The Western Colorado University Multicultural Center
What is the Western difference?
At Western, students have a place to gather with others from similar backgrounds, along with a support system that helps them reach their potentials as students and as people. That place is the Multicultural Center in the University Center at the heart of campus.
A quarter of Western’s freshman class identified themselves as nonwhite, making the class of 2018 the university's most diverse ever. Sally Romero, director of Multicultural Affairs at Western, points proudly to the university's freshman retention rate, which since 2008 has increased 27 percentage points to more than 70 percent.
Romero says that success results from comfort and acceptance – of all students. While the Multicultural Center focuses on students of color, about 30 percent of students who participate in center activities are white.
"We find that barriers break down when students come together in a comfortable atmosphere," she says. "They come between classes, before classes, for five minutes and for hours," Romero says. "They eat, relax and catch up with each other. It's a family atmosphere, as well as a support system."
Most importantly, it's a point of connection. Romero says it can be hard for students of color to find support on a predominantly white campus. Help is there, but they don't always know where or how to find it. "Here, they make connections with people who are similar to them. The center is a home away from home. They know they can express opinions and know they are valued. We help build self-esteem. … If they don't connect, feel valued that first semester, we can lose them."
Richard Herrera, program coordinator for Multicultural Affairs and a Western alumnus, said that point of connection is key for students of color, many of whom are first-generation college students who come from backgrounds and homes that can't offer the support students need.
"It's hard to reach out," Herrera said, "but the center reached out for me. ... It gives students a collective sense of belonging, of mattering. Someone on campus believes in them and believes they are in the right place."
The list of services the center offers is long. It includes peer support, mentoring, counseling, leadership training, academic support and extracurricular support. Faculty reach out to center staff, and the staff reaches out to all areas of the campus in their efforts to help students succeed.
"We see ourselves as advocates for students," Romero says. "Our motto is: 'Where Everybody Belongs.’"
The center advises four student organizations – Amigos, Asian Pacific Islanders, the Black Student Alliance and the Native American Student Council. To come under the Multicultural Center umbrella, the groups commit to community service and offering cultural events. Participation offers students a chance to develop budgeting, fundraising, organizational and communication skills.
Amigos promotes Latin American culture and works to establish positive feelings toward Latin Americans, both on campus and in the Gunnison community. Most importantly, it provides a place where members, regardless of age, ethnicity or gender, feel welcomed and encouraged to participate.
Asian Pacific Islanders Club
Asian Pacific Islanders promotes Asian and Pacific Island cultures and seeks to educate club members, their peers and the community about those cultures. It aims to create a warm and welcoming environment for all peoples.
Black Student Alliance
The Black Student Alliance seeks to educate the community about the history and ongoing struggles of the black community, as well as to promote understanding of black culture. It also tries to spread unity, diversity and fellowship, and embrace all walks of life in and around the campus.
Native American Student Council
The Native American Student Council seeks to enhance educational experiences for the Western and Gunnison communities, while providing a supportive environment for indigenous students. The council also strives to promote a responsible representation of historical and contemporary Native American culture through discussions and by providing a forum for students seeking understanding, awareness and appreciation.
- Sushi Night
- Day of the Dead Celebration
- Haunted House
- Asian Bistro Hour
- Music Bash
- Tamale sales
- Club Maracas
- Soul Food Night
- MLK Commemoration and Candlelight Vigil
- Free Style Battle
- Open Mic Night
- Native American movie series
- Homecoming Parade
- Chinese New Year
- Educational speaker series
Quick facts about the Multicultural Center
The Multicultural Center in the University Center is open from 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday (but often stays open later).
Multicultural Awareness scholarships are available and open to all students. Students compete based on an essay.
What students say
"The Multicultural Center has allowed me to interact with a variety of my peers that I probably would not talk to. I have made many friends because of the center."
— Chasity Cordova
"The Multicultural Center has helped me find good friends who care and want to make sure I am doing my best in school. There are a lot of leaders here who care about us and want us to succeed. It helps bring spirit and culture to campus. They make a fun, enjoyable environment, where everyone is welcome to come relax and do homework."
— Selso Luna
"The Multicultural Center is an awesome place to meet people because everyone stops in to say 'hi.'"
— Estrellita Garcia
"The Multicultural Center is a home away from home. It's a place I come where I can relax and be myself, knowing I won't be judged. It's like being part of a large family."
— Jade McIntosh
“The Multicultural Center is a great place to get involved with different activities that take place on campus. It also helps you meet new people and take your mind off class and schoolwork.”
— Charmayne Bellamy