Key center increases faculty, staff, student connectedness
For faculty member and Associate Librarian Derek Wilmott, the Clemson Family means inclusion.
“The Clemson Family is a way of thinking that encourages all of us to highlight our cultures’ best attributes inside the larger community we call Clemson University. I find it very engaging that this is one of our University’s core values,” said Wilmott.
Wilmott also serves as chair of one of the University’s commissions, the Commission on Latino Affairs, which plays an integral role in the University’s Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month celebration. Part of Harvey and Lucinda Gantt Multicultural Center’s ongoing effort to create an inclusive environment for all members of the Clemson Family, the series of events for the month was created with a desire to educate and heighten awareness about the rich culture and celebrate the contributions of Hispanics and Latinos.
For Wilmott, the Gantt Center is essential to bringing a sense of connectedness among faculty, staff and students from a wide spectrum of backgrounds.
“Faculty and staff at the Gantt Multicultural Center do an excellent job of providing programming and services that appeal to a wide audience, and they work to increase awareness of the variety of unique cultural backgrounds represented in the Clemson community,” said Wilmott. “Diversity is both cultivated and celebrated during sponsored events, making Clemson a much more welcoming environment for everyone.”
Greenville native and industrial engineering student Patrick Mispireta is a member of the Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Committee and has leveraged the connections and activities of the Gantt Multicultural Center to improve his leadership and public speaking skills. His committee work through Gantt allowed him to become a more inclusive leader, to think about the whole community, to be more open minded and to include everyone in the room and not just the leaders. His experiences through Gantt completely changed his Clemson experience.
“I would recommend any new student leverage the benefits of the Gantt Multicultural Center,” said Mispireta. “For students who are looking for a place to be included, to be a leader and to find their community, you can make connections there.”
Admitting his goal is to leave Clemson better than he found it, Mispireta has witnessed the start of a Latin dance club, a Latino fraternity and Latino graduation.
For elementary education major Dina Altwam, the Gantt Multicultural Center has allowed her to hone her abilities to work on diverse teams and her professional skills while serving as a student leader during the many Gantt-sponsored activities.
The Gantt Multicultural Center represented an opportunity to be an instant leader for Altwam. “My first semester at Clemson, I reached out to a staff member at Gantt because I wanted to be a part of the International Festival,” said Altwam. She contacted Jerad Green, one of three associate directors in Gantt, who quickly placed her as head of vendor management. Gantt faculty and staff support has been instrumental to Altwam, who wanted to plan major events that connect students. “The Muslim Student Association worked with Gantt’s faculty and staff to host events like World Hijab Day, and our association was there to support the International Awareness Week,” she said.
For Altwam, the center represents one of the best support systems for multicultural organizations, and its events made her feel more included and supported on campus. “We are able to broaden our horizons,” she said. “We reach out to other organizations and learn from them. It’s these connections I’m looking forward to keeping after I leave Clemson.”
Mispireta and Altwam represent the hundreds of students, faculty and staff who have benefited from Gantt-sponsored events and the many services they provide.
Kendra Stewart-Tillman, executive director of the Gantt Multicultural Center, acknowledged that Clemson is striving to become increasingly diverse year after year.
“Our goal in the Gantt Center is to ensure each person feels welcomed, validated and finds their ‘home’ on campus. We support and celebrate all identities and find great value in the process of learning about ourselves and others,” she explained. “Through building awareness and cultivating supportive networks, we are able to work together to help make Clemson more inclusive for everyone.”
Mispireta agrees with Stewart-Tillman and adds that a major benefit of the center is that it provides a venue, programs and activities that allow students to make connections with faculty, staff and other students.
“Clemson’s faculty, staff and students are advocates for you when you become active members on campus, and they really are there for you whenever you need them,” added Mispireta. “I didn’t have a group of friends. Through Gantt I was able to utilize opportunities and found a connection when I didn’t think there was any for me.”
Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month is just one of many events hosted by the Gantt Center. A keynote kicks off the month of events. Christine Chavez, granddaughter of Cesar Chavez (American labor leader and civil rights activist who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962) will speak at 6 p.m. Sept. 12 in the Strom Thurmond Building Auditorium.
“I am proud and feel included because we are able to show our community and what makes us unique,” said Mispireta thinking ahead to upcoming heritage month events.
His favorite event is Noche de Gala, scheduled to take place 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19 at the Madren Center. Faculty, staff and students come together to cap off Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month with dancing and authentic food.
For more information about fall events sponsored by the Gantt Multicultural Center and how faculty and staff can participate in or help organize events, visit the center website.
The Harvey and Lucinda Gantt Multicultural Center is part of the Division of Inclusion and Equity and is committed to creating diverse learning environments that enhance the intercultural competence of Clemson’s students. The center supports and advocates for the needs of all students, challenges students to think critically about themselves and their communities, provides engaging experiential learning opportunities and empowers students to be positive change agents. Learn more about the Gantts.