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New Multicultural Center director: ‘Anybody is welcome’

Karina Garduno joined the IUPUI Multicultural Center in 2015. She officially became the center’s director in September 2022, after serving as senior associate director and assistant director for multicultural programming. Prior to that, she was the coordinator for social justice education in the Office of Student Involvement. Garduno talked to IUPUI Today about her new role, the Multicultural Center’s goals this academic year and how faculty and staff can support the center’s mission.

Question: What motivated you to join the Multicultural Center and pursue the director position?

Karina Garduno headshot Answer: I experienced the importance of cultural centers as a college student myself at IU Bloomington. La Casa, the Latino cultural center there, really played a big part in helping me feel supported in the Bloomington community. I knew back then, one day I would love to become the director of a college culture center and hopefully provide the same support for students.

Q: What services and resources does the Multicultural Center provide?

A: I tell everyone that we do a little bit of everything. We know there are spaces where our students don’t see themselves represented, so we offer quite a bit of programming for diverse communities and about diverse communities. Those programs are also opportunities for people to learn about various communities. The center also has emergency aid funds to assist students in different ways. For example, if they can’t pay for a book. We also serve as advocates. Students will often come to the center because they don’t feel comfortable going to anybody else. We advocate on their behalf, at large and in specific situations. Sometimes that’s just connecting them with the right person, which can put students at ease because we’re able to vouch for that individual.

Q: What are some of your goals as director of the center?

A: As a staff, we’ve decided to focus on a couple of things this academic year. One is student engagement. For the past 2 1/2 years or so, our students have been either completely virtual or in a hybrid space. Now that we’re fully back on campus, we want to make sure to do our best to engage students, to let them know that we are here and we are a resource. The other priority is enhancing our campus partnerships. We have some awesome campus partners, but we would like to grow those partnerships because we cannot do this work alone.

Q: How can staff and faculty help support the center and its mission?

A: Attending our programs or events would go a long way. I think it’s great for our students to meet faculty outside of the classroom and see that they are engaged on campus and that they care about the student population. It’s also an opportunity for students to build relationships with faculty who may not be their own professors. Again, it would be great if more faculty and staff would partner with us. Our social justice education area has done a great job of reaching out to professors, researchers and others who can lend their expertise to our various programming. Continuing those relationships would be beneficial, because it allows us to put research behind some of our work and discussions.

Q: What else do you want the campus community to know about the Multicultural Center?

A: Anybody is welcome in the MC. Some students will say, ‘I don’t feel like I have a culture or I’m not a student of color, so the Multicultural Center is not for me.’ Yes, it is. The MC is for everyone and it’s okay to come in and ask all kinds of questions, as long as you truly want to learn. If you’re scared about seeking out a resource, we can have a preliminary conversation. We’re not going to push anyone to do anything that they’re not ready to do. But we would love for students to engage with the Multicultural Center at some point in their journey.

The IUPUI Multicultural Center is located in Taylor Hall UC 115. Faculty, staff and students can connect to resources, programming and more on the center’s website.

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