Stockton University celebrated the opening of a new Multicultural Center on its Galloway campus this week.
“This center is not just a physical space; it is also a reminder that we must all do what we can to ensure Stockton remains a welcoming community for all,” President Harvey Kesselman told a crowd of more than 200 students, faculty, staff and community members who gathered in the new space.
“Our arms are open to everyone,” said Ray Ciccone, chair of the Board of Trustees. “In 2020, the Board of Trustees adopted a resolution dedicated to equity, social justice and inclusion. This center is the physical embodiment of that resolution.”
The Multicultural Center “will serve as a vibrant hub and resource for the entire campus community. One that places the identities and experiences of diverse and historically marginalized groups at its very center,” Kesselman said.
The 4,200-square-foot space features a flexible multipurpose lounge for events, a conference room, kitchen, resource center and staff offices. A garden entrance and archway, which draw their inspiration from the Civil Rights Garden in Atlantic City, lead into the center.
The center will provide a space on campus to address the needs of Stockton’s increasing diversity. The fall 2022 entering class was the most diverse in Stockton’s history at 46%, with more than 700 first-year students identifying as minority or mixed race.
“Momentum surrounds us right now, not just in this space, but in the entire campus community,” said Jovin Fernandez, adding she was excited to join Stockton as the inaugural director of the Multicultural Center.
“This center will bring a new layer of joy, excitement, belonging and inclusion to the campus. I look forward to the ways that we will strengthen school spirit and institutional pride, how we will deepen critical thinking and learning inside and outside of the classroom, grow as a community and bond in unity,” Fernandez said. “We will celebrate our similarities rather than allowing our differences to distance us.
“For all of you who may have at any point questioned whether or not you belong at this institution, let today be the day that we reaffirm our commitment to you as an institution,” Fernandez said to the audience. “We are here to let you know that we hear you, we see you, we support you, and through the Multicultural Center, we will strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion while serving you and honoring your experiences.”
Senior Joshua Hunte, of Lindenwold, said he was “blown away” by the new space. “I definitely want to see all students coming here and that it becomes a place where students not only hang out but also learn and be more comfortable with other people,” Hunte said. “It’s a big thing, especially when living on campus: you’re around new people and different cultures, so this is definitely a place for students to get a feel for that.”
Angela Sanchez, of Camden, has been anticipating the center ever since it was announced and believes it represents a “new beginning” for the whole Stockton community.
“I hope people take in this moment and really utilize the space here,” Sanchez said. “They made this for us, the students, so, hopefully, we all use the space for what it’s meant for: belonging and being together.”
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