Crossing Boundaries

    Over 10 feet tall with a solid black frame, the letters “”SAAC,”” standing for the Student Affirmative Action Committee, heralds a mural of different multicultural organizations with a rainbow ribbon. A picture of a determined fist pasted on the mural catches the eye. Highlighted words like “”identity,”” “”freedom,”” “”justice,”” “”equality”” and a universal question “”What are you?”” add to its intensity.

    On the other side of the wall a vibrant painting of past revolutionaries demands attention upon entrance. The painting includes pictures of Malcolm X and Emiliano Zapata, among others.

    Inside the Cross-Cultural Center the walls are decked with artwork by organizations and the community, notably a large mural that hangs on the wall of the center¹s conference room. Put together by interns who work at the center, the quilt-like mural represents the many affiliates of the Cross-Cultural Center.

    “”The Cross-Cultural interns have been dynamic in creating such art programs and projects that help connect the community together,”” Cross-Cultural Center assistant director Charlene Martinez said. “”You can see the representation of how the community is brought together.””

    With a title that implies action and the crossing of boundaries between groups, the Cross-Cultural Center focuses on the interactions of historically underrepresented students and the community. The spirit of multiculturalism is exemplified at UCSD by the Cross-Cultural Center.

    “”[Fmr. Chancellor Robert C. Dynes] once said that the Cross is the soul of the campus, and the idea is that community centers are here for exactly that,”” Cross-Cultural Center director Edwina Welch said. “”It is here for that kind of interaction between students and the community.””

    The vision of the Cross-Cultural Center is to unite a diverse community. It envisions UCSD as a university that can “”recognize, challenge and take pro-active approaches”” to the diversity of students and of the community of San Diego, according to its Web site.

    “”We¹re a space that¹s really open to the community, and that is our main objective: to make others feel welcome,”” Martinez said.

    The Cross-Cultural Center¹s mission is as far-reaching as its vision. Foremost, the Cross-Cultural Center dedicates itself to supporting the needs of UCSD¹s diverse student, staff and faculty communities and to making everyone feel welcome while doing so. In addition to its collaboration with sister organizations like the Women¹s Center and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Association, the Cross-Cultural Center¹s priority is to aid in the academic, professional and personal development of students, staff and faculty members of historically underrepresented groups. Its main purpose is to provide programs and a safe space for services that enhance multicultural contact.

    The current center was always intended as a temporary location and was previously a campus mailroom before it established itself as an on-campus multicultural center. Founded in 1995, the Cross-Cultural Center took years to formulate itself into the UCSD campus community. Since that time, the Cross-Cultural Center has grown into a significant organization on campus.

    “”Things have really taken off,”” Martinez said. “”From the beginning, it tripled in the services we have for the department and since that time, it¹s not only a space for historically underrepresented students, but for everyone.””

    In 2007, the CCC will officially make its move to a new facility in Price Center, made possible by the passing of the Price Center and Student Center Expansion Fee Referendum last spring.

    “”We decided that the Price Center is the best [location],”” Welch said. “”We wanted to maintain [the Cross-Cultural Center¹s] visibility, centrality and a homey feel, while trying to keep it inviting to people.””

    For this reason, Welch said that a new and larger facility is welcomed, and choosing the Price Center for its move was a good decision for the Center¹s future.

    Along with the CCC¹s vision and mission, it mainly stands as a “”programming entity”” and a space to hold events for faculty and students.

    “”It¹s a safe space for a lot of communities on campus. You don¹t have to worry about being judged, and a lot of progressive groups meet there,”” said A.S. Vice President External Harish Nandagopal, a member of the Board of Directors of the Coalition of South Asian People, which meets at the center regularly.

    Martinez noted that the Cross-Cultural Center services as many as 300 people a day, and 41 affiliates of the center utilize its space. Branch organizations of SAAC like Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, the African American Student Union, and the Asian Pacific Student Alliance are affiliates of the center, among others.

    The upcoming programs for this quarter include a forum on the issue of college admissions, employment and affirmative action, sponsored by Diversity Peer Educators and scheduled for 5 p.m. on Jan. 29. Another event features guest speaker Huanani Kay-Trask, a native Hawaiian who will discuss Hawaiian sovereignty, indigenous human rights and global tourism, scheduled for March 3 at 7 p.m. More information on upcoming events is posted on

    Student leaders and interns of the Cross-Cultural Center are hired each year in the spring and operate programming and diversity training programs. Interns who work at the center learn the ideals of leadership during their stay.

    “”It¹s a great leadership opportunity for them and for us because we get different ideas,”” Welch said. “”Our mission for everyone is leadership.””

    To the interns, an opportunity to work at the Cross-Cultural Center allows them to see the importance of a multicultural center in a college campus.

    “”For me, itas extremely important. A lot of people interact in a way they normally wouldn’t have,”” Thurgood Marshall College junior Cathlene Yapyuco, an intern, said. “”Common goals and common struggles are shared here.””

    Intern and MEChA member Ernesto Martinez works with high school conferences, giving background lessons in Chicano movements and sparking student interest in applying to college.

    “”We focus on communities, especially around San Diego. We deal with Latino issues here on campus, helping to create a MEChA mentality,”” Ernesto Martinez said.

    As a programming intern, Eleanor Roosevelt College senior Amanda Wilson works with academic departments and other offices for community events that focus on social awareness and coalition building, including a programming event that is planned for a community outreach project in City Heights, a diverse neighborhood near downtown San Diego.

    “”I think it’s extremely important for college campuses that want to encourage and foster community-building and the community providing support,”” said Wilson, who has been an intern since fall quarter.

    Wilson is also a member of the Hapa club, which meets regularly at the Cross-Cultural Center. Created to promote multicultural awareness, the organization focuses on biracial issues, especially those related to Asian culture. The word “”hapa”” is derived from the Hawaiian term “”hapa haole,”” which is used to describe people of Asian and Caucasian descent.

    “”There is a collective experience of being biracial, and a lot of our discussions are based on personal experience,”” Wilson said. “”At the Hapa club, we really want to focus on being as inclusive as possible. We try to focus not to be Asian-specific, but anyone who identifies themself as a mixed race.””

    According to Welch, most UC campuses have multicultural centers that are similar to the Cross-Cultural Center, yet UCSD’s is distinctive in that it works with students, faculty and the community.

    Welch emphasized that interaction between various groups are essential to what students learn during their college experience. The center provides the chance for students to learn and receive a grasp of the world beyond what they learn in lecture, which is uncommon at most universities.

    “”I always have contended that it is so important to be in different spaces in a college campus or different venues that you’ve never been in,”” Welch said. “”You need that kind of exposure.””

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