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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Ethnic Student Center moves into new Multicultural Center

The new board in the the Ethnic Student Center on Sunday, Sept. 29. It gives information about founding clubs and added its final club, the Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC). // Photo by Ana Soltero

By Ana Soltero

With the new Multicultural Center, the Ethnic Student Center anticipates having a larger presence on campus and not only for minority students.

Before the building of the Multicultural Center, the location of the ESC was not well known. Tucked away in a corner on the fifth floor of the Viking Union, it was difficult to find unless one knew it was there. 

Madoka Iwamoto is president of the Japanese Student Association. 

“It is nice to have a space that feels like it was made for us,” Iwamoto said. “It was very hard to find our [old] space, [and it] was definitely a little bit too small for such a large population.” 

The ESC established itself in 1991, according to its website. It consists of 19 clubs and is student-run and is under the eye of the Associated Students. 

Although many might believe that the ESC is only meant for students of a particular identity, that is not the case.

“You can attend clubs that are not correlated to your identity,” said Katherine Fry, Mixed Identity Student Organization member. “It is [a] pretty open space.”

Iwamoto said the ESC is always looking for new members to join. 

“You don’t have to be a member of a club and have a certain identity,” Iwamoto said. “If you come to my club, [the] Japanese Student Association, you don’t have to be in anyway Japanese … or know anything about Japanese culture.”

“I think, at its heart, [the ESC] is a place for students — particularly underrepresented students — to be in [a] community, to find a place to really relax and [it] provide[s] a social atmosphere,” Eric Alexander, Interim ESC Supervisor, Associate Dean of Student Engagement and Director of the Viking Union said.

Alexander has been the Associate Dean of Student Engagement for the past five years. He said that over the summer, he began to further work with the ESC. The Viking Union puts on lots of ESC activities and events — it made sense for Alexander to work with the organization and take on the title of Interim ESC Supervisor.

The ESC provides leadership development programs, support for students in their own academic pursuits, and supports 19 clubs, Alexander said.

Fry said during her first year at Western she remembers feeling isolated, especially in the dorms. She believes the transition to a medium sized school can be a little overwhelming, especially for first-year students of color  in a predominantly white university. 

“So, the ESC really just … served as that space to have … a community of people that kind of understood what you were experiencing at Western,” Fry said.

ESC clubs are accessible and available to students looking for an array of opportunities, according to Iwamoto.

“I would just choose a club that you have a little bit of interest in and then show up to that,” she said.

The ESC may not have gotten much attention while hiding in the shadows, but the move into the sleek new Multicultural Center might garner more attention.

“We want to make sure that folks know that the ESC is here, that it’s in a new location, doors are open and we are here to support all students, but particularly underrepresented students, as they are transitioning on through … our campus,” Alexander said.


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