A safe space to connect and relax


RYAN PUGH | The Daily Evergreen

Delta Sigma Theta sorority members, fourth from the left, Renaye Tolbert, Alexis Jackson and Kendra Robinson dance at Conexion, hosted by Multicultural Student Services, on Sunday in the CUB Senior Ballroom.

LATISHA JENSEN, Evergreen life editor

Located on the fourth floor of the CUB is the Office of Multicultural Student Services (MSS), where a community, of student mentors, staff and faculty work to support students from all different backgrounds.

MSS Director Manuel Acevedo, began working in this position 12 years ago when the multicultural center was known as the Office of Minority Affairs.

The student centers for Asian American and Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Latina/o Chicana/o students and Native Americans were also dispersed in different locations around campus until 2008.

“We moved here to the penthouse of the CUB, it actually makes me really proud of [WSU],” Acevedo said. “The message wasn’t that strong of [WSU] aiming to [diversify] the student population, so this is awesome. I love it.”

Acevedo emphasized the amount of resources available in the centers for all students, including free tutoring and printing, workshops and STEM groups.
The MSS staff is also knowledgeable about financial aid and WSU’s online systems like myWSU.

Acevedo said one of the most beneficial resources for students is the mentor program. Student mentors go through training to become not only a friend to talk to, but also to specialize in helping newer students navigate campus.

“Find out who your mentor is,” Acevedo said, “and make sure they work for you, because they have the good will and the expertise to really help new students.”

RACHEL SUN | The Daily Evergreen
Manuel Acevedo, director of Multicultural Student Services, talks about how MSS helps incoming students Monday.

Stephen Bischoff, MSS associate director and retention counselor of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Student Center, began working at WSU 14 years ago and is a Coug alumnus himself.

“We’re here for targeting populations, but we’re very diverse, cross-cultural,” Bischoff said. “We want students to grow, maybe they’ve never been involved and then they get involved here.”

He said students tend to walk into the centers and ask how they can get involved with the organization, but the space is also meant for engagement and social interaction. Although, students can become mentors if they are interested and enjoy helping others.

Bischoff said he came to WSU as a transfer student and experienced identity issues as a bi-racial student and the center offered him a safe place to learn more about himself.

“This center was a space where I connected with a counselor at the time and with other student leaders, some of which are my best friends today,” Bischoff said. “I share some of my experience because I still see that today.”

Acevedo said the centers are open to everyone regardless of cultural background. One of the reasons the student centers were created was to maintain retention, Bischoff said.

In these centers, conversations about cultural issues on and off campus may arise, but they are places to express thoughts and learn about others’ perspectives.

These conversations can be difficult, heated and uncomfortable, Acevedo said.

“To see the learning taking place, seeing them challenge themselves and their assumptions about life and about people and seeing that transformation taking place,” Acevedo said, “that is, for the most part fun.”

Acevedo said the most rewarding time for him is the MSS graduation, where the centers celebrate and recognize achievements together in their own ceremony. There were 240 students in the class of 2017.

“I get to know [students] quite well and I remember them when they arrive and how shy they are, and then seeing them blossom in graduating and throughout the years we see them struggle,” Acevedo said. “It’s not a piece of cake to get to that point.”

Acevedo’s best advice to incoming students is that they don’t need to go through this experience alone.

“You have people who have your back, at MSS and throughout the university, so don’t try to do it alone,” Acevedo said. “Because it’s harder and it’s not as much fun as if you find your community of support.”