The Center for Diversity and Inclusion as a Resource on Campus

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) is an organization on campus with an office in Hammond GO4. CDI oversees many events on campus and supports students in a number of ways. Junior Peña, the Director for Student Diversity, Equity, and Belonging Programs at CDI, spoke about what CDI has to offer for students at Fitchburg State.

“At many institutions you will find centers like CDI and so much more. The main reason why they are important is because they create a space for students from underserved populations to feel engaged, connected, authentic, and in community. Similarly, it creates an opportunity for our entire campus community to learn and explore content, experiences, cultures, and conversations that they may not otherwise get to engage with in their time in college,” said Peña.

“Universities are microcosms of communities, but one of the distinct features of experiencing post-secondary education is being able to navigate spaces you might not otherwise encounter in your community back home. I think our Center tries to ensure we can engage our campus community as a whole and everything we do is informed by the students we serve,” he continued. CDI oversees a number of student-run organizations on campus with advisors from the office.

“I like to think our goal to create a space for all our students across campus to feel supported in their college experience. We directly support and advise our Latin American Student Organization, Gay Straight Alliance, Black Student Union, African Student Association, and are in the process of bringing back our Asian Student Organization. These identities are represented in the collaborative efforts we try to create on campus, but we also are very mindful of our first-generation college students, our commuter students, students with disabilities, students navigating housing and food insecurity, and many more populations of students.” CDI does a lot of work in their mission of supporting students and providing resources, but also has to be considerate of their inclusion.

“Like anything else, it takes a tremendous amount of consideration when trying to create spaces for students to feel comfortable on campus. Outside of the common issues I believe departments across campus encounter in terms of staffing and resources I think our space navigates some specific challenges. First, I think the biggest challenge is time and in a lot of different ways. People want quick fixes, they want checklist items that can be addressed, they want to discuss something and for it to be set aside; our work is in direct opposition of quick fixes. We can’t meaningfully say we accomplished our goals around inclusion without addressing what has or has not happened historically, without building a trusting and reciprocal community, and without taking the time to continuously improve from an environment that incentivizes learning from feedback. All of this takes significant investment and time, and it directly contradicts what we are accustomed to experiencing. I think time is also a factor because to understand cultural differences, to understand oneself, and to understand community it takes a tremendous amount of time, which can be difficult for anyone.”

CDI is working to improve student life and resources on campus and is available for any students to reach out to for assistance or support.

“We are a resource. We are here to support and ideally enrich your college experience. We work very hard to create opportunities for students to find friends and community, we regularly support students on finding and getting resources they need, and we create an atmosphere in our center that you can just relax and experience.” Said Peña. CDI is open from 9-5 or in accordance with Hammond’s hours.