UND community celebrates opening of new Era Bell Thompson Multicultural Center location


Kate Menzies

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UND community celebrates opening of new Era Bell Thompson Multicultural Center location

University of North Dakota's Multicultural Center and Multicultural Student Services officially relocated to a new home on the third floor of the Memorial Union Wednesday, but not before saying goodbye to their previous headquarters at 2800 University Ave., where it's been since 1976.

The University Avenue location was named in honor of the late UND alumna and journalist Era Bell Thompson in 1979. Opening and closing events for the center and the services it houses included a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new location.

UND Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Thomas DiLorenzo kicked of both ceremonies.

"This marks the beginning of a new space that will serve students for years to come," said DiLorenzo.

As the old location closed its doors, DiLorenzo spoke of the importance of "the countless students that have found comfort here for more than 40 years."

Malika Carter, director of the Era Bell Thompson Multicultural Center, encouraged those gathered for the closing ceremony to celebrate the memories.

The closing ended with a mural portrait of Era Bell Thompson being transported to the new center, as DiLorenzo stated, "Her spirit moves with us."

Era Bell Thompson

After crossing the street to the center's new home, DiLorenzo spoke of the University's commitment to embracing diversity in order to make UND a more exceptional place. He noted that this year's freshmen class was the most racially diverse in the University's history thanks, in part, to Era Bell Thompson's legacy as one of the first African American students on campus, her subsequent career in journalism and her advocacy for important causes.

Born in 1905, Era Bell Thompson grew up near Driscoll, N.D., in rural east-central North Dakota. She enrolled at UND as a student athlete, competing and excelling nationally in track and field in the early 1920s. After graduation from UND, Thompson would go on to pursue a career in journalism, eventually landing the top editorial position at Ebony magazine. She would become an important voice for her age on race and gender equality issues as well as on the Civil Rights Movement.

Before her death in 1986, Thompson was awarded the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award, the highest honor bestowed on anyone born or who has lived in North Dakota. Her portrait hangs in the Capitol building in Bismarck with other Rough Rider Award recipients.

Enhancing knowledge

Carter thanked the attendees of Wednesdays ceremonies for coming out to "honor the past and the present."

As with most good-byes and new beginnings, the moments can be bittersweet.

"There is always a sense of sadness when you close the doors on something," said Sandra Mitchell, associate vice president for diversity and inclusion. "The house felt like home and has a long history on campus."

However, in the new location, "people will have more ready access to the resources the center provides," Mitchell added.

Mitchell explained how the Memorial Union – a natural hub of student activity -- will provide the center with more collaboration opportunities with other services in the Union, such as the Student Involvement and Student Government offices. The center will also be in a building with high traffic, which will hopefully translates into more student visits.

"We love for people to come and visit us and welcome partnerships," said Carter.

No matter the location, the center, along with UND Multicultural Student Services (MSS), will continue to remain true to its mission of helping students succeed on campus.

MSS provides quality support services (academic, financial aid, personal and social) to enhance African American, Asian American and Hispanic American student success at UND. It serves as a general institutional contact and advocate for students, individually and collectively; works with UND departments and offices to address the unique needs of students; provides advice and counsel regarding broad campus issues; and promotes diversity throughout the campus.

Everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, is encouraged to visit the center and take part in its activities.

"The Multicultural Center is a great place for students and staff to share and enhance knowledge," said Mitchell.

"It's a place to share experiences and foster understanding," said Carter.

Kate Menzies University & Public Affairs student writer

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