"It's a comfort space, work space, business space, study space"
Since opening in August 2017, the University Commons has been described as Millikin University's new front door. Located in the heart of campus, the building blends together the Staley Library and student center functions into one central location. It's not only a place for academic resources and activity, but also for enhancing student experiences.
The third floor of the Commons, which is normally filled with events and collaborative learning, has added a space this fall developed for students from underrepresented and marginalized groups called the Empowerment Suite.
"We have a lot of students from a wide variety of diverse backgrounds that, over the course of time, felt that they needed a space to claim as their own," said Dr. Alexander Deeb, director of campus life for inclusion at Millikin.
Deeb says the Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement made an intentional effort to make it a comfortable space for students. "We've already seen students in the space studying. Given there is a pandemic, we haven't had a lot of opportunities for students to do things but we do envision group and student organizational meetings in the future."
Not only will the space serve as a study area, but it will provide a venue for alumni talkback sessions where Millikin alumni can come back to campus to talk about their own experiences as students and professionals. Deeb says they hope to have Heather Hathaway Miranda, a racial healing practitioner at Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Greater Chicago, come to campus in January to host racial healing circles and have conversations focused on various topics.
This semester, Deeb started a dialogue series called the Intersectionality Project where speakers from different areas of Millikin, including faculty, alumni and students, come together to have authentic dialogues on diversity and environmentalism.
"Eventually, that is something that I feel can really take off in the Empowerment Suite space," said Deeb. "We hope to host other events in the space for Black History Month in February, Women's History Month in March, Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April and Pride Month in June–we want to give special attention to those things."
Deed added, "The Empowerment Suite is a comfort space, it's a work space, it's a business space, it's a study space–it's all those things together."