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Oct. 10, 2008

Multicultural center

The reception area sits at the north end of ISU's new multicultural center in the MU. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Multicultural center opened this week

by Anne Krapfl

Iowa State's first multicultural center opened Monday in second-floor Memorial Union space that once was home to the alumni association.

The 3,500-square-foot area features a lounge, library, multipurpose room, small kitchen, two small study rooms and eight large permanent carrels for student use.

On Tuesday, Oct. 28, guided tours will be offered prior to a 4 p.m. dedication ceremony for the new center. Tours will begin at 3 p.m.

In a building whose decor largely returned to its classical beginnings during recent renovations, the center is notably modern, with floor-to-ceiling doors, liberal use of whiteboard and blackboard wall sections, light woodwork, and glass wall panels that allow outdoor light to pass through the center. Memorial Union director Richard Reynolds said that was the direction given to the architect, since the center is in a 1977 addition to the Union.

The center is intended to be a welcoming place for multicultural students, but also a place for all members of the university community to understand the experiences of students of cultures other than their own, and develop a respect for the diversity of individuals.

The center is a cooperative effort of the office of multicultural student affairs and the Memorial Union. A student fee ($3 per semester for 10 years) is paying for the renovation. Custodial, IT, maintenance and hourly student employees that help staff the center will be provided by the MU; multicultural student affairs is providing the part-time salary for Andrea Arzuaga, a graduate student in educational leadership and policy studies, who will coordinate programming in the center. There are no staff offices in the center.

"It's an evolutionary thing," Reynolds said of the shared responsibility, noting that multicultural student affairs currently doesn't have a permanent director. "The important thing to us was making the multicultural center a reality because the student support and the momentum were there. We're working through decisions and policies as they arise."

Multicultural student organizations will have first priority to use the spaces in the center, Reynolds said. The multicultural center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Those interested in using the space should reserve it through the Memorial Union's event management office, 4-1437.

West Des Moines ceramics artists Steve and Miky Cunningham are creating about a half-dozen pieces for the center as its Art in State Buildings component, including several vessels and wall pieces.

Additional meeting rooms

While construction crews were in that corner of the building, Reynolds used Union reserve funds to have them renovate the men's and women's restrooms east of the Gold Room and build two general-use meeting rooms in the former area of the student alumni organization. Room 2210 seats 18 at a conference table and room 2213 seats 14 at a smaller table. These also may be reserved through the Union's event management office.


Dedication: Multicultural Center

Tuesday, Oct. 28, 4-5 p.m.

  • 3 p.m. guided tours begin
  • 4:15 p.m. program
  • Refreshments served