Virginia Tech’s new Multicultural Programs and Services unit, established July 1 following the merger of two existing offices and other resources dedicated to multicultural issues, will approach student growth and development holistically, said Karen Eley Sanders, assistant provost and director of Academic Support Services.

As a result of this new structure, Multicultural Programs and Services will provide an educational focus that will include institutionalized partnerships with the Africana Studies Program, the Center for Academic Enrichment and Excellence, the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, and the Race and Social Policy Research Center. The new administrative unit will now encompass academic-support services, education and research, and advocacy, as well as advising and cultural programs.

“It’s an exciting opportunity,” Sanders said. “We’ll be able to create an environment at Virginia Tech that is more welcoming, supportive, and inclusive, and one that addresses the transition and support issues that led some of our constituent groups to feel their needs are not being met.”

Besides increasing the efficiency in coordinating and delivering services and programs to Virginia Tech’s diverse student body, Multicultural Programs and Services will add to the positive diversity climate by increasing the visibility of programs and services. It will help retain students, develop and expand on-campus partnerships, aid in the recruitment and retention of faculty “as a demonstration of the university commitment to diversity,” send a positive message to alumni about the university’s commitment to serving a diverse student body, and enhance Virginia Tech’s national message of providing a positive climate for all students.

Multicultural Programs and Services will support programs and activities specific to the interest of unrepresented groups. Such things as arts events, concerts, educational programs, and development opportunities will provide an academic, social, and emotional support to help students feel comfortable and be successful on campus, Sanders said.

The new unit will oversee the Black Cultural Center and Multicultural Center (located in Squires Student Center), cultural-awareness programs, advising for multicultural student organizations (Black Student Alliance, Asian American Student Union, Latino Association of Student Organizations, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender Alliance), education and research, advocacy, and recruitment and retention.

In its first year, Multicultural Programs and Services will focus on cultural celebrations, entertainment, film series, lecture series, and awareness of such things as disabilities and the Holocaust.

Multicultural Programs and Services also will work with faculty to help them infuse multiculturalism into their classes. Besides providing multicultural support, Multicultural Programs and Services will educate other students, faculty, and staff about multicultural programs on campus, where programs can be part of the academic and intellectual development of the 26,000 students and more than 5,000 faculty and staff.

“We want Multicultural Programs and Services to be fully integrated into the life of the campus, not marginalized or separate,” Sanders said. “We want to serve the entire Virginia Tech community.”

A new director of Multicultural Programs and Services will be hired and will report to Sanders. An assistant director for advising, an assistant director for programming, a coordinator of academic support (who will be shared with the Center for Academic Enrichment and Excellence), as well as those to provide office and technical support, graduate assistants for programming and advising, and work-study students will round out the staff. Personnel from the merging areas will fill most of those positions.

Multicultural Programs and Services was established following the consolidation of several positions that were a part of the Division of Student Affairs. Specifically, the assistant director of cultural programs (formerly in Student Activities) and the coordinator of multicultural programs (formerly in the Student Life Office), will become a part of Multicultural Programs and Services. The new unit will be a part of the Division of Academic Affairs.