This fall, Duke’s identity and cultural centers are back with in-person programming, making up for the past year’s lost time and connections.
Despite the recent rise in COVID-19 cases on campus, the goal is to continue to push for as many in-person events as possible. After a period of limited online programming, they hope to re-engage the Duke community through in-person events, including programs to get students involved in the exploration of social and civic understanding.
“Some places like the [Center for Multicultural Affairs] are offering a mix of Zoom and in-person, but we know that most students would rather physically attend. We feel like there’s better community units built in-person,” said Shruti Desai, associate vice president of student affairs for campus life.
Getting people to come to in-person events has been an easy task. Attendance numbers for the identity and cultural centers’ events are greater than before the pandemic and the reception of the first few in-person programs was even better than expected.
At the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity’s “Tie Dye and Sno Cones” event, over 400 snow cones were handed out. The 40 spots available for the cultural wealth retreat run by the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture sold out within 45 minutes.
“People aren’t just showing up to take the free T-shirt: they’re also staying around for a little bit and engaging with other students,” Desai said.
But the centers’ long-term goals for the semester go beyond just having people attend their events. After over a year of remote learning and social distancing, many are focused on fostering long-lasting connections among new and returning students.
CSGD has committed to setting aside part of their programming budget to support “student-led and initiated programming and in-group spaces. Doing so also means setting time aside to foster deep relationships with students,” according to a report from Desai.
One of the priorities for the Center for Muslim Life is creating partnerships with DuWell, Counseling & Psychological Services, the Women’s Center and CSGD to build “students’ capacity to have healthy relationships.” They also plan on holding one-on-one student meetings in hopes of connecting students to the broader Muslim community at Duke.
To “cultivate community … after a long time apart,” Jewish Life at Duke is working on providing opportunities for students to observe holidays, share outdoor meals and social activities and take Jewish Learning Fellowship classes.
Desai noted that the centers are especially focused on reaching out to graduate students and sophomores due to the lack of in-person programming last year.
“We’re trying to make people feel like they see their identities a little bit more in the world that they’re navigating here,” Desai said.
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