EAST LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Hundreds of community members attended the groundbreaking of MOSAIC, the MSU Multicultural Unity Center, on the MSU campus on April 21st. According to MSU, the center, which will be a space for underrepresented students, was a celebration of the culmination of “calls from students for more than a half century.”

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The history of the project started during the civil rights movement when “protests sparked by the demands of Black students with the support of faculty and staff entered the public discourse across the country and at MSU. Demands included increasing racial and ethnic minority representation on college campuses and served as a catalyst for MSU to become more diverse.”

As the years went by, activism for a freestanding multicultural center became more prevalent and the formation of the Council of Racial and Ethnic Studies (CORES) occurred. In 1995, they presented the MSU administration with specs for the building that they wanted.

In 1997, President McPherson, along with consultation with the board of trustees, agreed to find a space for the center. After much deliberation, the first campus multicultural center opened in January of 1999 in the basement of the MSU Union with the understanding that it was a first step towards a freestanding building.

CORES leaders and others continued to ask for a freestanding building so they had sufficient space for social and academic gatherings.

In the early 2010’s, CORES leaders, including Mario Lemons, president of the Black Students’ Alliance (BSA), held rallies on campus to bring awareness that their basement space was still inadequate and failed to “meet the needs of various underrepresented student communities.”

The center was moved to the second floor of the Union in 2013 and it included a multipurpose room, formal and informal student group meeting and work space, student group storage, a reception area and director’s office. Still, the advocacy for a freestanding building continued.

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Fast-forward to the 2018-19 academic year when Sarah McConville, chief diversity and inclusion officer for the MSU Resident Halls Association, started an online petition for a multicultural building on campus. It resulted in a student-led multicultural building organization with a committee of student leaders. After a racial bias incident on campus during the fall of 2019, tensions increased and many groups joined together with CORES and BSA to create a list of demands.

The 10-point plan for diversity, equity and inclusion, which was given to incoming MSU President Samuel Stanley and others, included the establishment of a multicultural building. A feasibility study for the center was commenced after President Stanley appointed a steering committee in late 2019.

According to MSU, the COVID-19 pandemic and the murder of George Floyd increased the national racial tensions and calls to address racial bias incidents on campus surfaced. In August 2020, President Stanley called for the Task Force on Racial Equity to parallel MSU’s DEI efforts and it was found that “students past and present and other members of the campus community articulated that MSU has not adequately addressed longstanding issues of bias, inequities, campus climate and the need for cultural change.”

In September of 2021, after the feasibility study was published, the MSU Board of Trustees approved the planning phase of the project. In January of 2022, the SmithGroup, a Detroit-based higher education and cultural facility design firm, started the design process for the center. In April of the same year, a site was chosen on the northeast corner of North Shaw and Farm lanes, west of Shaw Hall.

On February 10, 2023, the board unanimously approved proceeding with the construction of the center and on April 21st, MSU broke ground on the 34,000-square-foot $38 million multicultural center that will be funded through general revenue bonds.

The rendering of the building shows it will have a living room, offices, an amphitheater, a multipurpose space, living room, backyard, porch and fire circle. The site, which was a green space, required the trustees to grant a variance to the University Zoning Ordinance. You can get a video of the model fly-thru here.

The university says that the new center “will provide a culturally rich and welcoming environment that promotes intellectual curiosity among students as they learn from and share experiences with one another.”

Vennie Gore, senior vice president for Student Life and Engagement, said about the center, “The new MSU multicultural center will be a facility that exemplifies MSU’s commitment to student success. The center will allow students to express their own individuality while also learning about others in a culturally rich environment.”

Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D., MSU Interim President, quoted labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez at the groundbreaking ceremony by saying, ‘we need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community and this nation.’”

She went on to say, “Nourishing this community, this university, this state, this nation and the world itself with knowledge and understanding is the very essence of Michigan State University’s mission.”