When he looks out at the colorful lounge chairs and comfortable study spaces in the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC), Gregory Thurston sees the potential for connection. The Student Assembly president imagines his fellow Hornets gathering there and sharing their cultural knowledge with one another, he told the audience during the MRC grand opening on Feb. 27.
“SUNY Broome shows me that they’re willing to put forth the effort to make this campus more diverse. Effort with a purpose is something I can truly get behind,” he said.
Art and materials from cultures around the world adorn Room 106 in the Old Science Building, along with a large screen TV for viewing a collection of movies. Comfortable spaces for studying and small group meetings line the sides, and the MRC classroom is right next door.
The space was previously home to the Gamer’s Lounge, formerly called the Digital Lounge and Commons, which has moved next door to Room 108. The MRC is also located near gender-neutral restrooms, as well as the Interfaith Space in Room 201.
“We did this because of our students. Our students come from everywhere,” said Vice President of Student Development and Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Carol Ross-Scott. When we share our cultures and learn the value of different perspectives, she pointed out, we see how we are all part of one race – the human race.
“When we learn about our differences, we come to learn just how similar we are,” she said.
Community colleges are the ideal place for those cross-cultural conversations to occur. Broome County Executive and SUNY Broome alumnus Jason Garnar grew up in Greene, and didn’t truly experience diversity until he was a student on campus, he said. SUNY Broome President Kevin E. Drumm had a similar experience where he grew up in a western Massachusetts mill town and broadened his own perspective as a community college student.
“We have a pretty diverse student population here at SUNY Broome. In fact, I think community colleges as a whole represent the most diverse institution in the world,” Dr. Drumm reflected.
While the United Nations might be more diverse, it doesn’t have the open access of a community college, which by the virtue of its mission appeals to a wide range of populations, he said. Even today, community colleges are often the first place where students encounter people different from themselves.
“This room has an opportunity to do some informal teaching,” acknowledged Joe Angelino, who represented Assemblyman Cliff Crouch at the event. Angelino grew up in Norwich, back when the Chenango County community had only two major ethnicities: Irish or Italian.
The Southern Tier is becoming more diverse, and spaces such as the Multicultural Resource Center play an integral part in quelling fears and forging connections.