The BIPOC Unity Center at Ithaca College recognizes the contributions of current and past generations of IC students, faculty, staff, and alumni who have made an important and immeasurable impact on the work of pushing forward diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging initiatives on our campus. The Center has gone by several names during its history, while the spirit of its work has remained consistent.
The Center traces its lineage to the establishment of the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), originally named the Office of Minority Affairs, in 1992. Recognizing the need to address the unique challenges faced by underrepresented students, OMA became a pivotal space for advocacy, support, and cultural celebration. Through the decades, the OMA laid the foundation for what would later evolve into the BIPOC Unity Center.
As the campus community's understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion evolved, so did the institution's approach. In the early 2000s, the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) merged with the college's New York Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) in order to provide a stronger and more coordinated support system for students. This shift signaled a broader dedication to acknowledging various cultural identities, intersectionality, and commitment to initiatives that aimed to promote cross-cultural understanding and social justice awareness.
In August 2009, the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs (OSEMA) formally came to be, encompassing the efforts of the former Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), the former Office for New Student Programs (predecessor to NSTP), and the formerly known as Center for Student Leadership & Involvement (predecessor to OSE) when it became clear that the work of each office was integral to the work of the others, and the staff members began to collaborate. In September 2006, the individual offices moved to one physical location, and the staff continued to craft intentional, comprehensive programs to engage Ithaca College students.
In 2018, the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs (OSEMA) underwent restructuring from which the Center for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Social Change (IDEAS) was created. This change reflected the center's ongoing commitment to fostering a more equitable and socially conscious campus. IDEAS continued to advance its mission by creating spaces for dialogue, providing resources, and promoting educational initiatives.
During the Fall 2022 semester, student leaders drafted and shared a proposal to develop a named initiative for creating a sense of belonging for BIPOC students within the Center. The proposal sparked a larger dialogue among SACL leadership to review the focus and mission of the department and consideration of a name change. Under the leadership of Director Angélica Carrington, the Center for IDEAS formally began the process of exploring a potential name change for the department during Spring 2023 semester.
The process for developing and approving the title change for the Center was meticulous, spanning the course of several months. The process included an extensive self-study of common themes present in feedback received from past and current IC students, faculty and staff, as well as a national study of name trends and interviews with colleagues at related offices at other higher education institutions. A series of focus group sessions comprised of students, faculty, staff and IC alumni was held during the month of April to discuss the title change. Ultimately, the title BIPOC Unity Center was recommended. The office adapted its new title, BIPOC Unity Center, on August 14, 2023.