One of the issues at the top of everyone’s minds lately has been diversity. At Hope, we’re lucky to have a place actively working to make inclusion a reality: the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI). Since their founding in 2016, as part of Hope’s “Hope for the World” initiative, the CDI has been located in Bultman Student Center across from Kletz Market. Around mid-October, though, the CDI will finally be getting its own building, the Keppel House, (the former campus ministries building). But what does this mean for students on campus?
Formerly the Office of Multicultural Education, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion is one of the few places on campus students of color can be together and feel safe. The CDI provides many different services for students and faculty on Hope’s campus, but for many students, the CDI is so much more than a department. “It’s underrated, people don’t quite understand the power and impact the CDI really does make on campus,” says student outreach ambassador and assistant diversity educator, Taylor Calloway (’21), “The CDI is not just a space for students of color but it’s a place for all students, because growth is really understanding what is different from you; its understanding different cultures, languages, religions, sexual orientations and identities. The CDI’s whole purpose is affirming and invigorating everyone’s identity. The CDI’s role is really supporting the need for students to learn what they are not learning in their major. So the CDI provides a space for that.” The CDI also provides a space for Hope’s students of color; a place where they can feel safe and have community together on a predominantly white campus. The CDI has traditionally been a place where students, white or of color, can ask questions and reaffirm their identities, without judgement. The CDI works under a framework they call C.L.A.S.S., which stands for Cultural Competence, Leadership, Advocacy, Sense of Belonging and Success, and Spiritual Enrichment. Their primary goal is to provide a support system for students of color at Hope. They organize many events and programs on campus, such as the lecture series on diversity, the Step2Success program for incoming freshmen, Diversity Institute, the Women of Color and Senior Recognition night, and the Leadership Empowerment Program, just to name a few. Along with all of that they help coordinate MSO events, like the Black Excellence Dinner. Vicente Bickel (’22), another student outreach ambassador and assistant diversity educator, says of the impact of the CDI, “When I think of the CDI and what it means to me, and what it means to students in general, I think of ‘center,’ I think I would say it is the center of Hope in terms of diversity not just physically, but as an ideological center and homebase. The CDI is a place where you can go and really be heard if you’re a student of color on campus.”
For many students of color on campus, it’s exciting that the CDI is getting its own building, as Hope tries to put more effort into its diversity initiatives.The CDI’s current location in the Bultman Student Center, while central to campus and highly visible, could “feel like a fishbowl,” Calloway remarks. For such an important part of campus life, the fact that the CDI is only just now getting its own space is unusual. “The CDI currently shares a space with Student Life, so they kind of get clumped together, and I think the CDI has always deserved its own space. You go to any other campus and their center for diversity and inclusion is going to have its own space, it requires space to be a place that networks for students.” With such close quarters, the CDI could never feel like a department all their own. Bickel adds, “[The new location] creates a center and a space completely dedicated to its goal.” The new location will also make the CDI more accessible for the students it serves. In the past, giving directions to the CDI has been somewhat difficult, “Having that space and being able to say, ‘Oh, where is it?’ ‘It’s in the Keppel House,’ is important; instead of, ‘Well, it’s in a corner of the Bultman Student Center, next to Student Life,’ that’s a hard way to direct students to go,” says Calloway.
This move is largely viewed as a step in the right direction. The director of the CDI, Vanessa Greene, has been working tirelessly to get the CDI a place to call home. Calloway, who was there when Greene announced the victory to a group of students says,“This was her project, and we, as students, were behind her full force. She was going and talking to everyone she could about how the students deserve this space. So when the final decision came down, I remember the day she told us, she came out into the space outside of her office, where a bunch of us would sit at tables, and she said ‘We have Keppel House!’ and all of us were just like ‘Aaah!’ and were all super excited.” Now, the CDI can have a place to call home, a place where students of color can go and not feel alienated, or like they were in a fishbowl. Gaining access to Keppel House was an uphill battle and showed that there are yet more battles to be won on Hope’s campus. Calloway says of this, “To be blunt, people have always questioned us students of color and whether we use the spaces we have. Students before us had fought for the multicultural lounge so this was not new to people who work within the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, fighting for the spaces that we use. When you give us so little space only so many students can use it at a time. We were asking for a bigger space because we are a community and we will find any place as students of color to be in community with each other.”
The CDI and students of color on campus now have a concrete place to call home and build their community. Keppel House has space for CDI’s staff offices and places where the various MSO’s on campus can gather together. “Once we have this space, and use it to its fullest, then the campus and the administration will see that the Center for Diversity and Inclusion is worth it and they know what they’re doing,” Bickel says of the fight that remains after the procurement of Keppel House.Calloway and Bickel urge students to “Come check us out, come talk to us and learn more about the CDI, because we want to be your support system.” Inclusion is an all or nothing principle, says Calloway, if a college campus isn’t 100% dedicated to supporting all of its students then it isn’t an inclusive place. If students don’t interact with people who are different from them, with different races, cultures, languages, sexual orientations, gender identities, religions, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, etc. than they will never have space to grow as a person. “You don’t go to college to end up being the same person when you go home,” Calloway comments. The CDI is continuing the fight to make Hope College a more inclusive place, and now, they have the space to really stretch their legs and make even more of a difference.