“Marymount University honors our diversity as a source of strength, and it seeks to achieve unity through that diversity,” said Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University.
On Friday, Marymount unveiled the new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Center, located on the first floor of Rowley Hall. The opening marks a milestone in providing resources for students, staff and faculty to facilitate open dialogue and meaningful engagement.
“Diversity, equity and inclusion are among our highest institutional priorities, and I am thrilled to support our Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, Dr. Bill Bisset, and our Dean of Students, Brooke Berry, in leading the way on this important effort,” Dr. Becerra explained. “To promote our inclusive community, we decided to create a physical space to strengthen relationships and unify our diverse campus community.”
Marymount welcomes students from a wide range of diverse backgrounds. About 20 percent of students identify as Hispanic, and another 15 percent identify as Black/African American. Additionally, seven percent of students identify themselves as Asian, and four percent identify as more than one race. Beyond race, Marymount’s campus is home to students from all walks of life.
“For years, our Black, NBPoC, Queer and students with multicultural backgrounds have shared that there was something missing from their student experience,” said Brooke Berry, Dean of Students, Equity and Inclusion. “This will be a safe space to explore racial, cultural and social identity, a brave space to talk openly about issues impacting them in their worlds and a place where their identities could be fully acknowledged and accepted. Thank you for sharing your hearts. We listened. We heard you. Now we are here.”
The newly designed space was spurred in part during the aftermath of the death of George Floyd while in police custody. According to Tait Brooks, Associate Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, both students and alumni expressed the need for such a center to discuss the traumatic event and to form a community to share individual experiences.
“There was a strong concern of students wanting to feel valued, to be seen and heard here at Marymount University,” Brooks explained. “Together, we have formed an office that’s going to allow students to feel that sense of belonging.”
Inside the Center, vibrant colors and inspirational quotes line the walls, including the words of Maya Angelou: “In Diversity, there is beauty and there is strength.” Both a Progress Pride and a Black Lives Matter flag hang within the room.
The space was intentionally designed to be as welcoming as possible to all students.
Within the Center and throughout campus, students will find the words “You Belong Here” shared as part of a campaign that promotes a more inclusive climate by improving diversity and inclusion-related communications, policies and procedures on campus.
“This center is for all who choose respect, dignity and unity,” Berry explained. “So as we transition from a dream deferred to a dream preferred, it is our expectation that soon, every member of our Marymount community will proudly say, ‘I Belong here!’”
As February marks Black History Month, the Center will host various events on the topic and will be open to students after-hours. Brooks adds that he looks forward to working with student organizations, which will be welcome to use the space for meetings and gatherings.
“With all that we endured in 2020, it was a rough year for many reasons,” Brooks said. “We are now in a new chapter in history. The tide is slowly turning for us to see the world as what it truly is, which is a very diverse world that we now need to work towards being more equitable, more inclusive.”