Following a year of dust, machinery and renovation, Babcock Hall has reopened its doors to more than just students. The culmination of a multi-year planning process, the Center for Global Diversity and Engagement, located on the main floor of Babcock Hall, has opened its doors as well.
Although the Center will officially open March 26 with a two-day conference and guest speakers, the last six weeks, and the rest of the semester, will serve as a soft opening, allowing Dean of Students Susan Lee and Professor of History Mark Goulding, the Centerís interim directors, to establish the new Center.
The Center for Diversity and Global Engagement is a way of focusing and organizing various campus offices and student groups that deal with issues of local diversity and multiculturalism as well as considerations of Woosterís place in the international community.
ìSeveral of the offices that would be typically associated with those concepts are now in this building: The Ambassadors Program, Off-Campus Studies, International Student Affairs, Multi-Cultural Student Affairs and also what we call CCLEP, which is Cross-Cultural Living Experiences Program,” said Lee.
The Center is also working with student groups such as the International Student Association, the Black Student Association, the Global Engagement Network and more. By physically bringing these offices together, the College makes a statement about the importance of diversity as well as facilitating improved communication between these various offices and student groups, and making the facilities in Babcock available for their efforts.
ìAt Wooster we wanted the Center for Diversity and Global Engagement to literally be at the center of campus and to be in a facility that bespoke of its importance and its centrality to our mission, hence the location in Babcock,” said President Grant Cornwell. The Center also aims to bring together the normally disparate departments of Student Life and Academic Affairs, a goal reflected in the choice of Lee, a Dean, and Goulding, a professor, for directors.
ìWeíre both bringing in an array of backgrounds and levels of working within these two aspects of what we do,” said Goulding. ìBut I think clearly this is part of the rationale ó letís have somebody whoís from Academics and someone whoís from Student [Life] to bring these things together.”
Cornwell set the ball rolling on the Center at the start of his presidency when he established a Diversity Task Force to look for ways to improve and focus the Collegeís commitment to diversity. Members of the task force conceived of the Center after more than a year of research, visits to other institutions and meetings with consultants.
Lee and Goulding are happy with the way the Center is going so far, but warned that it is just getting started.
ìThere certainly is a growth period that weíre going through,” said Goulding. ìOne should expect a certain amount of fluidity and flexibility to the center in the sense that it is an entity on campus that responds to whatís going on on campus; to whatís going on in the world.”
The actual operational changes the Center is affecting are small, but ideologically it represents a paradigm shift in the Collegeís approach to diversity and global engagement.
ìNone of the offices that are here will go away or morph into something different. They still exist as functioning entities,” said Lee, ìbut the add-on is that we are all working together as part of the Center. Weíre trying to do more collaboration among ourselves.”
Cornwell stressed the importance of the kind of global engagement he hopes the Center will promote.
ìI think that the College serves you students best by equipping you for the global society that youíre entering to lead,” said Cornwell. ìOne of the most troubling metaphors out there is the idea of the Wooster bubble. I guess the Center for Diversity and Global Engagement is meant to pop the Wooster bubble. We should not be or feel isolated. We need to be connected to the rest of the world and its issues.”