Connecting Culturally With Students During the Pandemic

aacc staff

The Cultural Centers are devoted to maintaining a welcoming atmosphere for students, which was especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Over the past two years, the Cultural Centers staff has supported students facing challenges that have included remote classes, home and family issues, financial concerns, racially biased incidents, and more. Their goal has been to generate a framework of support for students through services, resources, programming, and partnerships with other Student Affairs and university departments.  

“Offering general support and making connections with students was really important during a period when everyone was so isolated,” said Ji Lee, Executive Director of Intercultural Engagement and Inclusion Initiatives. “Our team is always open to any and all ways of connecting with our students, so if a student reaches out—even if it’s an area that might not traditionally fall in our purview—we pull out our connections.” 

Lee noted, for example, that students less likely to utilize in-person counseling may have been more comfortable in a virtual counseling environment. This dynamic, combined with a strategic partnership between the Cultural Centers and CAPS, resulted in an influx of students accessing CAPS resources and an increase in students seeking to connect with Cultural Centers staff. 

“Students who may not have traditionally come to us in person really thrived and connected virtually because that's what their preferred method of connecting was,” said Lee. 

“Our team is always open to any and all ways of connecting with our students, so if a student reaches out—even if it’s an area that might not traditionally fall in our purview—we pull out our connections.” 

The Cultural Centers’ breadth of programming continued during the period of remote instruction. Signature programs were hosted in virtual settings, including celebrations of student body diversity in Heritage Month programs. Virtual graduation ceremonies also took place in both 2020 and 2021 to ensure that student accomplishments would be celebrated.

Fostering inclusive communities and promoting equity is ingrained in the work of the Cultural Centers.  

“We have a broader message of advocating for students and advocating for those who are marginalized, giving voice to the voiceless and wanting the invisible to be seen and heard,” said Lee.

“The Cultural Center staff really tries to be there for students,” Lee continued. “We want students to feel as if that they can come here, connect and talk with the staff, and get the appropriate resources.”

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