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Skidmore College

Skidmore builds new center for equity, inclusion

February 6, 2020
by James Helicke

Skidmore College is reaffirming its commitment to equity, inclusion and justice by building a new center in the heart of campus that marks an evolution in cultural and community spaces.

The new space will provide a dedicated location to discuss, collaborate and think creatively about equity and inclusion. It will also serve as a social hub and community base for people from diverse cultures, identities, religions and other backgrounds.

“We see this center as a space where we can tackle issues that we’re passionate about, learn about them, advocate for them, and go out and change the world in a meaningful way,” said Joshua C. Woodfork, vice president for strategic planning and institutional diversity. “This center is the fruition of many years of voices and efforts for equity, justice and inclusion. Members of our campus community have planted these seeds over time, and we’re excited to see them produce such a centralized space on campus.”

A rendering of the new center

A rendering depicts part of the new center in Case Center.

The combined 5,300-square-foot center will occupy a prominent location in Case Center in the middle of campus. Flexible in its design, the new center, which has not yet been named, will offer an accessible space for programming, including a seminar classroom, study and small group work areas, a lounge space, a kitchenette, an all-gender bathroom and other amenities.

Construction commenced in January and is scheduled to be completed in two phases. The first component, where the former Faculty/Staff (Dining) Club and Student Government Association game room were once housed, reimagines and expands the Class of 1972 InterCultural Center (ICC) and the InterCultural Lounge (ICL). It is slated to open in May 2020.

Adjacent to the center, the second phase of the project brings together the offices of Campus Life and Engagement, which are currently located on two separate floors. Phase two is scheduled to be completed over the summer ahead of the 2020-2021 academic year.

The new center will also host office space for two positions: an inaugural center director, who will also serve as the College’s deputy chief diversity officer, and a director of the Office of Student Diversity Programs.

Joshua C. Woodfork, vice president for strategic planning and institutional diversity

Joshua C. Woodfork, vice president for strategic planning and institutional diversity, shows a floor plan of the new space during a tour.

Construction coincides with growing diversity at Skidmore and the expansion of academic initiatives encouraging broader intercultural understanding and global perspectives, including Intergroup Relations, Gender Studies, Asian Studies, Latin American and Latinx Studies, and Black Studies, among other programs.

This new space speaks to our mission and shared values of diversity, equity and inclusion. What’s particularly exciting about this space is also the opportunity to reframe what these values mean for this community of students, faculty, staff and alums. We can come together and conceptualize those values and create a space where we can also create change.
Mariel Martin
Associate Dean of Student Affairs for Campus Life and Engagement

More than 200 members of the Skidmore community toured the future center in December, expressing excitement about the new space and voting on design elements, such as color palettes, furniture and flooring options.

Students vote for design elements for the new center.

Students vote on design elements for the new center.

Student Government Association President David Robakidze ’20 welcomed the project, new dedicated space for student organizations and the offices that will be housed there.

Maalik Dunkley ’21 said there was still important work to do, and he is “excited to see how students will use the space and the inclusive precedent that a project with this focus and of this caliber will inspire.”

The new center is the latest in a series of cultural spaces for the College. Skidmore opened a Black Cultural Center on its former campus in downtown Saratoga Springs in 1970. Since then, Skidmore has hosted several spaces, including a Leadership Center in Starbuck Center (1989), the InterCultural Center in Case Center (2001) and the InterCultural Lounge, also in Case Center (2007).

In 2012, Kristie A. Ford, who was then serving as the director of intercultural studies, proposed a social justice center for Skidmore.
“We need a center to centralize some of the innovative social justice-related work that is happening at Skidmore, and serve as a vibrant and visible hub for cross-campus partnerships and collaborations,” said Ford, a professor of sociology and founder of the Intergroup Relations Program. “I am thrilled that this center is finally coming.”

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