For some OSU students, a visit to one of campus’ six cultural and resource centers happens only once during their time here. Maybe it happens during CONNECT Week, or is a requirement for an orientation class. But the centers are much more than destinations on a scavenger hunt. They’re resources for students who are looking for safe environments where they can learn about issues of identity, culture, heritage, history and self-expression. They’re also places where the OSU community and the community at large can explore and build relationships.
“The cultural centers take a multiple-pronged approach to educating the community about diversity,” says Victoria Nguyen, OSU’s director of diversity development. “It’s not just educational and social programming, but an environment where students, faculty and community members feel they can go for resources, to network, and where everyone is welcome and ideas are exchanged.”
Likewise, the resource centers, such as the Women’s Center, Pride Center, and ISOSU’s International Resource Center provide advocacy, support and safe spaces for exploring gender identity, sexual orientation, and cultures from around the world.
“We try to make the Women’s Center a comfortable, compassionate space for students looking for education or resources on women’s issues and women’s lives,” says Beth Rietveld, the Women’s Center director.
The centers are also places to feel at home – most have couches to relax on and kitchens to prep food in. Most have libraries for people looking for information, and computers for people who might just need to check e-mail.
In short, the centers are for everybody. Their presence is part of the fabric of OSU’s community, from ISOSU’s coffee hours and the Pride Center’s “Glee” nights, to the Women’s Center’s Feminist Fair and the Native American Longhouse’s Salmon Bake. Their presence changes OSU for the better.
“I have really opened up my mind to people who are different than I am, and I try to respect people from all walks of life,” says Neha Neelwarne, a senior finance major who has worked as the Women’s Center marketing coordinator for the past two years. “I think I’m going to take that into my future. I am more accepting and just in how I relate to the world.”