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Mt. Hood celebrates its new 'living room'


The Diversity Resource Center opens its doors in the student union

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - A crowd of nearly 100 gathered to celebrate MHCC's new Diversity Resource Center housed in the student union.

Marimba music and a special collection of Latin American textiles greeted guests at Thursday’s grand opening of Mt. Hood Community College’s new Diversity Resource Center, housed in the student union.

“This is a celebration of the entire history of MHCC and the evolution of us as an institution, the evolution of the community we serve,” said David Sussman, student union and specialized student programs manager.

Led by Coordinator Melinda C. Bullen, the new center will serve as a meeting space and cultural resource for everything from study groups and small meet-ups to events and workshops.

The celebration marked an effort years in the making, drawn together from 19 different plans. MHCC administration and Associated Student Government have teamed up to fund the center and Bullen’s position.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Melinda Bullen is the new director of MHCC's Diversity Resource Center.

“We have the opportunity to let our imagination run free,” Bullen said. “Diversity is a complicated, emotional word that’s hard to define. Diversity is about all of us — our individual experience, histories and contributions brought together for productive, compassionate conversations.”

Bullen hopes students will peruse the center’s library for cultural resources, access national and international news, attend workshops, listen to speakers and make time for one-on-one conversations or meditation.

“I smile because I remember this is just the beginning,” Bullen said.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Gresham City Councilor Lori Stegmann is a MHCC graduate who calls the Diversity Resource Center a living room for the college.

Between 2000 and 2010, Gresham’s Latino population nearly doubled, said Gresham City Councilor Lori Stegmann. In Rockwood, more than 70 languages are spoken.

“The people who live here are our future college grads, taxpayers, neighbors and city councilors,” Stegmann said. “These are the people we need to engage with.”

Stegmann called the center symbolic of the commitment of MHCC and its declaration of inclusiveness as a core value.

An MHCC graduate, Stegmann went on to become a Farmers Insurance agent and small business owner in the heart of Rockwood, where she grew up. Stegmann has served on many nonprofit boards.

She described the next generation of MHCC students. Glenda Alfaro, a student from El Salvador, finished in second place in the Clinton Global Initiative University’s Commitments Challenge last spring. Alfaro has since returned to her home country to implement her garbage-to-garden project.

Inspired by a childhood classmate who died of leukemia, Tuan Caraballo, a 2013 MHCC graduate, vowed to become a pediatrician. He received close to a full-ride scholarship to Stanford University and plans to attend medical school eventually.

“Diversity has always found a home at MHCC,” Stegmann said. “I am so proud to announce it now has a living room.”

Associated Student Government President Laura Aguon commended MHCC student leaders and administrators for making the center a reality.

“The center began as sparse ideas in the margins of our notebooks,” Aguon said.

College President Debbie Derr called diversity something from your heart. “It’s about respecting and honoring everybody from wherever they come,” she said.

Her longtime friend and colleague Larry Dawkins, a popular speech instructor, quoted President John F. Kennedy, saying, “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

Shortly after the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, Dawkins, then a 21-year-old student from Arkansas, met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Portland State College (now PSU). Dawkins was helping people register to vote, and the experience left a resounding impact on his life.

He said MHCC is giving back because much has been given to its students, teachers and administrators.