MU plans new Intercultural Center


For generations, learning from our differences has been a bedrock of the student experience at Manchester University.

To celebrate that distinctive tradition, MU is raising funds to construct a new Intercultural Center at College Avenue and East Street.

“We say that Manchester is a place where you can be yourself and are challenged to become your best self,” said President Dave McFadden ’82 in making the announcement. “We also say that we are a place where we learn from our differences. This new Intercultural Center will be a physical testament to those values.”

The current Intercultural Center, across the street from the Administration Building, has seen better days. It is the third location for what started as the student-led AAFRO House in the early 1970s. Over the years, the scope has expanded and is now home to MU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), and Black Student Union, African Students Association, and Hispanos Unidos. The center also is a home away from home for MU’s growing international student population, and the site of meetings and activities that encourage MU students of all backgrounds to learn from each other.

A former family residence, the current building includes a living room gathering space, a small computer and study space, a library and resource room, several offices, a kitchen, restrooms and a basement storage area. It is not easily accessible for people with disabilities. 

The new Intercultural Center will at least double the existing space and include:

  • A large multipurpose room with a movable stage for events
  • A more inviting “living room” gathering space
  • Offices for the OMA director and student staff
  • An open-concept kitchen and dining space
  • A resource library, computer lab and study area
  • Restrooms and storage spaces

In addition, the new building will be fully accessible. It will include display space for art and artifacts donated to the center and a memorial commemorating the three international students who died in a traffic accident in February.

For Salwa Nubani ’16, who grew up in Palestine and followed her three older sisters to MU, the Intercultural Center has been a vital resource. It provides international students with a “24/7” home and a place where they can prepare their “comfort foods and listen to their music.” 

Before graduating in May with a degree in biology-chemistry, Nubani studied a lot at the center and used the space to visit with her family in Palestine via Skype at 3 or 4 a.m.   She recalls visiting the Intercultural Center when she first arrived at Manchester in 2012. “Right when I entered I heard people speaking my language,” she said. “They were super welcoming.”

Martin Garcia ’16 graduated in May with a degree in chemistry and served as president of the Hispanic student organization Hispanos Unidos. Many of MU’s undergraduate students are from small towns, he says, and they haven’t been exposed to a lot of diversity. The Intercultural Center is a welcoming place designed to educate everyone, he adds, and break down barriers between different kinds of people. What’s more, he believes that a new Intercultural Center will enhance MU’s efforts to recruit international students. 

Garcia is proud that Manchester is genuinely committed to “respecting the infinite worth of every individual. We value everyone and we value everyone equally.”

During her four years at Manchester, Caniece Leggett ’16 made friends at the Intercultural Center “who now have become my family.” The recent president of Black Student Union, she’s well aware that African-American students blazed the trail more than 40 years ago for today’s facility and the wide range of events and programs that now enrich the entire community. “I hope that the new building really connects all of the different cultures at Manchester,” says the psychology graduate. “It’s important that we all move from tolerating to embracing to celebrating each other.” 

If you are interested in supporting the new Intercultural Center, please contact the Office of Advancement at 260-982-5218