Cultural Resource Center provides a home for all students
Mike Thigpen, director of the Cultural Resource Center (CRC), has been teaching lessons on fear, anger, and shame. “I feel so often in our society we have allowed the message to be carried by one group; it’s the offended group. It causes the majority to feel fear, anger, or shame,” said Thigpen. In his lessons, Thigpen describes these three actions as a triangle. Not only does the majority feel these actions, but so does the minority.
While running to these corners, no one comes to the center of this triangle to discuss what is happening. “The reality of that confines that we run to, we never come to the center and say ‘Okay, let me deal with my personal feelings and now let me address it. Let me find a way out,’” said Thigpen.
One way Thigpen and AU are working to solve this issue is through a new program for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “We are actually giving students tools to address discriminatory practices that we see in society,” said Thigpen. In the past years of the celebration, there have never been any kinds of tools provided for students to be able to do what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) did.
Along with celebrating MLK and telling the truth about what happened during that time period, Thigpen said, “We’re going to give our student body tools to be able to engage and to be able to look at things that happened then and still happen now and how we cut it off.” The goal is to empower students to act upon the shared responsibility of addressing discriminatory and equality issues seen in daily life.
The CRC has hosted these MLK celebrations for the last several years. The aim is to educate students toward intercultural curiosity, learning, and humility in many different ways. The CRC encompasses multiple different offices and groups.
One of the offices within the CRC is Multicultural Student Services (MSS). The MSS office creates a diverse environment where students can learn from each other to help build their own identity. Multicultural students include Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, biracial, or from multiple of these cultures.
Overall, MSS seeks to raise awareness and understanding of different cultures.
AU is unlike most schools in Indiana with the small, Christian community in that these different cultures and groups are well fostered. “AU differs from other schools when helping multicultural students by having the director of MSS developing personal relationships with each individual that he works with,” said sophomore nursing student Pfalin Burton.
The CRC also hosts a few different events during the school year. The MLK Day celebrations will include the new tools for students as well as other events. A part of this day includes a community-wide walk across the Eight Street bridge in Anderson, Ind., along with featured speakers.
Heritage Week is a campus-wide celebration of different cultures and heritages created by the CRC. The week includes a special heritage chapel and an International Dinner from the Global International Student Association. The CRC and the Campus Activities Board (CAB) work together to host a World Cup Soccer tournament. The campus Gospel Choir also hosts an event for Heritage Week called ImageFest.
Students who are feeling the pressures of the world on their own shoulders are welcome to come to the MSS and the CRC for help. Anderson University promotes a safe and diverse environment, but the university cannot shield students from what happens outside its doors. It is important for the multicultural students to have a place to retreat with people who can empathize with their struggles.
Burton enjoys her time with the MSS. “The MSS has impacted my time at AU by always having an open door when needed, being a huge support in my academic success, and making sure I and the other multicultural students do not go unnoticed as a student of the university,” said Burton.
With all of the acts of hate around the country, our own students feel personally impacted. Burton feels this impact at times. “I feel angry, disgusted,” said Burton. “I feel no matter what happens, there will never be change and I feel when racist things happen it is always overlooked,” said Burton.
The MSS provides a special space for Burton where she can connect with others who may share this struggle. “AU makes me feel safe and comfortable when I am around certain individuals where I can express my feelings and thoughts about the things that may never change,” said Burton.
During her time with MSS, Burton traveled on a Tri-S trip to Washington, D.C. with the Black Student Association (BSA) for students to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture. “I met people that I did not know, made great memories while on the trip, and was just fascinated how it was one of the most diverse Tri-S trips. The relationships made and the community that was built while on the trip helped to reassure that love, happiness, and fun conquers all,” said Burton.
The BSA is one of the many cultural clubs that the CRC has to offer. Other cultural clubs include the Asian Student Association, the Gospel Choir, the Global International Student Association, and the Hispanic Latino Student Association.
One of Burton’s favorite parts of the MSS is that it is part of the CRC along with the other clubs. “We have a very strong community and we are just one big family,” said Burton.
With resources like the CRC and the MSS, students can have a community of people who can support them and empathize with cultural issues. They will work through the fear, anger, and shame together. The CRC and MSS help AU students come to the center of the triangle and discuss the issues in our world today.
Tessa Williams is a senior from Indianapolis, Ind., majoring in public relations and minoring in nonprofit leadership. Williams is writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of Communication and Marketing, through the Advanced Feature and Magazine Writing class.
Anderson University is a private, liberal arts institution in Anderson, Indiana with a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service in the church and society. Anderson University is recognized among top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, Colleges of Distinction, and The Princeton Review. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, the university now offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music education, and theology.
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