JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL)- The area’s largest university is dishing out hundreds of thousands of dollars to make a statement that it values diversity.
Crews at East Tennessee State University are working on a new multicultural center to create a space for students from all walks of life.
Students like Scarlet McCall, who went to class Wednesday for the first time as a woman.
“It’s been a big transition, it’s been a little bit nerve racking,” ETSU student Scarlet McCall said.
On top of the typical stressors of transitioning to a new semester, McCall is also transitioning to another gender.
“The school has been very receptive,” McCall said.
From transgender students, to students who have moved here from across the world, ETSU leaders say there needs to be a place where cultures and resources can come together.
So for more than a year a group has been developing plans for a multicultral center in the Culp Center..
“So that their cultures are celebrated, that there’s an appreciation for the diversity that we have within our university, but at the same time we’ll be able to bring the world in to the university,” Angela Claxton-Freeman, interim director the multicultural center said.
The plans for the $750,000 center includes a student workspace, lounge area, office and conference room.
“To make it spectacular, something that would go beyond and put the university on the cutting edge,” Claxton-Freeman said.
Once it is open, Claxton-Freeman said it will have different exhibits, speakers, and resources.
“I think that’s awesome, like what a great way to spend money to help people be who they are,” McCall said.
It’s an investment planners say students can take with them.
“When they leave the university they’ll have a better sense of the world, as opposed to what’s within the community where they grew up,” Claxton-Freeman said.
The school is taking other steps for students like McCall to feel accepted.
“They are specifically in housing looking at opening up space for gender neutral housing and that’s not happening at every university,” Claxton-Freeman said.
McCall said ETSU’s steps toward inclusion haven’t gone unnoticed.
“I think there’s still some doors that need to be opened but I think they’ve worked really hard at trying to do that,” McCall said.
The multicultural center is set to be open by January 2016.
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