CMEP: Exploring Identity and Creating Community

NYU's Center for Multicultural Education and Programs creates a supportive space for students of historically marginalized backgrounds

 

Getting a little bit lost in New York City happens to everyone. But at NYU, you won’t feel lost when it comes to community and connection. For students of color and those of historically marginalized backgrounds, the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs (CMEP) provides numerous opportunities to engage, learn, and grow. We recently sat down with the CMEP team, including Tera Nakata (Associate Director, Leadership and Outreach), Brian Allen (Assistant Director), and Sooah Kwak (Program Administrator), to discuss the Center’s efforts to enhance intercultural awareness and explore the many aspects of identity that impact our daily lives.

Computer screens from two virtual events CMEP held

In This Together

As part of the Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation (OGI) at NYU, CMEP supports students along every step of their personal and academic journey. It’s a place for students to center themselves and ground their experiences. It’s also a hub for leadership development, critical thinking, and innovation.

“CMEP provides programming and resources that support students in discovering the power in their narratives and celebrating their unique identities as they navigate college life and beyond,” explains the team. “We want to celebrate the community, uplift our students and alums, and find joy in our lived experiences!”

Its programs have shifted to virtual spaces for the time being. Despite this change, the Center’s staff is still focused on maintaining connection until it’s safe to gather again. In addition to holding remote cultural graduation celebrations for Latinx and Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi American (APID/A) students, they’ve also hosted panels on combatting anti-Asian racism during the pandemic. What’s more, they’ve brought in speakers like Indya Moore, of FX’s Pose, for a virtual conversation on trans-visibility and gender.

A student presenting at a CMEP event
A student speaking into a microphone at a CMEP event

A Community From Day One

CMEP’s programming matches their membership. That is why first-year students of color and from marginalized backgrounds will find many educational and social events to connect them to NYU’s global network.

Every September, CMEP hosts the Students of Color Leadership Retreat (SOCLR). Here, first-year students of color from across NYU come together. They are joined by past program participants in mentorship roles for a weekend of education and empowerment. Eunjoo Jung, Gallatin class of 2022, attended SOCLR in 2019 after transferring to NYU. “I was hesitant at first. But I’m so glad that I did it,” she says. “I had a great time meeting other students of color, many of whom were also first-generation college students like me. I found a space to be myself. And I found a community where I wouldn’t be judged.” Eunjoo plans to attend SOCLR again this fall—this time as a group leader.

The FOCUS Mentorship Program is for first-year students of color who identify as first-generation college students. They can connect with NYU alumni, faculty, staff, and graduate students who serve as mentors and advocates. Together, they navigate the transition to college life. Not only that, but by working closely with successful members of the NYU community, mentees also build a sense of community while developing their leadership and professional skills.

An event during MLK week at NYU
A group of people sitting in a lecture room.

Something for Everyone

In addition to programming focused on connecting first-year students to their community and identity, CMEP sponsors an array of other workshops, trainings, panels, and celebrations every year. Their Zone/In-House Trainings provide a supportive setting in which to explore the connection between diversity, inclusion, and equity while fostering personal and professional growth. Here, participants gain foundational knowledge about marginalized and underrepresented communities. They learn to unpack tricky terminology, and walk away with the tools to build a more inclusive campus culture.

MLK Week and Solidarity Week, both hosted by OGI, are two annual events that honor and celebrate unity and collective action. At NYU, MLK Week commemorates the anniversary of Dr. King’s campus visit, as well as his legacy, through special events. This year’s celebration included conversations with advocates, activists, performers, and social entrepreneurs. There were also film screenings, trainings, and workshops on everything from African vegan cuisine to melding yoga with R&B. Solidarity Week focuses on building meaningful cross-cultural interactions by fostering a greater awareness of others’ experiences. Through events and trainings, NYU community members learn to move from allyship to solidarity, with a focus on taking responsibility and effecting change.

“I’ve only been able to create this relationship with CMEP because I swallowed my fears and went for it. CMEP has so many wonderful workshops and resources for everyone,” says Eunjoo. “As a word, ‘diversity’ is often overused. At CMEP, we get to explore different layers of diversity because diversity looks different to everyone.” She pauses. “And that’s okay.”