The University of Michigan’s Spectrum Center and the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs hosted their second collaborative open house Tuesday to spread awareness about their activities and services for new students on campus.
Program organizers Abby Chien, MESA program manager, and Mark Chung Kwan Fan, assistant director for the Spectrum Center, said they’ve started to realize more of the intersections of the two programs’ missions, with joint events serving as one expression of that.
The Spectrum Center, founded in 1971, is an organization within Student Life that focuses on building community among the University’s LGBTQ students, offering support services like peer mentorship, educational workshops and free HIV testing. MESA also aims to create an inclusive space on campus, focusing on issues of race and ethnicity and offering services such as peer mentorship and student organization advising.
“Both our offices focus on social identity as a core part of who we are and how we interact with students, so we decided that we wanted to partner together,” Chien said. “People often will visit both of our spaces in their journeys around learning about how they want to be involved on campus and who they are.”
Chung Kwan Fan agreed, saying that working together has been beneficial for both organizations.
“I think that we really want to address more the piece of intersectionality, of addressing different identities and multiple complexities of those identities as well, so we do already have great collaborations between the two offices so we decided to thrive upon that,” he said. “So it’s not just for LGBT students of color, but it’s trying to address different identities at the same time as well.”
He said the point of the open house was to usher in new students and offer them support through what can be a difficult transition, especially for LGBTQ and minority students.
“Really to be aware of the resources that MESA and Spectrum offer, especially the support services, knowing that being part of the LGBTQ community brings all our challenges to somebody’s transition to the University, so knowing that those resources exist for them to be able to get to know more of their own identity, but also how to navigate the system, of U of M being such a large university,” Chung Kwan Fu said. “Knowing their resources about how to explore themselves, but also how to interact and connect with others.”
MESA Director Trelawny Boynton stressed that despite the amount of racial progress made in the last several decades, MESA still has a necessary role at the University, especially for incoming students.
She noted that the organization is in the process of creating their own strategic plan, paralleling a University of Michigan-wide effort launched last year by University President Mark Schlissel to create a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion plan for campus.
“We were created almost 50 years ago, and we want to make sure we’re answering relevant questions for why we still need to be here, why do we still need to do the work that we do and to what end,” she said. “And we think there’s a compelling reason, we just want to prove it to folks who still need to know and be reminded.”