One of the University of San Diego’s best expressions of inclusion and diversity happens tonight, Nov. 16, when the United Front Multicultural Center (UFMC) hosts its annual dinner and entertainment extravaganza, Multicultural Night, starting at 5:30 p.m. in the Hahn University Center forums.
Following dinner, an array of entertaining dances, songs, poetry/spoken word and more by USD students will showcase respect for different cultures. As they perform, it’s an opportunity for attendees to deepen their personal knowledge about their classmates and the campus community at-large.
Tonight’s festivities will also celebrate UFMC’s 15th anniversary at USD. The center’s Nov. 14, 1997 opening in the Hahn University Center was the result of a proposal by five core organizations that became the United Front — Aikane O Hawai’i, Asian Student Association, Black Student Union, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlan and PRIDE.
The United Front’s purpose for the center, according to its 1993 proposal, was “to have a center that would allow the micro-cultures of the University of San Diego to thrive and celebrate their own individuality while allowing others to learn and accept them as well. We hope the university will recognize our plight and help us break down the walls of discrimination.”
Today, 18 undergraduate and four graduate student organizations are connected to the United Front Multicultural Center, but there’s room for everybody who enters the wide open/no-walls space in Student Life Pavilion 418.
“The UFMC is not just for people of color, as many people see it,” said Taku Uyeda, a second-year member of the Filipino Ugnayan Student Organization (FUSO) and a UFMC executive board member and publicity chairperson. “It’s an open space provided for all students. Come join the UFMC family and meet people who come from all different walks of life. We’d love to hear your story, where you come from, who you are, etc.”
Mayté Pérez Franco, UFMC director since Fall 2009, and assistant director and USD alumnus Adan Sanchez ’04, enjoy working with students to build community, camaraderie and a healthy environment with respect to tradition and to evolve the center in an ever-changing world.
The UFMC has a set of core strategies — social justice, education, leadership development, partnerships and resources — and specific programs to guide its vision. It hosts a monthly community lunch, sponsors Hate Crimes Awareness Week, conducts year-round community outreach on campus and in San Diego, hosts Safe Space Allies training on campus, and students and staff members attend the annual National Conference On Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) (partial 2012 group photo, right). The center also hosts a spring formal, an end-of-the-school-year Diversity Banquet and tonight’s big fall event.
“Multicultural Night predates my time at USD and highlights the talents of our communities by providing an opportunity for everyone to learn about the diversity represented at USD,” Pérez Franco (pictured, left) said. “I believe that to do our work well and move forward you must know where you have been and honor the work that led to our establishment and the successes along the way.”
Students were paramount to UFMC’s establishment 15 years ago. That principle hasn’t changed as the students’ hard work, dedication and a seemingly boundless supply of energy keeps it going.
“Moments in the UFMC are always memorable,” said Liset Godinez, co-chair for MEChA and a Link Peer Mentoring coordinator. “The moments can be as simple as a conversation about Mayté trying to convince the entire staff that fried turkey is the best food out there, filming a funny lip-syncing video for Multicultural Night with other UFMC interns, or staying past midnight because you’re having an amazing student organization meeting.”
Yasamin Shoriz is the station manager for USDtv, a Link mentor, a Center on Policy Initiatives intern and is the Chaldean American Student Association president. Her work on UFMC social events shows her devotion to ensure enjoyment for all.
“I’ve been on the planning committee for the UFMC Formal two years and it’s a fun social event to plan. It’s a fun event to get dressed up for, meet people both affiliated with the UFMC and those who are not, dance the night away and just have a good time,” she said. “This year, I’m on the planning committee for Multicultural Night. We’ve been planning for two months and my job is coordinating the performances, working on the script with the MCs (master/mistress of ceremonies), booking the DJ and putting together the budget. Furthermore, my organization and 10 other multicultural organizations will be tabling and showcasing our culture at the event.”
“Working with the students from the multicultural organizations is inspiring, gratifying and fun as they provide the energy to fuel the work we do,” he said. “I truly enjoy working with the student leaders as I learn about their unique stories, goals and achievements. One of our roles is to be the students’ support system, but sometimes they don’t realize just how much they provide to the larger USD community and us. As an alum myself, the UFMC was my first home at USD as a first-year student. That’s why it is very satisfying, in my role as assistant director, to have the opportunity to pay it forward and contribute to the students’ experience at USD.”
— Ryan T. Blystone