D’Youville recently launched a new space on campus to address and raise awareness of racial and cultural issues affecting marginalized students, including those who are Black, ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ+. The Cultural Enrichment Center (CEC) was developed in response to student concerns in the wake of protests against the murder of George Floyd last summer.

“In the summer of 2020, when D’Youville joined the world in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, we asked our students how we could support them,” says Chief Student Affairs Officer Benjamin Grant. “The answer was the CEC; a home base, a programming center, and, most importantly, an educational tool used to teach those with privilege how to support and elevate Black and other marginalized students.”

RaShon Thomas was appointed into the new role of Cultural Enrichment Center Coordinator in December and has led a raft of programming in a few short months. Thomas, a graduate of Jarvis Christian College, a private, historically Black college in Texas, most recently served in the Office of Diversity and Community at the University of Central Arkansas.

“Upon joining our community, RaShon immediately started working to bring positive and effective change to our campus,” Grant says. “Some of these changes included rebuilding a number of organizations for marginalized student that had dissolved over the years; creating and unveiling the Peers Uplifting Peers (PUPs) mentorship program; and developing a Diversity Peer Educator program for our community.”

The most recent initiative, “Race Space,” was launched on March 29 in response to the recent increase in hate crimes against the Asian-American community. In partnership with the Student Government Association, the CEC will host Race Space discussions to allow students to come together and express their thoughts and feelings while having intentional conversations to help shift society to a better space. Race Space is facilitated by Thomas, Amy Hahn, D’Youville’s mental health counselor, and Sarah Cockroft, international student coordinator.

Throughout Black History Month in February, Thomas led a wide range of programming including:

Black Out Hour – one hour dedicated to Black students only to play games, music, and socialize in the CEC
Tune In Tuesday – highlighting student hobbies, podcasts, singing groups, spoken words, and other artists
Hot Wings & Hot Topics – opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue and enjoy free chicken wings
Candy & Condoms –goodie bags filled with candy, condoms and information about safe sex
Raffle – to raise money for African Heritage Food Co-Op.

For Women’s History Month in March, events include:
Ladies Room – one hour dedicated to women only, for students, faculty and staff to come to the CEC and play games, music, and socialize
Period Product Drive/Distribution Day – a school-wide drive to donate menstruation products to give to students and fill the Campus Cupboard.
The Tea Party – time to come together with other women on campus to drink tea and hear from an inspirational speaker
Raffle – to raise money for Buffalo organizations supporting women, Girls on the Run Buffalo and Light House Women’s Residence.

Thomas plans future events in recognition of other weekly or monthly awareness celebrations.

For more information about the CEC, contact Thomas at thomasr@dyc.edu or 716-829-7812.