As students begin to congregate around campus at the beginning of another school year, UW students of Latinx and Asian American heritage will find dedicated spaces to call their own.

A year after the Black Cultural Center opened to great fanfare, the two new “startup centers” will open this year to focus on two other ethnic identities: The Latinx Student Center and APIDA (Asian Pacific Islander Desi American) Student Center will start serving students in smaller spaces in the North Mezzanine area of the Red Gym, which houses the Multicultural Student Center, and work toward grand openings in the spring of 2019.

“I think our first year for the Black Cultural Center went great. It was amazing,” says MSC Assistant Director for Cultural Programming Karla Foster. “There were constant students in the space, utilizing the space, utilizing the resources in the space. Outside of students, there were also just faculty and staff around campus that would come in and just have their lunch and just want to be a community with people who look like them.”

Karla Foster speaks at the dedication of the Black Cultural Center last year.

MSC Director Gabe Javier says the new centers will follow the model of the Black Cultural Center, including taking the time to organize communities and learn what students really need — all the way down to getting student input in choosing the fabrics for the decor.

“(The BCC) gave a definite road map in terms of benchmarking, looking at the history and the need at this particular institution, what does the data say, getting an advisory board together, thinking about how to build a community,” he says. “All of those things were things first done with the Black Cultural Center. So it’s been really great because students have been in coalition with each other to establish these other cultural centers. I think that the process of establishing a cultural center in and of itself has been such an important identity development and community building experience for the students.”

And some of those students who have already laid the groundwork have become the part-time staff of those centers, which Javier says is the MSC’s way of “honoring their labor.”

Staffing will be part time for now, but Foster says the goal is to ramp up to hiring a full-time director for each center.

“For the APIDA and Latinx multicultural centers, we’ve dedicated student staff positions to be those community organizers,” Foster says. “And we know that’s not enough, it’s what we have right now and we know it’s not enough. So we know that we want to build up to a capacity where by we have a (full time director) in those spaces or doing that programming for those communities.”

The new cultural centers will be located in the North Mezzanine area of the Red Gym.

“These centers are not meant to be segregated,” Javier says. “It’s not meant to segregate the APIDA community or the Latinx community. It’s proven that students of color have different needs that are specific to their experiences on campus at a predominantly white institution. So I think that means that we have to do different interventions. Different interventions will be relevant to students of color that may not be as relevant to the majority of white students.”

Source: UW Opens Latinx, Asian American Student Centers