Category: University News

Title: Georgetown Unveils Community Space, New Home for Student Equity and Inclusion Office

Georgetown’s Office of Student Equity & Inclusion (OSEI) opened a new community center on the lower level of New South that will be the campus’ central hub for diversity, equity and inclusion work. The space will be home to the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, the Community Scholars Program, the Disability Cultural Center, the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Women’s Center.

The move reflects Georgetown’s deepening commitment to services that support historically underrepresented students and promote a diverse and inclusive campus for all students, faculty and staff.

“Community in diversity is one of our pillars as a Jesuit institution,” said Dr. Adanna J. Johnson, who leads OSEI as the associate vice president for student equity and inclusion. “This is one of the best examples of community in diversity at Georgetown because all of our centers that support identity-based work are here to provide support for our students, to engage them in co-curricular work, to allow space for them to truly be themselves, and to sigh and relax and engage with one another.” 

Several people sitting in a lounge space on chairs and couches
OSEI’s new space features plenty of lounge space for students to study and gather in community.

OSEI’s offices and centers, which were previously located in the Leavey Center, will now be co-located under one roof, offering an intersectional approach to caring for students. The space will give students access to several lounge spaces, conference rooms and a multipurpose room that can be adapted for small and larger events. In addition, OSEI will provide several wellness spaces, which are individual, soundproofed rooms for staff from Counseling and Psychiatric Services, Health Education Services, and Campus Ministry to meet privately with students.

The space in New South was previously occupied by approximately 20 staff from the Planning and Facilities Management (PFM) office. The relocation of this team to other campus locations is part of a larger strategy to consolidate administrative activities away from high-traffic student life spaces such as New South.

OSEI’s new home also features a first for any university in the Washington, DC, area: a sensory room. The state-of-the-art space features interactive light technology, textured walls and various stimulation devices to meet people’s sensory needs.

A room filled with sensory equipment and ambient light
The sensory room features interactive light technology, textured walls and various stimulation devices to meet people’s sensory needs.

At the center of the design and layout of the new space is Georgetown’s value of cura personalis, or care for the whole person. Eleanor JB Daugherty, vice president of student affairs, says that she hopes students will embrace the new space as one that is inviting and embraces every aspect of students’ identities.

“This space welcomes everyone and sees them for who they are and what they will become,” Daugherty said. “And once we come together as a community of people, we are able to see the greatness of all of us together in this space as a Georgetown family.”

Accessibility was a key factor in the design of the space, from flooring materials that make for smooth paths for students who use mobility devices to furniture designed to meet different body types and access needs. The new space will also feature assistive listening technology and distinct signage to make the space more welcoming to students.

“We wanted this space to be as inclusive and accessible as possible,” said Amy Kenny, director of the Disability Cultural Center (DCC). “Everything from the color choice to the fixed and flexible furniture to the design of the braille and tactile signage has been built with accessibility in mind.”

Tara Haas (H’25), a student academic assistant in the DCC, is excited to be able to have a space for students to congregate, socialize and connect. She emphasized that she wants to see all different types of students, whether they are involved in OSEI or not, using the space and building community.

“This space brings a physical area for us to gather in. Now that we have this space, it’s just easier to connect with other students,” Haas said. “It means a lot to me, especially as a student with a disability … To see this space is really important to me because it shows that Georgetown is willing to do this.”

For Corey Madison (C’27), the comfortable lounge space is the perfect place for him to study while also being a prime location to meet up with his friends. Madison also takes advantage of the ample free snacks and drinks available to all students. As a first-year student who is involved with the Community Scholars Program and Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, he’s looking forward to seeing the space grow in his time on the Hilltop as well as hosting and attending events in the new space.

“What I’m most excited about is the existence of the space,” he said. “The fact that we’re finally getting all these different underrepresented groups dedicated space that’s nice, renovated and well-done, I think that’s really important.”

The move to New South also allows each of OSEI’s centers and programs to not only enhance the work of their individual offices but also be in close proximity to each other, encouraging greater collaboration between the offices and intersectional approaches to caring for the whole person.

“In an intersectional space, you are afforded that opportunity and can also engage with people who have similar experiences in a different identity,” Johnson said. “My hope is that instead of identity groups finding themselves pitted against each other, they’ll find themselves working together and honoring more of each other’s experiences.”

Read more about the work of the individual offices in OSEI and how they plan to use the new space.

Center for Multicultural Equity and Access

The Center for Multicultural Equity and Access (CMEA), formerly known as the Center for Minority and Student Affairs (CMSA), provides support to students of color at Georgetown through academic and professional advising, resources and a space to explore diversity issues and more.

CMEA is also home to several pre-college programs, such as the Institute for College Preparation, which offers academic enrichment programming to middle and high school students in the Washington, DC, area.

First established in 1976, CMEA has long provided the Georgetown community with resources to support underserved populations. Charlene Brown-McKenzie, director of CMEA, said that OSEI’s new home will help propel the work of CMEA into the future.

“CMEA continues to evolve as we recognize the larger local, national and global contexts that our students with these lived experiences bring to campus,” Brown-McKenzie said. “We are thrilled to be embarking on programming that expands access to Georgetown … We’re seeing Georgetown growing as it thinks about inclusion and belonging.”

Two women talk over a countertop in a shared kitchen space
Charlene Brown-McKenzie, director of CMEA, with Lex Lewis-Semien, director of CSP, in the kitchen in OSEI’s new space.

Community Scholars Program

As part of CMEA, the Community Scholars Program (CSP) has been at the forefront of enrolling a more diverse student body at Georgetown for more than 50 years by serving first-generation college students who represent a wide variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds.

Starting with a five-week academic program for incoming students during the summer, students continue to receive academic advising, mentoring and personal counseling throughout their entire time at Georgetown that supports the whole person.

For many first-generation students, going to college can be a daunting experience, said Lex Lewis-Semien, director of CSP. She hopes the new space will allow students in CSP and across Georgetown to feel safe and be a part of a welcoming, supportive community.

“A lot of our students are coming from across the country, and they miss that sense of home,” Lewis-Semien said. “This larger space and OSEI as a whole provides them with support and the idea that they don’t have to show up in a specific way. They can pop up and walk in because they just want to be around people that they know care about them.”

Disability Cultural Center

Amy Kenny, director of the Disability Cultural Center, talks with a student in her office. Each center in OSEI has its own office space for students and staff to meet.

The Disability Cultural Center (DCC) serves as an on-campus hub that celebrates disability culture, builds community and provides programming for disabled students, faculty, staff, allies and those interested in learning about disability. 

What started as the Disability Cultural Initiative has now transformed into the DCC, which is just one of a small handful of centers dedicated to serving people with disabilities in colleges and universities across the U.S.

Kenny, along with students involved with the DCC, played a critical role in informing many of the accessible design choices in the new space. She’s excited that students will finally be able to use the space and hopes future spaces at Georgetown will follow OSEI’s lead.

“We’re hoping that this space can be a model for how to build an intersectional, sustainable and accessible home,” she said. “We have put a lot of care and love into making sure that everything from the curvature of the space to the textures of the fabrics to the different lights and ventilation systems are as inclusive as possible, welcoming our students with a variety of access needs.”

LGBTQ Resource Center

Among one of the first Catholic or Jesuit higher education institutions in the country, the LGBTQ Resource Center supports Georgetown’s queer community through resources, outreach, advocacy and programming.

As the associate director of the LGBTQ Resource Center, Riley Jelenick says that his main role is to meet students where they are. Being in the same space with the rest of OSEI will allow for greater collaboration and will enable him to better serve the LGTBTQ community at Georgetown, he says.

“[The new space] allows there to be a focal point around intersectionality, and centering that in a space is really important because often it’s not something that we think or see,” Jelenick said. “And so to be able to be next door to my colleagues and be in community and see our students interacting together is really the genesis of understanding intersectionality and being in this work together.”

“To be able to be next door to my colleagues and be in community and see our students interacting together is really the genesis of understanding intersectionality and being in this work together.”

Riley Jelenick, Associate Director, LGBTQ Resource Center

Women’s Center

Since 1990, the Women’s Center has served the Georgetown community by celebrating, honoring and empowering women at Georgetown.

Annie Selak, director of the Women’s Center, is thrilled to welcome students to the new space for OSEI, saying that the space will allow Georgetown to live out its values better.

Three woman sit at a table in an office looking at a computer.
Annie Selak, director of the Women’s Center, talks with a couple of students in her office.

“The experience of women, trans and non-binary students, is often different than the experience of male students,” Selak said.  “I think spaces like this are moments of the mission of Georgetown being lived out. This space helps Georgetown be a better Georgetown.”

On the new space for OSEI, Selak says that being in proximity to the other offices in OSEI will provide new opportunities for offices to work together while serving OSEI’s mission to meet students as whole people.

“Our work in OSEI allows us to address students as whole people,” Selak said. “No one comes in and says, ‘I’m having a gender-only issue, or let me take off this identity and just put this  identity on.’ This intersectional approach allows us to regard students as who they are in their wholeness.”