Cross-Cultural and Gender Center
Who We Are Today (2015-Present)
In June 2015, The Center for Women and Culture, which included the Central Valley Cultural Heritage Institute and the Women's Resource Center, transitioned into the Cross Cultural and Gender Center.
This transition was made possible with the support of campus and community constituents, and funding from Dr. Frank Lamas and Dr. Carolyn Coon with the Department of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, and President Joseph Castro.
The Central Valley Cultural Heritage Insitute (2013-2015)
The Central Valley Cultural Heritage Institute (CHI) was established to be a campus community collaborative dedicated to the study and celebration of the cultural heritage, diversity, and contributions of California’s Central Valley. The Institute was committed to engaging the community in the process of developing a more culturally competent citizenry. The Institute provided an open environment and effective processes that welcomed difficult dialogue on controversial issues and topics that affect our communities.
Before the Central Valley Cultural Heritage Institute was established, the concept of developing a place on campus that was devoted to issues of diversity, culture and heritage had been a part of the university for at least a decade. From 1993 to 2003 various attempts were made to formalize such an entity.
In the fall of 1993, Tom Nadelin of the University Religious Center, Phyllis Redfield and Walter Robinson of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, and Vida Samiian of Arts and Humanities invited member of the campus community to gather and discuss “advancing the idea of a cross-cultural center” on the campus. A proposal was presented for to “dedicating the (University Religious) Center’s entireprogramming to the needs and to the promises inherent in cross-cultural issues.” Although sporadic conversations continued, nothing tangible came of this attempt.
On August 23, 1997 a hate crime occurred across the street from the university that set in motion the eventual establishment of the Central Valley Cultural Heritage Institute. According to a 2001 Los Angeles Times article:
Malcolm Boyd, a black student whose 1997 beating touched off a period of racial discord that intensified during a Ku Klux Klan rally at the university, now lives with his mother in Southern California. He suffered brain damage and remains partially blind as a result of being hit in the head with a pipe, said his lawyer, Jacob Weisberg
Determined to have something good come out of this tragedy, concerned students, faculty, staff, and administrators and community members began meeting to discuss the establishment of a multicultural center on the campus of Fresno State. Key to this movement were individuals such as Carole Snee of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, Vida Samiian of Arts and Humanities, Tom Nadelin of the University Religious Center, Francine Oputa of the Women’s Resource Center and many, many more.
The group, although changing in composition, continued meeting for several years calling itself the Multicultural Center Planning Group. The group organized events and activities around culture, heritage, and diversity. There were no funds earmarked for programming. As a result, activities were done as collaborations between various campus groups such as Student Activities, the Women’s Resource Center, Ethnic Studies, various student clubs and organizations and many others. A sign in sheet for a December 6, 2001 “Meeting with Student Groups to Discuss the Concept of a Multicultural Center” included representatives from: Teatro T.O.R.T.I.L.L.A., M.E.C.H.A, Rentry Students Association, Trabajadores de La Raza, University Student Union Staff, Chicano and Latin American Studies Dept., Women’s Resource Center, Associate Provost Office, Health Center, CSBCSC, Women’s Alliance, USU Board and Community Service, The fact that there was no staff whose specific job was to do diversity programming or develop a cross-cultural or multi-cultural center made it very difficult to move a project forward. However, members of the campus community were determined to not allow the concept die.
In 2003, based on the suggestion of William Hunt from the Office of Grants and Research, the group submitted a proposal to the university to establish the Central Valley Cultural Heritage Institute as an Ancillary Unit of the university. In July of that year, then President John Welty approved the application and the Cultural Heritage Institute became an official Fresno State entity.
Although the institute was now established, there was still no funding for dedicated staff. However, for three consecutive years Associated Students, Inc., gave $50K to support the development of the institute. This allowed us to hire three extremely capable graduate assistants, Rebecca Aleman, Rasha Mohammed, and Matilde Gonzalez, to keep moving the work forward. It also allowed for funds for programs, events and activities.
The leadership of the organization was shared by three individuals Vida Samiian, the Associate Dean of Arts and Humanities, Carole Snee, then Director of Services for Students withDisabilities, and Francine Oputa, then Coordinator of the Women’s Resource Center. A steering committee was established to be its governing body. Its members included the deans from the College of Social Science, the College of Arts and Humanities, and the College of Health and Human Services. Also on the committee were several community members, students, and other university staff members. The co-chairs of the committee were Jeri Echeverria, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Paul Oliaro, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.
In 2006 the steering committee was challenged by Cynthia George one of its members from the community to decide if the institute was truly a priority for the university. If it was a priority, she believed it then needed a director and dedicated financial support from the university.
Her messages was heard and heeded. That year the Vice-Presidents for the Division of Academic Affairs and the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management jointly funded a director’s position and operating expenses for the institute. The Institute’s staffing consisted of a director and 2 student assistants. Existing clerical support from the Women’s Resource Center was available to assist in the day to day operations.
Women's Resource Center (1990-2003)
In late 1989 students, faculty, and staff began meeting to put ideas of a women's resource center into a concrete plan of action. Fresno State's Women's Resource Center officially opened in December 1990 as the result of the dedicated WRC organizing committee. The organizing committee consisted of students, faculty, staff, and community members who collectively saw a need for a designated space for women and women's issues on campus. While some wanted the WRC to be student-focused and egalitarian in its governance, in order to become a university recognized organization, the WRC established an advisory board with students, faculty, staff, and administrators along with a set of by-laws to govern the organization.
The WRC was initially run by student volunteers, but they and the Advisory Board saw a need for permanent professional staff. In August 1991 as a result of an $18,000 award from Associated Students, Incorporated (ASI), along with successful fundraisers, the first director, Francine Oputa, was hired and began working on a part-time basis. In addition to the start-up funds granted by ASI, The University Religious Center at Shaw and Jackson Avenues where the WRC was initially located donated $5,000 toward upgrading aspects of the facility. Donations and grants were also sought in order to get the center up and running.
The original purpose of the WRC as stated in the 1990 budget request was "to serve as a catalyst and advocate for the specific educational needs of women...to help students, and additionally faculty and staff women, to clarify and pursue academic, career, and personal needs and goals." Initial concerns that the WRC founders hoped to relieve with the WRC were issues re-entry students faced along with day care needs. The founders also wanted to provide networking and peer counseling opportunities for campus women. Programming in the first year included a body image course, a featured female poet, Violence Against Women Week events, self-defense classes, Women's Herstory Month events, a Maternal and Child Health Forum, diversity training, stress management, and more. From the onset, the Women's Resource Center prioritized serving students, particularly women of color and other traditionally underrepresented groups.
The WRC resided in a number of locations throughout its 20+ year history. It was first located in the University Religious Center off campus at Shaw and Jackson Avenues. It moved on to campus to the Keats Building with the Special Services Unit which was under the direction of Arlene Bireline during the 1993/94 academic year. During the 1994/95 academic year the program was moved to the University Center where it resided for the next five years or so. It then moved to a more central campus location in the Center for Women and Culture in the Thomas Building. The suite is the former offices of the provost and vice-president for academic affairs. The WRC moved to this location in the summer of 2009 when the administrative offices were relocated to the 4th floor of the renovated library.
The Women's Resource Center utilized a number of program strategies to meet the similar, yet changing needs of students throughout the years. Some of these program strategies include the following: support/discussion groups, clubs, annual programs and events, co-sponsorship of campus-wide events, activism, community service, internships, volunteer opportunities, and more.