Thrive in the Dive: The Center for Inclusive Excellence receives an expansion upgrade

In an announcement sent out last week on Nov. 12, President Rebecca Bergman announced that the Center for Inclusive Excellence (CIE) will be receiving an expansion upgrade. It is said that this new upgrade will more than quadruple its current square footage. It will include new workspaces, dedicated offices for the Diversity Leadership Council and Building Bridges. It was also announced that, in addition to the 966 square feet appointed for offices, there will be 3,127 square feet for program offerings and common areas. A new assistant director for the CIE was also announced, as well as a vision for increased efforts regarding Racial Justice and Inclusion initiatives as the student body at Gustavus grows more diverse.
CIE director Thomas Flunker elaborated on the functionality of these new common areas, as well as the additional benefits that we might see with the expansion of the CIE.
“The CIE has had to be intentional about expanding its endeavors due to a demographic shift in enrollment over the years. Not only has the campus continued to experience an increase in students who identify as black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), [but also] first generation to college, adopted, multilingual, LGBTQ+, etc.”
With this shift comes a need for a bigger center. According to Flunker, the current center for the CIE is too small.
“When a student or employee wants to check out the space, every time they stop to visit, or to find a place for respite, there is no seating or room, or because the space is compact and full of people.” Flunker said.
“It feels overwhelming…that defeats our goal of creating a welcoming environment,” Flunker said.
CIE, previously the Diversity Center, was originally created to serve the purpose of providing an environment where BIPOC students could go and be themselves as they found themselves in a foreign environment away from home.
“It was meant to be a place they could go during the day, take a deep breath, recharge, and be themselves. This move and renovation also makes a statement about our campus commitment to lift up diversity, equity and inclusion in a very visual way” Flunker said.
As such, the new center is not only projected to provide a better, more welcoming space for those seeking respite amongst their peers, but also now has the space to host programs to invite other students to learn.
“The Center for Inclusive Excellence is not solely composed of an open and welcoming physical space. The resources, programs, and collaborative efforts extend throughout the campus. As such, there are connections to other campus stakeholders, departments, academic courses and institutional committees,” Flunker said.
Part of the ongoing effort to make Gustavus a more welcoming community, a Racial Justice and Inclusion effort has also been identified as an ongoing goal for the CIE and Gustavus.
Director Flunker expressed his thoughts on the matter of the Racial Justice and Inclusion effort, noting the United States’ history of suppression of certain identities.
“As a campus that has a wealth of backgrounds and identities that call Gustavus home, and as a campus that is situated in a community, and on land, for which these accounts and realities have often been mistreated, misunderstood, ignored, or flat out lied about, at its very core, these initiatives are meant to a) educate and inform, b) create a change in mindset and systems, c) stimulate a call to action,” Flunker said
Reverend Siri Erickson weighed in on the Racial Justice and Inclusion effort as it relates to the CIE.
“[It] includes assessment of the campus experience through hosting 18 campus-wide listening sessions to hear from faculty, staff, and students during fall semester and a diversity climate assessment survey for students next Spring; education of all faculty, staff, students, and trustees about bias, microaggressions, and racism,” Erikson said.
As the expansion goes underway, both Erickson and Flunker express their happiness and hopefulness for the future.
“Look, I’m not going to lie…this is a huge step. I have been pushing for an increased space for the larger part of my time at Gustavus. As such, I am extremely excited about introducing this re-imagined, intentional space, to our campus, and will celebrate the occasion…However, this shouldn’t create a mindset of, ‘Our work is done, we have arrived, and we don’t need to continue pushing so hard,’Flunker said.
Flunker reminds us that there is still work to be done, but with the center expansion, the campus is one step closer to improving its inclusivity.
“Personally, I am very excited about the new and expanded space that the Center for Inclusive Excellence will have starting this spring. Their work and programs are the heart of the College’s efforts to create a fully inclusive and just community where all Gustavus students can thrive – fully and authentically,” Erikson said.
“It has been a challenging stretch. The visual, intentional, in-person connections and discussions that typically occur in the Center, are in essence…on an extended hiatus. In addition to the move into our new space, we hope to be able to welcome a new Assistant Director soon as well. In the meantime, the Center encourages everyone to keep on plugging away one day at a time, stay safe during these times, and know that the Center, the student employees and I, are thinking of, and cheering for y’all,” Flunker said.
As a final note, Flunker brings out a message to the student body – an invitation to discover the CIE.
“Don’t hesitate to reach out! Many may not know us…but we’re here for you,” Flunker said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *