The University of Utah’s division for Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion strives to be a catalyst for positive change and transformation on campus, particularly as it relates to students from marginalized groups. Through its cultural and resource centers, students have the opportunity to meet and convene with individuals from similar backgrounds and build community. For students who identify as Black, that place is the Black Cultural Center (BCC).
Established in February 2019, the BCC has served as a valuable resource to the nearly 600 African American and Black students at the university by providing support and guidance whenever and wherever it may be needed. Among its priorities is promoting student belonging and guiding students to achieve post-graduation success
“We want the Black Cultural Center to be one of the cultural conduits on campus, which helps bridge the gaps of belonging and development for our students and improves their experiences at the university,” explained BCC Director Meligha Garfield. “We also want to cultivate a community of diverse learning experiences with our flagship programs: Operation S.U.C.C.E.S.S., the Male Success Initiative, Generation Next as well as our affinity/intersectionality programming.”
Each of the experiences includes a staple component of support along with being a national example of Black excellence, he added.
Garfield said the BCC offers a variety of community-building events and programs—including social events, cultural celebrations, and educational workshops—that help students build relationships with other students on campus.
For example, professional development is supported through the Generation Next program established in partnership with other departments, he noted.
“We offer workshops, portfolio/skill development, and networking events to help students prepare for post-graduation success,” Garfield said.” These opportunities help students build skills; gain experience; and connect with potential employers, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits.”
Regarding cultural enrichment, the center offers opportunities for students to explore and celebrate Black culture through events, lectures and other programming.
“We do this through our affinity programming that looks at the intersectionality of being Black and a man, Black and a woman, as well as Black and queer,” Garfield said. “This helps students build a sense of pride and identity development and connection to their cultural heritage.”
The BCC also advocates for the needs and concerns of Black students and any other student on campus and provides a safe and supportive space for students to discuss any issues they may face as well as connect them to student organizations to share their perspectives, he added.
Garfield said his goals for the center include building out capacity by having several staff members work under each of our pillars, including Black-centered research, culturally affirming education initiatives and service.
“I would like the center to be recognized nationally under the National Association of Black Cultural Centers and have our three flagship programs become endowed programs with at least ten years of support,” he said.
“I see us also developing programs in partnership with the U’s Center for Equity and Student Belonging (CESB),” Garfield said. “I also see us partnering with outside organizations such as Sundance and Utah Black Artist Collective to work on a fellowship for students in the arts and media fields, as well as partnering with Athletics on a Black athlete retention and identity development program.”
“Overall, the Black Cultural Center provides a supportive and inclusive community for Black students on campus by offering a range of programs and services that promote academic success, career development, cultural enrichment, and advocacy,” he said. “Through these efforts students feel a sense of belonging and are better prepared for success when they graduate.”