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Friday, May 17, 2024

The Student Community Center at UC Davis helps foster connections while embracing diversity

The SCC strives to celebrate all parts of students’ identities and promote academic excellence

 

By ELIZABETH WOODHALL — features@theaggie.org

 

Forming friendships and becoming part of a community can often be challenging for incoming students, especially for those with anxiety about moving in and adapting to college life. Although there are various ways of getting involved on campus, the Student Community Center (SCC) — located “West of Shields Library and North of the Silo,” as stated on their website — is home to various centers that foster student success and belonging. 

The SCC houses various centers, including both identity-based centers and academic centers for success. Mayra Llamas, Ed.D., the Executive Director of the Student Resource and Retention Center, said that the building stands for a “dynamic student life.”

“The building opened up in the winter of 2012, so that’s over 10 years ago,” Llamas said. “The building is fairly new and added a vibrancy to the diversity of our campus, and because some of the resources were sort of spread out, [the building] now feels like a central location that helps with […] promoting intersectionality through some of the identity-based centers.”

Although the building includes a majority of identity-based centers, like the Cross Cultural Center and LGBTQIA Resource Center, Llamas said that the SCC hopes to offer different resources needed for students’ feeling of belonging, which also includes an environment that can help promote their academic success. 

“The building offers different resources — we wanted to make sure it was a building that students could come into and feel like they belong,” Llamas said. “The building is more than just identity-based centers; the students could see themselves reflected in other priorities of the campus, such as the Undergraduate Research Center.” 

Beyond the centers, Llamas said that other areas within the SCC make it welcoming to all students who might just be dropping by. 

“We also have a partnership with the Coffee House, and we have the South Coho, so we appreciate having the little coffee house,” Llamas said. “We also have conference rooms, event rooms and a computer lab. It’s a well-rounded space where students can come and hang out, study, be part of a group or just go to the student life centers and feel more at home, build that sense of belonging, begin to unpack their identity and feel that connection with others who are like-minded.” 

In addition to the SCC’s smaller spaces, seven units are a part of the Community Resource and Retention Centers, which are greatly focused on education equity. “We educate, engage, and empower students to act as dynamic leaders for their communities so that we can all transform knowledge into action,” the Student Recruitment and Retention Center Mission said on their website.

In terms of fostering a safe environment for students, Llamas said that intersectionality is something incredibly important for students who are visiting the SCC. 

“We understand that students have intersectionality, so you may feel very comfortable with being in the Cross Cultural Center, the LGBTQIA+ center and being involved in the core-curricular experiences,” Llamas said. “We want to enhance the overall experience of all of our students; we want students to feel welcome, to feel like they can thrive, like they have a space to unpack their identity, to affirm their cultural awareness, to be celebrated, to be embraced. Often we hear from students that being part of this community center makes them feel at home, or ‘because of this program, I was able to persist and graduate.’” 

Joyce Zamorano Sanchez, the Resource Coordinator for the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center, said that their center is focused on achieving a safe community that will support undocumented students at UC Davis. 

“We’re big on the holistic approach of supporting students via financial wellness, mental health, wellness and emotional well-being above all because we believe that their status as an undocumented student is not just their sole part of their identity,” Sanchez said. “There’s so much more, and we’re here to support them to ensure they have an equitable experience like any UC Davis student.”

AB540 and the Undocumented Student Center will be hosting a welcoming event, UndocuWelcome, on Oct. 14, 2023. More information is available on their Instagram, @ucd540undoc

“We’re really encouraging students to come out and learn about our center,” Sanchez said. “It’s on a Saturday. We try to make it a little later on from the start to ensure that students can attend because there’s just so much going on in the first few weeks, so I hope that students, especially freshmen, can come and reach out to us. But overall, any undocumented first-year student coming into UC Davis or transferring, we encourage them to stop by and say ‘hello’ and get to know us.”

Mahum Manan — the Program Coordinator for the Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian Student Resources (MENASA) unit —  said that multiple events are coming up, and they encourage students to come into the center and check them out. 

“Our center is hoping to engage students together, build community, touch on cultural identities [and] provide academic support resources,” Manan said. “It’s a casual space. We have RSVP forms and whatnot, just to kind of gauge how many people might attend, but no need to RSVP or anything like that — you can just drop by. Most of the events are social events, and if you drop by halfway through, you’ll still be fine. We just wanna create a sense of belonging and home on campus where students can meet each other, meet our resources and students can also connect with us.” 

Manan said that their events, such as Chai Chats, are open to all students who are looking for an inclusive, safe space.

“We’re going to be having three of our annual Chai Chats,” Manan said. “So ‘Chai Chats’ [are] just a casual space where we’ll have chai, which is tea, and other drinks; it’s kind of like a discussion space or activity.” 

MENASA is hosting a fall welcome mixer on Oct. 11 for students to become familiar with the center and meet other students and campus partners. More information is available on their website and Instagram page, @ucdavismensasa.

Reynell Hamilton-Starks, the Director of the Undergraduate Research Center (URC), hopes that the center encourages students to understand and take advantage of the various resources available.

“The Undergraduate Research Center […] helps them understand the benefits of engaging, and then gives them some strategies to help them go out and start researching,” Starks said. “It really is a space for them to explore safely. We have wonderful staff here who are friendly and welcoming and they can come ask any questions. Sometimes the undergraduate research is very, like, ‘we know what it is, but we don’t know what it is, we don’t know how we should get involved — or even why,’ so this is a space for students to come and ask all those questions in a safe space.”

The URC’s first-ever undergraduate research fair will happen on Oct. 12, 2023, and the center hopes to bring students in to speak with faculty about available internships and jobs.

Whether students are dropping by for a coffee at the South CoHo, snagging some free scantrons or holding study sessions in a place that reminds them of home, the SCC encourages incoming students to come by and explore what the centers have to offer. It’s a home away from home — if students are looking to become part of a welcoming, positive community on campus, the doors are open to everyone. 

 

Written by: Elizabeth Woodhall — features@theaggie.org 

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the last name of a source. The article has been corrected to accurately reflect the names of all sources.