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Monday, May 29, 2023

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Natalie King-Shaw (right) hosting an SDSU prospective student and their mother at the Black Resource Center. Natalie King-Shaw (right) hosting an SDSU prospective student and their mother at the Black Resource Center.

Second Home

SDSU cultural centers provide support, encouragement and programming that bring academic and personal growth
By Aaron Burgin

When Leilani Anderson discovered San Diego State University's Black Resource Center during spring semester 2022, the trajectory of her college life changed immediately. 

“It completely changed my whole experience versus the fall semester,” said Anderson, a 19-year-old sophomore majoring in business administration. “The BRC is the most important thing to me on campus. It truly brings me that sense of community and has been that safe space for me.”

Anderson’s experience is one that SDSU officials say underscores the importance of the university’s nine cultural centers, which started the semester with open house ceremonies and activities during Welcome Week. 

“We know students are more academically successful when they are connected to a community and feel a sense of belonging. SDSU is a large community made up of many smaller communities. Our Cultural Centers are among some of the spaces on campus that help students to create a home away from home,” said Jessica Nare, assistant vice president for Community and Belonging in the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Diversity. “

Our centers offer first and second year learning communities, mentoring, academic support programs, opportunities to participate in research, peer-led discussion groups, culturally-specific programs, and so much more,” Nare said. “We welcome students to spend time in our Cultural Center spaces and to get connected with us early on during their time at SDSU.”

The mission of the nine cultural centers is to support students' success through a framework that addresses equity, justice and inclusion. For students of color, or marginalized communities such as women, LGBTQIA+ and the formerly incarcerated and their allies, the centers are a place for meeting, healing and collaboration. 

Anderson and other students said that the cultural centers are living up to their mission.

Anderson, a 2021 Clairemont High School graduate, said the BRC provided her both with a safe place to socialize and study, and that her support system at the BRC encouraged her to run for the executive board of the Black Business Society of SDSU. She was elected to serve as the student organization’s academic coordinator.  

“It’s important because being at a historically white institution, it’s hard to find that space to connect with people who look like you,” Anderson said. “Not only do you find that at the centers, they help connect you with resources on campus and make sure that you are excelling. Coming to SDSU and finding a space like that, which caters to you and people who look like you, inspired me and helped my academic career and personal growth.” 

Virginia Loh-Hagan, director of the Asian Pacific Islander Desi-American (APIDA) Resource Center, said that her center’s goal is to find that balance between helping students achieve academic success and becoming more in tune with their heritage. 

"The SDSU APIDA Center is committed to increasing the voice and visibility of the APIDA community at SDSU,” Loh-Hagan said. “We host a variety of programs and services focused on building academic success and knowledge about APIDA histories and narratives. We also provide a welcoming and fun space for APIDA students to study, lounge, and be in community.

Even if students missed the Welcome Week events, Anderson said that she’d urge them to seek the centers out — the sooner in the semester the better. 

“I would say once people get on campus, find that cultural center that relates to them,” she said. “Or if it’s not there, advocate and get one created. It truly does make a difference having that safe space and community. It provided me with a second home.”

The idea of a second home sounds appealing to incoming freshman Sophia Crave, a first-year student and business major from nearby Chula Vista, who said she was excited to check out the Latinx Resource Center on campus. 

“It’s a place to make connections with people and find people who come from similar backgrounds and bond,” Crave said. “I’m definitely looking forward to visiting the center.”


The Cultural Centers website offers more information about the centers and their programming.
The Black Resource Center, the Native Resource Center, The Pride Center, the Center for Intercultural Relations, the Asian Pacific Desi American Resource Center, the Latinx Resource Center, the Women’s Resource Center, the Center for Transformative Justice and the Undocumented Resource Center.