Intercultural Affairs (ICA) isn’t your typical campus office. When ICA staff leave the building after a day of work, this renovated home located next door to Scandling on Pulteney Street becomes a hang-out for students as they tackle homework in the computer lab or make small-talk on the couches in the common room. During the recent “Taste of the World event, students even cooked in the small kitchen, smells from a dozen sizzling dishes providing a kaleidoscopic introduction to world cuisine. And what other campus office has its own pool table?
“From seven until midnight the students take over – it’s their space, said Interim Director of ICA and Assistant Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies Alejandra Molina. “By allowing students to continue studying and socializing in a welcoming place that values cultural difference, we’re moving the house and the office from the margin to the center of campus life.
The “unofficial student union, as it’s known in some circles, underlines the growing role of ICA as a place focused on enlarging student experiences by combining academics and community service with open discussions of race and culture. “It’s a crucial office, said Molina, who sees ICA as a space for intellectual, as well as social pursuits. “A liberal arts institution has at it core values of equity, cultural acceptance and openness. That's the axis of a liberal arts education.
An axis is exactly what ICA has become. On any given evening, a faculty-led discussion group might be tackling current events in one room, PRIDE Alliance may be meeting next door, and a Buddhist meditation could be in progress upstairs. On a campus with a thousand doorways, ICA opens more, encouraging visitors to explore and discover, or when finals get tough, to simply be, offering a cup of coffee and a supportive space to study.
Many students take advantage of other opportunities that ICA offers, stepping up to give back to their community. ICA and the Public Service Office recently coordinated the service projects of Martin Luther King Week which included everything from literacy activities at Geneva Public Library to projects that brought together volunteers from the Colleges’ community with students from Geneva High School to work on a variety of local causes.
“In all the projects we worked on during MLK week, high school and college students had an opportunity to get to know one another and to interact with parts of the community they may not otherwise have encountered, said Phil Johnson, a teacher at Geneva High. “Yes, the students were working on community service projects, but they were also learning about themselves and others.
“It was one more bridge joining our communities, said Molina.
For more information on Intercultural Affairs and how to get involved, visit the ICA Web site.
Photo: Jumpstart Geneva Corps Member Annie Daley reads to Lauren Devaney during a Martin Luther King Week event.