New Center Hopes to Increase Racial & Cultural Inclusivity on Campus
Planning for the Joey Jackson Intercultural Center started late 2020 as the SUNY Brockport campus continues to move toward a more inclusive campus environment. The purpose of the Center is to provide underrepresented students at the college a space where they can feel welcome, opening up opportunities for them to take part in campus life, reach academic achievements, and contribute to the college community and beyond.
“The Intercultural Center will function as a focal point for underrepresented students,” said Karen Podsiadly, director of community development. “If we can make our students feel safe and comfortable on campus, they will contribute more to the college and our community, which in turn will make Brockport a more inclusive space.”
Last semester, those involved with the Center got to work on their goal. Throughout the month of September, the Center hosted multiple Listening Sessions, reaching out to students, faculty, and staff within the Brockport community. The purpose was to learn about how the Center can support the growth and development of students of color.
According to Chayanna Colon, coordinator of intercultural engagement and programs, there were two major takeaways from the Listening Sessions.
“Students wanted more programs on campus that celebrated heritage, culture, and identity,” said Colon. “Faculty and staff wanted to see more collaborations between academic departments and Student Affairs to help connect our faculty with students outside of the classroom.”
While the Center is already making an impact on campus, most of their events have been virtual since their physical space in 223 Seymour Student Union has yet to open due to COVID-19. While the space is not yet open to the public, alum Daniel Hopkins ’86 alongside co-artist Aaron Steffer created a mural outside of the Center that encapsulates the history and culture of underrepresented populations in the United States.
“Our goal for the Center was focused on the idea of ‘beginning again’ and we wanted to make the space feel both historical and meaningful,” said Podsiadly. “We thought that bringing in an alum that has a history of creating murals on campus, has deep ties to the Brockport community, and went to school at the same time as Joey (Jackson) was a perfect way to do this.”
Joey Jackson ’88 is a Brockport alum that works as a criminal defense attorney and legal analyst for CNN. He maintains a strong connection to SUNY Brockport and its community. When he heard about the concept of the Intercultural Center, he knew he had to help take part in its creation, donating a significant naming gift to help fund the creation of the Center.
“Such a center would have been wonderful to have when I was a student as teaching and preaching tolerance and respect is always a great thing to do. There were individual cultural groups and clubs, but there was not one major cultural center — until now.” Jackson said. “The Center is timely based upon where we are now as a society. We are better as a society because of our differences, our unique attributes, and our tolerance and respect for others.”
The Joey Jackson Intercultural Center plans to open to the community late April 2021. The Center hopes its physical space will serve as a location where underrepresented students and their allies can gather and create a robust community that can grow together. It will feature a robust library that will allow students to come and learn about the college’s rich history.
“The Center was created to enhance the college community as a whole and everyone has a role in that,” said Podsiadly. “Our hope is that the Center will grow to become a hub for our students that will serve as a safe space to grow and learn by utilizing our staff members and physical resources.”