The Center for Inclusive Excellence now open

Director of The Center for Inclusive Excellence Kathy Martinez and Chief Diversity Officer Sean Huddleston welcome students and faculty to the new Center for Inclusive Excellence. (Photo by Brad Leuchte)

The Center for Inclusive Excellence, previously the Multicultural Center, opened on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

President F. Javier Cevallos said the renaming of the Multicultural Center was prompted by Sean Huddleston, chief diversity officer, who started the conversation on inclusive excellence, which is a model that FSU is adapting this year.

“When I arrived on campus here, I noticed that we were using some terms that really were expired in the world of diversity and inclusion,” said Huddleston, adding that as they were bringing a model of inclusive excellence to the university, it was important to have a space where inclusive excellence could be taught and experienced.

The model for inclusive excellence was introduced to higher education in 2005, according to Huddleston, by the American Association of Colleges and Universities to create a national model to allow colleges and universities to imbed inclusion, diversity, social justice and equity at all levels through access and equality, diversity in the curriculum, intercultural learning and development, and climate.

Huddleston added another element of community and civic engagement to the model for inclusive excellence to better involve the students in “the development of skills to build partnerships for the betterment of our communities.” All these elements are portrayed in the new center on the wall with descriptions of each.

Huddleston said the roll of our division and center is not to own inclusive work but to franchise it so everyone can have a part.

Kathy Martinez, director, said her goal is to make students feel welcome and included. She said there are many new programs being implemented, such as Brave Space which is based on Safe Space.

“Being safe … really means you’re surrounding yourself with things that are familiar and comfortable; you avoid risk, difficulty and challenge. That’s the dictionary definition. Whereas with brave it means you accept challenge, and take it on, and you thrive in it even.,” she said, adding that when social justice issues as discussed students should not only feel safe but brave to push themselves to learn more.

The center has new chairs, carpet and glass panels that have pictures of activists for each month they represent, such as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Native American History Month among others.

Rylan O’Day, junior, said he is excited about the new opportunities for the center. “It’s a professional space for serious conversations and the staff creates a welcoming, fun environment where we can also relax and refocus. As president of Pride Alliance I cannot wait to work with Kathy and Sean and utilize the space they provide for events and dialogues.”

Student groups M.I.S.S. (Motivation Intersectionality Solidarity Sisterhood) and B2B (Brother to Brother) are also new this year. According to Martinez, M.I.S.S. is focused on the experiences of self-identified women of color, although it is open to everyone, and the group holds discussions, movies, songs and books while B2B is the same concept but for self-identified men of color.

Fernando Rodriguez, senior student trustee and intern for Huddleston, said he is proud of how far the Center for Inclusive Excellence hasw come.

“This was a place where I was having very honest and real conversations about my life, my experiences, that I just didn’t feel like I could have anywhere else,” he said.

Rodriguez commended Martinez on her role in the Center for Inclusive Excellence. “Kathy still somehow managed to fit over 40 people in this room and they all engaged in very passionate and powerful dialogues about relevant events in our lives. So the fact that we can do that with a space half as amazing as this right now – it’s a testament to just how far we can go and Kathy’s hard work.”

Audrey Bauer-Lostaunau, senior, said she likes how the room is a big open space that looks welcoming. Bauer-Lostaunau, a commuter, comes to the Center often when she isn’t in class to do homework and meet new people.

Bauer-Lostaunau has gone to a few programs held by the center, and said Martinez often holds discussions after the event. She said one time “e got into a big discussion at the end about a whole different variety of topics that everyone …  just wanted to share their opinion and it was great to hear from all sorts of people that I’ve never met.”

She said, “Hopefully more people will find out about it and want to just come and learn about all the programs that Kathy leads, and have it be a safe space for them just like it has become for me and my friends.”

Ezequeil De Leon, junior, is also excited about the new center. “I walked in the first time a week ago and it was just kind of stunning,” he said. “It took a second to look back and see the way it looks and the glass and the logo – I think it was really cool and I think it’s a testament to the school’s inclusive excellence model. It’s really exciting. … I’m glad that there’s being a proper space dedicated to it.”

De Leon also said he first went his freshmen year, and Martinez played a key role in finding himself. “I went to the Multicultural Center at the time, and knowing there were other people like me and there were other people that could help me and that Kathy was someone in the LGQBT community helped. … Knowing that I needed something and I could go to Kathy … just her being the way she is and open really helped me become open.”