Over the past year—including at our Diversity and Inclusion Symposium, throughout our Middle States self-study and during development of our Strategic Plan—we have had many conversations about how best to help our community gain an appreciation for diversity.

While the issue remains a complicated one, there has been a consistent thread in these discussions with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community: a need to establish some kind of center that encourages diversity, inclusion, and productive collaboration for all.

You have been heard.

At my direction, IUP will begin the fall semester with a Center for Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement, accomplished in great part through a reorganization of several units within the Student Affairs division. While these committed individuals are on the front lines and perhaps most visible in this effort, I want this to be clear: we are all responsible for improving the experiences for our student body related to diversity, and for providing appropriate support to those diverse members of our IUP community.

As you all know, we face challenging budget times. However, there is no more important task than ensuring that IUP is a place of inclusion, where all can feel welcome to learn, work and live. We will fund and properly resource this center, which will eventually make its home in a $2.7-million renovated space on the first floor of Elkin Hall.

This new center will be directed by Theo Turner, who most recently served as interim director for the Center for Student Life. It will include the programs and services historically provided by the African American Cultural Center, student leadership and new student success initiatives, Greek Life, and community engagement. And, this fall we will hire an assistant director for multicultural affairs and student success. While established events related to multicultural programming and student success will continue under this new center, programming is by no means its sole mission. It will be visible, active, and a place where students from all backgrounds can come together to better understand one another and the diverse world that we share.

For now, the new center's operations will be physically located in Pratt Hall and in Delaney Hall (where the African American Cultural Center has been housed). The renovation of its space in Elkin should be completed in January 2018. (IUP obtained permission from the Pennsylvania State System Board of Governors to secure bond funding for the project in July.) Once renovated, there will be 85 percent more space for the center than in Pratt and Delaney halls, providing areas for student organizations to gather by affinity group and interact among groups, private meeting areas, multipurpose room, and shared student programming space. Renovation of Elkin will begin this fall.

As we approach the start of the semester, regular updates will be provided on the status of the formation of the new organizational structure, programming, opportunities for student engagement, and the renovation of Elkin. There is, of course, much more work to be done to ensure our students are prepared for the world they will face. The establishment of the center is an important step forward.

I ask that every member of our community be engaged and active in this initiative.