A vacant room in Grand Valley’s North C building is now a dedicated space for Native American students to find community, host events, store sacred items and more.
The space was born out of research efforts and conversations with Grand Valley’s Native American Advisory Council in hopes of improving retention of Native students and increasing the visibility of the Office of Multicultural Affairs on campus. Throughout this research, the need was recognized for a dedicated space where Native American students could gather.
“Multiple schools, including tribal community colleges, provide the spaces for Native students to gather,” noted Lin Bardwell, assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
This was the case for Mgizi Wemigwans, a second-year student who attended Mount Pleasant Public Schools growing up. “We always had this type of room in all the schools I went to. It really helped me in high school, having a space like this, so I know that it will help me now.”
The push for a space was amplified when representatives began to include the Native American Student Association (NASA) in the search. After touring vacant spaces, the location in North C was selected - primarily due to its location on GVSU’s northern end of campus, where a majority of first-year students live.
“We’re hoping to build up our community of first-year students,” Bardwell said. “We want our group to get connected early on.”
The space was gifted to the Office of Multicultural Affairs by the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution. Bardwell hopes that the space can be utilized to bring in trusted adults from the community to build students’ networks, create a community for students who share a similar culture, and give students a space to host their events and meetings or just to hang out between classes. “When our students are so few, we don’t often see each other on campus, so this space gives them a place to gather,” Bardwell said.
Wemigwans can be found regularly in the North C space. He attends NASA meetings weekly and spends time between classes there with other students.