Celebrating Decades of Connections

Each Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion center honors an anniversary this year.

By Venita Jenkins

The pandemic may have hampered celebrations of UNCW Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion units’ milestone anniversaries, but their work to support, educate and advocate for diverse students and the communities they serve has not slowed for a moment.
The Mohin-Scholz LGBTQIA Resource Office, Centro Hispano and the Upperman African American Cultural Center, founded 10, 15 and 25 years ago respectively, continue to build upon programs and services to help students reach their educational goals and provide valuable resources to communities that extend beyond the Cape Fear region. In recent years, the units have worked together to design programs that recognize the intersection of multiple identities of students who walk through their doors.
Since taking over as program coordinator of the Mohin-Scholz LGBTQIA Resource Office four years ago, Brooke Lambert has focused on creating a community for individuals who identify as LGBTGIA+. She revamped the office’s Safe Zone training and created new programs such as “Building Q*mmunity,” in partnership with the Counseling Center, that allows LGBTQIA-identifying individuals to engage in conversation; and “Queer Culture: Queer Connections Series,” which examines queer history and discusses community building and activism.
“I want them to see this as a space where we are cultivating leaders,” said Lambert. “I hope our students feel supported, nurtured and that the entire campus is a space for them, that they do belong here. We’re on our way to that, but I don’t think we’re there quite yet.”
The office underwent an expansion during the summer, creating flexible programming space to serve more students. The project was funded by a major gift commitment from alumnus John Scholz ’84 and his spouse, Dr. Anil Mohin.
Centro Hispano was established as UNCW’s Hispanic/Latino academic, cultural and community resource; UNCW psychology professor Antonio Puente was tapped as the center’s founding director. Now fifteen years later, Centro Hispano continues to strengthen the Latinx community through education and service.
“The primary goal of assisting Latinx families is to fortify our entire community – to try to find the best fit for our Latinx youth and to help them to see themselves as future professionals,” said Edelmira Segovia ’98, ’12Ed.D., Centro Hispano director. For the past decade, the center’s staple program, MI CASA, has helped high school students become compelling candidates for college admission and scholarship through mentoring, college preparation seminars, tutoring, community service and cultural enrichment activities.
“We have turned families from dreaming of going to college to actually making it happen,” said Segovia. “Now that it has been 10 years, we have a huge group of professionals who are serving the community. They want to build their communities better because somebody helped them to achieve their dreams and invested in them.” In the years ahead, the center will continue to focus on identity development, internships, mentoring and graduate school opportunities.
When Sean Palmer took the helm of the Upperman African American Cultural Center, named in honor of Wilmington physician and community leader Dr. Leroy Upperman, his goal was to re-position the center as a place of learning and student support. Today, the Upperman Center averages 40 programs a semester and oversees 15 active Black student organizations as well as a literary magazine.
“Over the last four years, we have taken it as a mandate to reinvigorate Black student life as a functioning part of all student life,” said Palmer. “This is a critical moment for us because people have decided that across the country, centers like ours matter. For us, capacity is a big issue. We’ve reached the capacity of what we can do in the spaces that we have. We need more staff because the university needs us to help with bridge programs and living/learning communities and similar initiatives, in addition to being a support mechanism for the community. We need to do that work.”
The work of UNCW’s cultural centers supports campus-wide efforts to create an environment where each student feels a sense of belonging. “That sense of belonging is critical as we navigate face-to-face and virtual environments,” said interim chief diversity officer Donyell Roseboro. “With each upcoming center anniversary, we renew our commitment to students and will continue to design programming that will integrate the rich diversity of our campus community.”

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Read more in the Winter 2021 issue of UNCW Magazine