversity and inclusion programs and operations in the Diversity Center, which will serve as the headquarters for the DEI branch.

The new position also opens up a lot of opportunities for DEI programming to expand with more representation in administration. 

A look at the new Diversity Center layout, which will include offices and a kitchenette.

by Gavin Britton / The Beacon

“I really do believe that if you have a diversity of thought, diversity of identities, you get a richer array of programs and ideas,” Contreras said. “It'll be exciting when we're able to announce somebody to see what they can bring, what kind of talents they'll bring in, what kind of perspectives.”

The new director would oversee UP’s Diversity and Inclusion Programs (DIP) and continue to expand DEI efforts on campus.

With these new developments and priorities placed on improving DEI issues on campus, The Diversity Center is a tangible display of these efforts to improve.   

“I'm hoping that it can be a symbol and representation of our University's commitment to diversity,” Peña said. “There's so much work to be done in that area, but I hope that it can be just one kind of small visual representation of that commitment.” 

Chiara Profenna is the DEI editor of The Beacon. She can be reached at profenna23@up.edu.