Multicultural Center brings diversity closer to the students

The Multicultural Center’s lounge has multiple chairs, a TV and a bar with a whiteboard for artwork or mathematical equations, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2019.

Those who walked the halls of the Jack B. Kelly Student Center before this fall semester will remember the Apple store between Starbucks and the university bookstore that became a construction site, which then became a lounge. This lounge, known as the Multicultural Center, is for everyone from all walks of life and gives all the opportunity to find more seating and bring them closer to the diversity on campus.

The center combines International Student Services with Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of First Year Experience and First Gen, and coalesces them with a relaxing lounge with multiple seats and a television. There are desks in the lounge as well. One is designated for the international office admissions assistants. Johan Alaya, a graduate student working on his masters in sales and business analytics, works as an assistant and helps with questions on immigration, admissions, and anything else an international student might need to know. He himself is from Colombia. When asked why he sought out the job, Alaya said, “Because I like it, because I’m an international student. So there’s a way to help my… people.”

Even after only existing for one semester, the center has become a popular spot for students to study and the international community.

“I think it’s nice. It’s an excellent place for students to come hang out. It’s much more open… as opposed to the closet that used to be there,” said George Pacheco Jr., director of experiential learning, who is focused on improving student’s tangible learning experiences and helps them gain access to hands-on education opportunities. “We’ve already seen an uptake in students hanging out. Just today as, a matter of fact, we had a group of students studying here at the table for a couple of hours. That’s good. It’s good to see life. All the space is designed for students to come and be comfortable and be successful. And that’s what it’s for.”

One of the biggest changes that the new multicultural center has brought to West Texas A&M University’s campus is that of the international student services location. Before this fall semester, the International Student Office was located in the Old Student Union Building, or ‘Old Sub’.

“The move to the new location has been extremely beneficial to our international students,” said Kristine Combs, director of international student services. “At some point throughout their day, they usually need to go to the post office, bookstore, advising center or JBK for something. They can now just pop in without having to walk across campus to see us.”

WTAMU’s substantial international community rely on international Student Services and can look forward to a future free of marching to the Old Sub every time the services are needed.

“The office,” Combs explained, “is responsible for the recruitment, evaluation, and admission of both undergraduate and graduate international students.” Additionally, it is in charge of issuing much-needed student immigration documents and student visas which are required by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to check up on all international student’s issues, such as their scholarly progress and work authorization.

The multicultural center is a welcome addition to the JBK, that not only eases the lives of those in the international community, but also concentrates nearly all the diversity offices of the campus to one focal point, allowing every student to acquaint themselves with the variety enjoyed at WTAMU.