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Schools merge IC and ISPO offices


LauraPosthumusMerger2

The Intercultural Center (IC) and International Student Program (ISPO) office will now be under the same director, effective July 1. | Laura Posthumus

The Intercultural Center (IC) and International Student Program (ISPO) office will unite under the same director and share the same space effective July 1.

Vice Presidents for Student Development Mary Geller and Fr. Doug Mullin, OSB made the decision this past fall.

Two assistant directors will provide support under the director, and the operation will relocate from Upper Mary Commons to the current Campus Ministry office in Murray Hall. The joint space will foster collaboration and provide a “hangout spot” for students to get together and talk about issues, according to CSB junior and IC student worker Cindy Gonzalez.

The Decision

The change had been considered since 2008 when the Intercultural Directions Council (IDC) and VPs for Student Development examined alternative organizational structures for the IC and ISPO. This coalition found commonalities in the two departments.

“IC and ISPO both share in the common mission of serving the institutional commitment of CSB and SJU to being Catholic Benedictine colleges that welcome, respect, celebrate and value many varieties of human diversity,” Mullin said.

In 2011, Student Development made $70,000 in budget cuts. Last year, one assistant director moved to admissions and they did not fill his position. This year, they looked to retrieve the money, but found it was impossible.

Although finance plays a part, Mullin also sees this as an opportunity to further unity.

“The goal is to make this more of a seamless operation and give more options to individual students for their particular needs,” Mullin said. “For example, if it’s seen as a joint effort for campuswide activities, that whole office will be a part of that.”

Student Reactions

Soon after the decision, assistant directors notified their students. Initially, both IC and ISPO student workers thought the mergers were to save money, but Gonzalez sees positives in working from a new perspective.

“The main goal … was to fully immerse students and come together rather than stand out,” Gonzalez said. “Because right now there is a lot of segregation between the multicultural and international students. We have a lot to share from our cultures. It’s a positive thing that we will come together rather than be separated.”

Despite an optimistic outlook, she hopes that intercultural students will not be incorrectly classified as international students or that their needs will not be overlooked.

Crystal Pang of the ISPO was puzzled by the merge and feels a disconnect exists between the function of the IC and the ISPO.

“Some of my international friends said, ‘Why? Why should you guys work with the Intercultural Center? We never have contact with them, why should you guys do it now?’”

Currently, the IC works to develop events that represent different American based cultures, while the ISPO works with international students on forms, orientation and programming during breaks.

“Of course we feel uncomfortable because no one knows why we should merge together,” Pang said.

However, the ISPO staff will lose several seniors and may be able to adapt better, according to Pang.

Mullin acknowledges these differences, but states that even within a seemingly homogenous population of Minnesotan students, cultural differences exist.

“The point is that differences and similarities are all issues of personal, cultural and political identity and that is what the new organization will be better equipped to deal with,” Mullin said. “We want all students to do more relationship building and collaboration with more people whom they might perceive to be different from themselves but who also share many common needs and concerns.”

Gonzalez believes the merge can be effective if each department truly understands the role the other plays. This can be achieved through an orientation, strong leadership and close collaboration.

Searching for a New Director

A search committee has formed to begin the process of selecting an overarching director. Included on the committee is one student member and Intercultural LEAD Director Jillian Hiscock. The committee will review applications and interviewing candidates they believe are the best fit for the new position. Hiscock sets high expectations for a “Dream Director” who can utilize the energy of the “motivated, opinionated, active students” at CSB/SJU.

“The search committee will be looking for someone with a vast array of experiences and talents who would thrive in the student-centric world of CSB/SJU while still being able to effectively manage the administrative roles required from the position,” Hiscock said.

Student workers are all looking to the new director to take the lead during this confusing time.

“We definitely need a lot of support from the new director,” Gonzalez said. “There’s a lot of pressure at who is going to come in to try to make this work.”

A student forum will be held at 7 p.m. on April 4 in Gorecki 220 to answer further questions.