By Benito Garcia-Garcia
Western Carolina University’s Intercultural Affairs Department hosted a celebration of its 10-year anniversary on Feb. 19 with balloons, cake and messages of how the department has shaped lives.
ICA is known for being a space in which minority and underrepresented students can feel safe and welcomed. Throughout the years, the department has been known for producing educational and social events to engage the campus community.
Students, faculty, staff and WCU Chancellor Kelli Brown attended the celebration. Brown said ICA plays an important role in providing a place where everyone can feel part of a community. She added she’d like to see ICA “continue the efforts that they are doing” in the next 10 years.
“I think that ICA will evolve over time ... and so it becomes bigger and better,” Brown said.
Throughout the celebration, there were various performances by local drag queens Beulah Land and Silence Speaks, both students at WCU, and Alexis Black.
Although ICA was celebrating its anniversary, there was a reminder that early voting is taking place on campus and everyone present was encouraged to vote after the celebration.
ICA Associate Director Dean Paulk gave a brief history of the department’s inception back in 2010.“ICA was formed from the combination of Multicultural Affairs and the Women’s Center,” Paulk said. It primarily focuses on “diversity and inclusive excellence and (providing) programs and services for all students to become culturally confident global citizens of a diverse interconnected world,” he said.
Paulk continued about the recently developed strategic goal “that places diversity and inclusive excellence at the center of WCU insisting that without ICA and the programs they produce, they weren’t sure if they would’ve stayed at WCU.”
“I think this is the most important place on campus,” said Amy McKenzie, a part-time professor and a member of the Council of Inclusive Excellence.
McKenzie said students of all backgrounds are welcomed and accepted within the department.
Patterson concluded the event with this message:
“We are really, really appreciative of the fact that someone 10 years ago had the foresight to think about the fact that we would be here today and that we would need a space so we could express.”
Patterson added that perhaps not everyone will understand the way ICA expresses itself, saying that the department “may seem foreign, may seem out of place, may seem weird or wonky (to others) ... but in ICA everybody is welcome.”
Benito Garcia-Garcia is a journalism student at WCU.