Multicultural Center creates a welcoming, inclusive space


Sarah Henry/Iowa State Daily

The mission of the Multicultural Center at the Memorial Union is to establish a sense of unity between all students and staff of color on Iowa State’s campus.

Susannah Crishton

For many students, finding a space where their identities are valued and uplifted can often be hard, but the Multicultural Center has created a space to make it easier.

The Multicultural Center in the Memorial Union has existed since 2007, and had its official opening in 2008. It has served as an inclusive and open space for students of all ethnicities to convene, study and utilize for their needs.

In partnership with the Memorial Union, the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs has been able to create this gathering place for students of racial and ethnic minorities, and has established centers for LGBTQIA+ students, veterans and gender equity.

The main goals of the Multicultural Center are to offer students a place to build community and feel welcome, to collaborate with fellow students and faculty and to celebrate the diversity of heritages found at the university.

“When students come to a large place like Iowa State, it can be difficult to find places, actual spaces, where they are able to build a community […] and I see spaces where students will begin to decorate them, and put artifacts up that speak to their culture, their heritage, and I think so many times, being a part of a historically marginalized group on campus, we don’t see that,” said Kenyatta Shamburger, assistant dean of students and director of multicultural student affairs. “And so, I think it’s important that we find ways to create those spaces.”

The Multicultural Center offers desktop computers with printing access, private study rooms, conference areas and a library lounge for students and faculty. This space serves a variety of purposes, meant to facilitate conversation and embracement of diverse cultures and ideas.

“I definitely feel like it’s different compared to other study locations on campus,” said Elizabeth Khounlo, a sophomore in journalism. “It’s cozy […] I like the chairs.”

Danniel Stevens, a freshman in open option, said the design of the Multicultural Center is different and has a whole different vibe.

Stevens and Khounlo expressed the importance of the Multicultural Center to them. They said the location is very convenient for students to access, and it has served as a quiet place to come and study, especially when the rest of campus is in a finals week frenzy.

“I came here a lot during finals week just to study for exams,” Khounlo said. “I just found myself focusing better than in the library, especially since it’s so popular during that week.”

Khounlo said the Multicultural Center is a comfortable and relaxing environment for students. Sometimes it’s so quiet that some are able to catch up on much-needed sleep on the large chairs and couches.

“I feel like it’s not only a good study space, but I feel like, [I’m] just comfortable in my own element here, just being myself,” Khounlo said.

This space is set up to serve a variety of purposes, meant to facilitate conversation, productivity and embracement of diverse cultures and ideas. Stevens and Khounlo said the Multicultural Center definitely seems to be serving its purpose.

“I think that the spaces such as the Multicultural Center […] give students that sense of place, that sense of belonging,” Shamburger said. “And I think it also ultimately has an impact on the campus climate.”

The Multicultural Center is located on the second floor of the Memorial Union. Its hours are 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 5 to 11 p.m. Sunday. It is closed on Saturdays.