The Intercultural Engagement Center at Virginia Tech welcomes new and returning students, faculty, and staff with three new cultural centers in Squires Student Center and a community kickoff event that will take place on Thursday, Aug. 25, from 4 to 7 p.m. in Squires. All new Hokies are invited to connect with returning students, faculty, and staff in identity-based communities, followed by a combined welcome reception. A complete list of receptions as well as sponsors and supporters is available on the center's website.

“It is so important for underrepresented students to connect with peers and faculty mentors early in their college experience,” said Tricia Smith, director of the Intercultural Engagement Center. “We know that these relationships lead to greater support networks and, ultimately, increased academic, personal, and social success. Every Hokie deserves to thrive.

“The energy at the receptions is amazing,” said Smith. “To see returning students take ownership of the process and get really creative and intentional is inspiring. And the faculty and staff invest so much of their time and hearts into affirming our new community members, creating connections for them, and assuring an ongoing commitment to their success. I’ve seen so many vital connections happen at these events.”

Community members attending the kickoff event will get a preview of cultural centers. As of May 2016, there were two cultural centers in Squires Student Center: the Black Cultural Center and the Multicultural Center. This summer, three additional centers have been created: the Hispanic and Latino Cultural Center, the LGBTQ+ Center, and the American Indian and Indigenous Community Center.

“The centers are a gathering place, a space to honor students’ full identities and be in community,” said Smith. “The centers serve as demonstrated commitment from the university to creating welcoming, affirming, safe places for these communities and also allow us to raise the collective consciousness of the entire Virginia Tech community.”

Smith said the centers are an effort to create comfortable and welcoming environments for students of different backgrounds.

“Community members, faculty and staff caucuses, and student leaders have called upon us to continue enhancing our facilities and services,” she said.

While the centers are supervised and managed by the Intercultural Engagement Center, Smith said it was truly the efforts of Menah Pratt-Clarke, vice president for strategic affairs and vice provost for inclusion and diversity, and Patty Perillo, vice president for student affairs, that enabled the space to come to fruition so rapidly.

The new centers are all located in Squires: the Hispanic and Latino center in room 309, the LGBTQ+ center in room 312, and the American Indian and Indigenous Community Center in the Cardinal Room on the first floor of Squires. Students of every culture are encouraged to visit the centers and engage in conversation. A campus-wide open house for the new centers will take place during the fall semester.

“Our commitment to inclusion continues to strengthen each year,” said Smith, “Each new hire, every incoming class, all departments in all areas are responsible for contributing to this. In the last two years I have seen increased collaboration, more frequent communication, and Hokies taking personal responsibility for their role in InclusiveVT, our commitment to Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence.”

Written by Hayley Paljug, of Radford, Virginia, a senior majoring in public relations in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

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