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Thursday, December 7, 2023

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The Women's Resource Center Welcome Mixer was held Aug. 23. The Women's Resource Center Welcome Mixer was held Aug. 23.

Cultural Centers Return as Gathering Spots

In-person connections, lost in the transition to virtual life, are back again for SDSU’s Welcome Weeks.
By Aaron Burgin

This year, the first two weeks of fall semester are a homecoming of sorts for San Diego State University’s cultural centers.

Welcome Weeks give the centers’ staffs and students a chance to meet in person for fellowship, events and programming for the first time since March 2020, when the university transitioned classes to virtual learning.

The nine cultural centers provide a safe space for students from historically underrepresented backgrounds, women, the LGBTQIA+ community, formerly incarcerated individuals, and other groups, along with their allies.

And for five of the centers the Asian Pacific Desi-American Resource Center, the Center for Transformative Justice, the Latinx Resource Center, the Native Resource Center and the Undocumented Resource Center the Open Houses and Welcome Week receptions mark the grand openings of new locations.

“We are thrilled to welcome students and their families into these critically important resources and hope that they become a home away from home,” said Jessica Nare, assistant vice president for Community and Belonging in the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Diversity.

The Latinx Resource Center celebrated its grand opening in February 2020 and was forced into virtual operations a month later.

“While transitioning to a virtual space was crucial and necessary for the well-being of our communities, we are excited to be in person,” said Yesenia Sanchez Garcia, director of the Latinx Resource Center, now housed in the Love Library.

“We have not met the majority of students and not been in a physical space together for any of our programs. We are looking forward to welcoming students to the Latinx Resource Center in person and to continue building community and a space for Latinx students that is affirming, welcoming and where they feel seen collectively in person.”

Virginia Loh-Hagan, director of the APIDA Resource Center, was named inaugural director of the center in July 2020. This month, she moved into her center’s new digs in the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union.

“It is so exciting to have a physical space in the student union,” Loh-Hagan said.  “I love having a central hub to hang out and be in community. It's been so wonderful to actually connect with students in person. I love being able to laugh and hang with them.”

Students also expressed excitement about being able to reunite with the centers in person.

“Having the opportunity to attend in person makes me feel happy because I feel like I am able to really connect with the community,” said Javier Diego Jacinto, who is enrolled in the Bilingual Credential program in the Department of Dual Language and English Learner Education. “Being able to meet the different staff and communities of each center has been giving me the joy to continue my journey here at SDSU.”

Also taking a change of venue are the Center for Transformative Justice, moving into the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts; the Native Resource Center, relocating in West Commons; and the Undocumented Resource Center, moving into the College of Arts and Letters.

The cultural centers continued their work throughout the pandemic, providing students with resources in the virtual realm, including Zoom meetings, events, dialogue sessions, workshops and programming to support academics, mental health and identity development.

But the in-person connections were sorely missed.

“We've been able to deliver high-quality and robust support remotely,” Nare said, “but I am looking forward to being on campus where students can share space safely connect with our staff and participate in events and services.”

Several groups held welcome mixers and other welcome receptions earlier this week. Among the remaining events:

SDSU Hillel Welcome Back BBQ
Aug. 25, 6-8 p.m., SDSU Hillel, 5717 Lindo Paseo

Latinx Welcome Mixer
Aug. 26, 11 a.m. -1 p.m., Love Library

Native Resource Center Welcome Mixer
Aug. 27, Noon-2 p.m., PFSA 100

Black Resource Center Welcome Mixer
Aug. 27, 3-6 p.m., Black Resource Center, 5723 Lindo Paseo

APIDA Open House
Sept. 3, 2-4 p.m., Aztec Student Union, 210A-K

Additional information about SDSU Welcome Weeks can be found here.