June 13, 2008

UCSD’s Cross Cultural Center – A Grand Space to Celebrate Diversity

By Doris Enriquez Malabad

LA JOLLA — was a day that will forever be remembered by the students, staff and faculty of University of California-San Diego, for it marked the ‘new beginning’ of its Cross Cultural Center. This historic transfer of CCC from its previous location is a sweet realization of a dream, where ”community wisdom and ideas take on an increased importance.”

At 5 pm, the Cross (as students and faculty fondly call CCC) at its new location at Price Center East, was officially ushered in through the grand opening ceremonies with no less than Chancellor Marye Anne Fox giving a welcome speech.

“I would like to recognize the students, faculty, staff, and community – for giving their time, energy and effort to increase multicultural understanding – which is a very, very important core in what this university is all about. If we can’t come together as highly educated group to understand cultural factors, we’re going to fail,” says Chancellor Fox.

Fox continues, “Diversity is important in UCSD and our country, hence we are deeply committed to celebrate cultural and social differences and provide a welcome environment in campus. Why? Because diversity enriches our lives and environment, and so you are better person for having been here, your degree is worth more, you can be in a position of leadership because you have this multicultural experience as part of your experience here. This Center is here for you, and here permanently for you.”

The CCC was founded 13 years ago, to support the students services, and has done extremely well since then. Its opening back then was considered grand, “but nothing as grand as we have today,” says Fox, making this ‘New Beginning’ event its second grand opening.

Now sitting at the huge, spacious, and modern structure at Price Center East, CCC is now centrally located, at the very heart of UCSD campus. It hopes to open up for more multicultural activities allowing strong interaction between and among the rest of the student body, faculty and the community.

CCC’s Executive Director Edwina Wech was obviously joyful and proud of her and her team’s accomplishment, both in meeting the needs and expectations of the highly diverse student community of the university and the final move-in to the Cross’ new space and location.

“I appreciate that Chancellor Fox mentioned ‘redefining progress – as it’s what’s happening to people in our community, what our roles here to the community, and to those that are not here. There are students and parents that are deeply affected. And a lot of work needs to be done,” Wech says.

She continues, “What I hope what happens, is we remember the celebration, but when we see files on the table on specific students, groups needing assistance, asking for support - we remember that this (Center and its services) is only possible because somebody did that for us. When the Center was just in a box, someone asked: What if – what if the community was visible? What would it be like in the future, 13 years later, to be here?”

That ‘someone’ is none other than Professor Jorge Mariscal – and as Wech says, “we would not be here if not for him.”

With the grand space that the Cross now enjoys, Wech and her team of interns and staff thought of an awesome way to give justice to its unique character: a unique, original mural – the Cross’ first mural. Artist and young businessman Christopher Ryan Kent was commissioned to render the art piece.

Cross Mural: (L-R) UCSD Cross Cultural Center Executive Director Edwina Wech, Assistant Director Violeta Gonzales and artist Christopher Ryan Kent.

Kent got connected with the Cross through his design company ‘ByProdukts’, where CCC Assistant Director Violeta Gonzales saw his work and recommended him to the Cross interns who were looking to do something special for the grand opening.

In closing, Violeta has this to say. “Students call the place ‘Home Away From Home,’ providing support to faculty, staff and students, a space to hang out, de-stress, connect, and breathe; with a team that guides the vision of CCC on a daily basis, giving directions and an outside perspective. The ‘space’ is about connecting people, it’s all about creating space as students are going in between classes, bringing food, meeting up with friends, rehearsing - everything (that’s legal) happens here. Sometimes students cry, and we become instant guidance counselors, it happens all the time. They come in, you stop what you’re doing, because you know it’s all about service to students and the community. How do we cope? You just have to know it’s part of the job. My master’s program helped a lot. And the best part - having an excellent supervisor – Edwina Wech – I specifically wanted to be under her direction, I could not ask for anyone else.”

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