Dedicated to diversity


Boom! At the loud thumping of African drums, courtesy Chicago-based Funkadesi, the 75 or so people gathered in 5710 S. Woodlawn stopped chattering and began clapping and nodding to the festive beat. When the music ended a few minutes later, University President Robert Zimmer welcomed the crowd to the grand opening of the new Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA), LGBTQ Programming Office, and Amandla Lounge.

The building’s opening, Zimmer said, was "an exciting moment” for the University, not only providing a space for important programming and community events but also symbolizing "the University's expanding and deepening commitment to diversity in all of its aspects." 5710, as users refer to the orange-brick building, will both house "the rough-and-tumble of academic exchange" and offer a home for several registered student organizations, a "place where the communities involved can flourish."

After Zimmer spoke, Kenneth Warren, deputy provost for research and minority issues, noted that it was a group of students who, in 2003, approached the University asking for a space dedicated to diversity. Then Lizette Durand, AB'01, PhD'07, who sat on several student committees that helped make the new facility happen, discussed how minority students wanted a place "to express our individuality without feeling out of place on campus." Vice President and Dean of Students Kimberly Goff-Crews toasted the building’s past, present, and future, and Ana Vazquez, deputy dean of students students and director of OMSA—the “M” officially changed from “minority” to “multicultural” in July 2007—thanked the many people who helped, noting that the office was built entirely with institutional funds. Then Zimmer, along with student representatives from several minority RSOs, cut ribbons to make the opening official.

Free to tour the converted mansion—formerly home to University Publications and Human Resources Management—the guests roamed the three floors while nibbling on popcorn, quesadillas, dessert pastries, and chicken wings. They oohed and ahhed at the sunny lounges on each floor and noted it was, indeed, a place that students and staff of all cultures could call home.


Photos: A member of Funkadesi grabs the crowd's attention; Zimmer and several student representatives perform the official ribbon-cutting honors.

Photos by Lloyd DeGrane

March 3, 2008