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UM dedicates cross-cultural center

Grand opening of the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

The University of Mississippi dedicated its new Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement Sept. 24 during a standing-room only event.

By Misty Cowherd

The event brought together students, faculty and staff, as well as other supporters.

During the ceremony, Chancellor Dan Jones reflected on his own personal experiences as a medical volunteer in Korea to illustrate the rich opportunities to encourage cross-cultural engagement and awareness.

“Some may misinterpret that the center is just for a segment of our population,” Jones said. “This is a service for all students, to help make this a better place, a better state and a better country.”

Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor of student affairs, acknowledged the dedication of students in planning the center. The CICCE, which opened this fall, materialized in part because of student recommendations collected from the Multicultural Center Working Group, a student-led group charged with determining the need for more cultural engagement and diversity awareness on campus.

“What we celebrate today is true student leadership,” Hephner LaBanc said. “The dedication of the student group that first conceptualized this department has come to final realization, and the dedication of the faculty and staff that supported their ideas through that process has been rewarded.

“The CICCE, under the leadership of Mrs. (Shawnboda) Mead, will make our campus a more welcoming place and challenge us all to come together as a strong, united community.”

Donald Cole, assistant provost and assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs, provided closing remarks.

“This Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement is the result of the efforts of many individuals – administration, faculty and students, both current and former – upon whose shoulders this dedication is made possible,” Cole said.

Created to provide programs and services that encourage cross-cultural interactions and provide a physical space that is both nurturing and welcoming for students from diverse backgrounds, the center emphasizes inclusion and broad cultural educational opportunities for all students.

Camila Velasquez, UM senior in marketing, said the university is making a successful step to foster inclusion.

“Unfortunately, the University of Mississippi has ghosts from the past that obstruct its development,” said Velasquez, who is also president of the Latin American Student Organization. “This is why I believe that by providing a safe and comfortable atmosphere for expression and dialogue, the creation of the new Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement is one of the many steps that the university will make to strive for equality within the Ole Miss community.”

The center, which is housed in Stewart Hall, will eventually be relocated to the expanded Student Union.

The dedication is one of the many events that occurred during UM’s Racial Reconciliation Week, which is geared toward promoting racial equity and encouraging dialogue on the topic.

For more information, contact Shawnboda Mead, director of the CICCE, at or 662-915-1689. To learn more about the CICCE, visit

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