A. Ray Olpin Student Union

The University of Utah

A photo of the Union in fall.

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    Fulfilling a Growing Need: New CESA Lounge

    The Asian American Student Association meets in the new CESA lounge. Photo by David Phung.

    Comprised of three components in the areas of outreach, retention, and scholarship, the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs (CESA) at the University of Utah is welcoming of all individuals from all identities and backgrounds. Located in the Involvement Wing of the A. Ray Olpin University Union, the CESA office features an array of support services to help students navigate and succeed in a college environment. Feleti Matagi, Director of Student Services in CESA, described the center’s main objectives in regards to students. “Our purpose is to provide support to all students on campus through academic advising, tutoring, scholarship and general scholarship information, as well as cultural support,” Mr. Matagi commented.

    CESA’s main target for student populations are first generation, underrepresented populations, as well as students with financial need. “But, we don’t turn anyone way,” Mr. Matagi added. Recently, the CESA office has been given additional space in the Union building to accommodate the center’s growing size and the student’s need for meeting space. The space is located at the back half of the student lounge, with construction being completed in the beginning of October.

    When asked about how the additional space for CESA came about, Mr. Matagi elaborated on the thought and work that went into making the new space a reality. Last year, President Pershing held a town hall meeting in the Union building in light of the recent events taking place nationwide in regards to concerning campus climates. “There was a significant amount of students that expressed what we are doing for students of color across campus. There concerns were many, and one thing that came from it were the 13 immediate responses to address diversity on campus, and one of them specifically addressed the space we currently had at the time.” Mr. Matagi continued to discuss that the current space in the CESA office at the time was not adequate enough. “A lot of student groups utilize our space and our student longue was, at most, had a capacity of 15-20. However, some of our student groups consist of 40+ members.” With these concerns and individuals relaying the need for more space, Mr. Matagi commented that individuals such as Katherine Stockton, Interim Associate Vice President of Equity and Diversity, Barb Snyder, Vice President of Student Affairs, and Whit Hollis, Director of the A. Ray Olpin University Union, played a vital role in formalizing the plans for additional space within the Union building.

    With the additional space for CESA now in its second month of operation, the feedback from students has been phenomenal. “If you talked to students and asked them about it, they’re going to have a lot of positive things to say about the space, even asking for more. Our big challenge now is calendaring and making sure everyone can have that space when they need it,” Mr. Matagi stated. When asked about future plans for the new additional space, as well as the CESA office in general, Mr. Matagi concluded with, “This is a temporary space and it is not permanent, but I have a feeling it’ll be there for the next 5 years. They want the CESA office to remain centrally located on campus, due to our office entailing other offices and departments on campus.” The A. Ray Olpin Union is excited to provide space for all students and will continue to make strides to be a social hub for all of campus.

    – By Blake Bratcher

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