Kalamazoo College’s Office of Intercultural Student Life has developed many ways to start conversations and provide safe spaces for students that will allow for an inclusive atmosphere to grow on campus. The Intercultural Student Life (ISL) mission statement states that it works to provide the campus with “programs, initiatives, and dialogues that center the lived experiences and voices of minoritized students.”
Throughout this year, ISL has provided many events that allow the campus community to come together to put the mission statement into practice. Natalia Carvalho-Pinto, Director of ISL, explained that the Intercultural Center is the “physical space but it is not always the space where all ISL events will be.”
“[The Intercultural Center] space centers the communities that have been traditionally marginalized…[and] the goal of ISL is to center experiences that aren’t always centered,” Carvalho-Pinto continued. “The events are identity conscious [and] depend on the identity they are trying to center.”
Carvalho-Pinto described ISL’s use of “identity conscious narratives” within their workshops and events, “When you become a minority within an institution that expects majority, your identity gets lost.” Their partnerships around the campus help to promote being mindful of identity and to start conversations about it.
Many of their events are located elsewhere around campus because they work in conjunction with other K organizations. Some of the events this week include: “Challenging Anti-Blackness in the Latinx Community”, “From Blackface to Black Power: The Changing Racial Climate at Kalamazoo College in the 1950’s & 60’s”, and “Intersex is Beautiful: Deconstructing the Binary”. For these events, they are partnering with organizations and offices like the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, the Women of Color Alliance (WOCA), the Latino Student Organization (LSO), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), and the Counseling Center. In addition, an event hosted every Monday within the Intercultural Center called “Food for the Soul: A Dinner Series” works with other student organizations as well as people within the Kalamazoo Community.
Tamara Morrison ’16 is the current liaison between the Intercultural Center and the Arcus Center. Morrison explains that her position is there help “sponsor an atmosphere of belonging, healing, safety, and comfortability while educating them on how to sponsor that space on their own elsewhere. It is to make it clear that the space is there to educate and… support and affirm different identities as just being.”
Karina Duarte ’14 has worked with ISL in putting on a Día de Los Muertos event and will be partnering with them to put on the upcoming “Challenging Anti-Blackness in the Latinx Community” event. “With Natalia’s help, a lot more organizations have put on cool events and meetings that provide many different spaces for us to fully live out our identities,” Duarte said.
The Intercultural Center has made a real impact on students and K’s campus. “I also hope that the Intercultural Center will be expanded and made permanent through Student Organization and Intercultural Center collaborations that will prove how much it has helped and will continue to help,” Duarte said.