The MultiCultural Center (MCC) welcomed two new coordinators Sept. 11, one with a passion for assisting Native American students, the other excited to help undocumented students.
Nestled within the bustling Julian A. McPhee University Union, the MCC has become Sandi Wemigwase’s and Ricardo Ortega’s new home.
“The opportunity to specifically work with Native American students was what I wanted to do in higher education because not all colleges have that position,” Wemigwase said. “That is what drew me here.”
Ortega, who is specifically in charge of working with Latino and undocumented students on campus, appreciated having Wemigwase by his side as he adjusts to the demands of being an MCC coordinator.
“We wear multiple hats,” Ortega said. “It drains you, but at the same time it also gives you life.”
Wemigwase and Ortega both share a mutual understanding for why diversity is critical for students in a collegiate environment.
“For a lot of students, going to college is a large development time where you understand the world on a global scale,” Ortega said. “I think it’s important to understand what that looks like and what that means truly.”
Wemigwase credited the MCC for being “a safe space for students to come, relax and get pieces of home.” For her, the center is a crucial resource.
“I want to help recruit students of color to come to school here,” she said. “It’s important to Cal Poly because that’s the real world. It’s important that you are culturally competent.”
An area Wemigwase will be focusing on this year is inclusivity toward Native American students, as well as bi- and multi-racial students.
“For me, I really want to partner with the American Indian faculty on campus to do some programming to raise awareness around some of the issues the students may be having,” Wemigwase said.
Ortega is interested in doing a workshop series for faculty and staff about undocumented issues to inform individuals about available resources and issues facing undocumented students on campus.
“I want students to know that there is a whole discipline behind culture, behind ethnicity,” he explained. “I think it’s important that we push students and have them find spaces and dialogues, but also push them academically onto the literature of social justice and social activism.”
Wemigwase and Ortega are both actively creating programs to further academic discourse on Cal Poly’s campus, such as student retention programs and counseling.
“We want them to think outside the box, to think critically, to think academically about culture, race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality,” Ortega said. “You can have academic conversations about these things.”