EAST LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — As we celebrate Black History Month, students from all backgrounds on the campus of Michigan State University are getting involved in a unique project to honor diversity.
The school has committed to creating a brand new multicultural center.
The goal is to break ground on a new multicultural center to replace a smaller space in early 2023. It’s a project that’s been years in the making.
On campus, there’s an energy being felt by students and faculty recognizing the power and importance of celebrating diversity.
“I believe it’s going to change the campus climate a lot for the better and I’m excited to see the final outcome," said Sharron Reed-Davis, a student committee member.
Reed-Davis is a senior at MSU. She is also chair of the Council of Racial and Ethnic Students, Council of Progressive Students and an advisor for the Black Students Alliance.
“I hope it highlights the strive of Black students, who were the first demanding a multicultural center on campus and it has taken a long time," she said.
What’s planned is a $34 million, 40,000 square foot multicultural center, which will be a gathering space dedicated to diversity, reflecting on activism and honoring a wide range of cultures. It will also be a place for studying, listening to speakers and organizing events to promote inclusion and equity.
“I think it’s going to be something really good and visually appealing and a place that people want to go that looks good to students," she said.
Lesly Morales, a student committee member, said, "It very much shows there is power in numbers. Ultimately, students need to realize and be comfortable in the power they hold.”
Morales is also a senior and helping guide this initiative.
"For this generation of students to come out, create a study, work with and hire a firm, the more the process is ongoing, the more real it becomes,” Morales said. "It shows that students have come together, talking about different struggles and issues. This is something to prideful for.”
Vennie Gore, senior vice president of Student Life and Engagement at MSU, said, "In this ever increasing world that gets smaller and smaller, this becomes more and more important for our state, our society and country.”
Gore says he sees a new space offering a home away from home for students and alumni.
"Opportunity for academic classes to be taught there, guest speakers, alumni to come back and gather,” he said. "The opportunity for a catering area and food to be brought in. What better way to learn about different cultures than to learn about the food that comes from that culture.”
Teaching lessons of the civil rights era, focusing on the values that helped shape the world and providing a visual experience also appeal to the SmithGroup, the oldest architectural design group in the country chosen for this work.
“There’s all these stories out there and marginalized voices that need to be heard. And to have these types of projects, stories told of inclusion, storytelling and reconciliation is very important,” Monteil Crawley, design principal with the SmithGroup, said.
SmithGroup has helped create the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington and other cultural institutions.
Crawley says expect to see culture and education coming together at a campus location that's still yet to be chosen.
"We are going to be working with the students to figure out exactly what this building is about and how it’s going to manifest itself," Crawley said. "It’s something we are very passionate about because we see more and more universities reckoning with their history.”
Listening sessions will continue to be held by SmithGroup for students to continue shaping the project. It’s something students say they’re doing for past, present and future generations.