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​(Photo by Saadia Ahmad '14)

Unity Center Praised as Space for Engagement, Cultural Growth

Providence, R.I.--Providence College recently opened the Balfour Unity Center, a new space created for students to engage with one another while providing them with the opportunity to deepen their cultural understanding.

The center is centrally located on the lower level of the Slavin Center and is open 24 hours for fellowship, meetings, and study.

The Unity Center is operated by the Balfour Office for Multicultural Activities (BOMA), which provides opportunities for students to broaden their perspective and deepen their understanding of diversity.

Elena T. Yee, the new director of the BOMA, said she feels the center has the potential to shape the future of the College.

“I feel that students see the Unity Center as representing the College’s commitment to diversity. Diversity should be infused in everything we do and who we are; at the same time, having a Unity Center and an office for multicultural activities actively reminds us of our institutional commitment,” said Yee.

College Chaplain Rev. James Cuddy, O.P. ’98, who blessed the center at its recent open house, said the new space reflects the importance of human engagement, understanding, and respect.

“At the very heart of who we should be as a community is the desire to be one with one another ... to reach across whatever differences and divisions might be there, to come to know and to understand one another more deeply,” he said.

Father Cuddy continued, “The mission of the College has at its heart the creation of an environment where students can flourish. Part of human flourishing is coming to know one another, and in doing so, coming to understand ourselves.”

From Catholic to Chinese traditions

About 75 members of the College community attended the open house. The students, faculty, and staff were greeted with entertainment and an assortment of desserts from various cultures.

Following a brief ceremony that included Father Cuddy’s blessing, The Rhode Island Kung Fu Club performed the “Lion Dance,” a symbolic Chinese tradition to promote positive energy. The group filled the lower level of the Slavin Center with the sounds of percussion, ranging from cymbals to a large drum. Members took turns under the large lion costume, carrying out the animal’s movements through the Kung Fu-influenced dance.

“The opening of the Unity Center is a cultural celebration,” said Dr. Steven A. Sears, interim vice president and dean of student affairs, who attended the open house. “This is the start of true inclusion; the Unity Center will aid in the transformation of our students. There is no separation. Our students, with God’s grace, gathered today for the opening so that they may generate further discussion in their continuous search for truth.” 

--Genevieve Marie Ilg ’14

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