Multicultural Center Celebrates 1st Birthday

The Proud, Resilient, Educated Peers (PREP) Team hosted the Multicultural Center's first birthday bash on Thursday, Feb. 22. (L-R):Britney Marrugo, Courtney Combs, Suleman Sami, Mo Keane, Tania Altagracia-Paris and Shavie (Va) Lee.

Galloway, N.J. – “I cannot believe that it has already been a year – time really flies when you are having fun and making an impact while doing so.”

Mo Keane, the graduate coordinator for the Proud, Resilient, Educated Peers (PREP) Team, welcomed everyone into the Multicultural Center’s lounge for the center’s first Birthday Bash on Thursday, Feb. 22, complete with balloons, a photo booth, cake and toasts to the future.

Shavie “Va” Lee, a sophomore in the Psychology program, talked about first meeting Jovin Fernandez, director of the Multicultural Center, and how her infectious positivity managed to get him out of his shell. Since the center’s opening, Lee has been in the lounge helping support programming, manning the front desk and helping students find resources, earning him the nickname “Mayor of the MC.”

“Since that day, I felt like I finally found my place in Stockton – a place where I can call home, a place where I belong and a place where I can just be me and be comfortable. It later became the place where I would get my first job and learn what it means to be a young professional,” Lee said. “Working here opened up some other opportunities for me, like being featured on the Stockton website, connecting with prospective students and their families to help them learn how great Stockton is and leading the Friday Fun Nights here at the center. I firmly believe that the Multicultural Center is the heart of Stockton.”

Christopher Catching, vice president for Student Affairs, who was on the planning board responsible for the center’s opening, provided background on the planning process. According to him, the purpose of the center was to create a transformative student life space. 

Shavie (Va) Lee

Indian Student Association

Haley Baum and Christopher Catching

Suleman Sami

Pilipino-American Student Association of Stockton (PASAS)

Imani Turner

The Crew

“Prior to two or three years ago, the connotation of lower F-wing was an undesirable location,” Catching said. “But, due to the great work of the folks who planned this place physically, [the center] made it come to life and really revitalized this whole side of campus. Everybody wants to be down here now: we have University Relations & Marketing, Global [Engagement] around the corner and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the new Meditation Room. It matters to have a multicultural center because it helps students feel a sense of belonging and connectedness.”

For Suleman Sami, a junior in the Computer Information Systems program, the center was responsible for changing his mind about transferring out of Stockton and helping him grow as a student leader.

“This center has grown to be more than just a place of employment for me; it now serves as a pillar for both my professional and academic development. I have become a better person, scholar and professional because of the support, friendship and learning experiences I've experienced here,” Sami said. “I want to express how much this center means to us: it has become a home away from home and a place where we can explore, learn and grow together. As we go into the next year, we hope to see more of you here and look forward to great memories and times together.”

Keane shouted out the PREP Team for supporting the Advocacy, Belonging and Campus Standards department in hosting programs and collaborating with student organizations. The impact on the campus community was highlighted in a video compilation.

“Ms. Jovin and I are so, so grateful for all that you guys do at the center every single day,” Keane said. “When you walk in here, and you see someone smiling, please know it's one of these beautiful people up here who are bringing so much energy and light to the center. [They] are really the heartbeat of this place.”

The birthday bash included performances by The Crew, the Pilipino-American Students Association of Stockton (PASAS), the Indian Student Association, and student Imani Turner.

Multicultural Center Celebrates First Year

By Yesenia Pacheco '22/'23 | Celebrate Diversity Digest

President Emeritus Harvey Kesselman and the team behind the Multicultural Center cutting the ribbon in February

Jovin Fernandez, director of the Multicultural Center, during her remarks

Students surrounding Professor of Music Bev Vaughn on the piano during the afterparty

Student Senator Joshua Hunte gave brief remarks during the ribbon-cutting

Students posing for a photo in the center

Almost one year ago, the Multicultural Center opened its doors and signaled a new era at Stockton University.

The Multicultural Center was built to serve as a resource for the entire campus community while placing the experiences of diverse and historically marginalized groups at the center. The space was intentionally developed, decorated and designed in order to cultivate counter-spaces that actively support the engagement, sense of belonging and development of African-American, Latinx, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students.

This was a long-awaited moment for Stockton’s faculty, staff and students, and it could be seen as a necessary addition by the large, enthusiastic crowd who gathered at the new space to celebrate its grand opening. Since then, the Multicultural Center has evolved into an intentional space that hosts daily events, discussions, activities and even classes. 

The Multicultural Center buzzes with a diverse array of events and programs on a weekly and monthly basis, enhancing the campus experience for all; some programming staples include their Fred Flicks Series, Real Talk Tuesdays, Soul Food Sundays and their Cultural Kickbacks. Additionally, the Multicultural Center actively participates in cultural heritage month programming, commemorating the histories and contributions of historically marginalized identities throughout the year.  

These programs, events and initiatives hosted by the center have started educational, engaging, and important dialogues and encouraged understanding of diverse topics across our institution. Each of these opportunities allows for the Multicultural Center’s impact to be echoed throughout campus, and the work that is done through the Multicultural Center highlights why intentionality is very important. 

– Story by Loukaia Taylor

– Photos by Susan Allen