Community spaces for marginalized students at Northwestern


Joanne Haner/Daily Senior Staffer

The Black House. The Black House is one of many spaces on campus for students of marginalized backgrounds.

Pavan Acharya, Reporter

Making new friends. Adjusting to a new environment. Taking on greater responsibilities. Entering the first-year of college can be both difficult and stressful for anybody. However, these challenges can be even more present for students with marginalized identities entering a community they may not be familiar with. Luckily, Northwestern offers resources and communities for students of various backgrounds throughout their college experience.

Multicultural Student Affairs

Established in 2004, the MSA includes three departments, including African American Student Affairs, Asian/Asian American Student Affairs and Hispanic-Latino Student Affairs.

MSA also oversees the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center currently located on the third floor of the Norris University Center. MSA Director Alejandro Magaña said the Resource Center is looking to expand outside of Norris soon, although specificities have not been finalized.

One of the goals of the MSA is to provide students with opportunities to connect with others of similar interests and backgrounds.

“(Some students) may find it difficult in trying to figure out, ‘How do you navigate resources on campus,’” Magaña said. “We help in that void and help them navigate what they want their experience to look like.”

MSA hosts a variety of events throughout the academic year, including a BIPOC mixer last fall. The organization also collaborated with the Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance to host their first Spring Pow Wow in May. Information about MSA events, programming, and initiatives can be found in the organization’s weekly newsletter.

Students can also visit MSA’s Multicultural Center at 1936 Sheridan Road. The center features rooms for socializing, a computer lab and a prayer space on the third floor. The location is currently closed for summer renovations.

Located just down the street at 1914 Sheridan Road is the newly renovated Black House, which reopened Fall 2021. This space for Black students and faculty at NU features rooms for studying and other gatherings. 

Rainbow Alliance

NU’s Rainbow Alliance is a student-run organization whose purpose is to create a safe space for Northwestern’s 2SLGBTQ+ community. In addition to creating a supportive environment, the organization also pledges to fight homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, genderism and more, according to their Rainbow Alliance Constitution.

Rainbow Alliance also hosts weekly programming and hosts guest lectures on campus. In May, the alliance held NU’s first-ever Queer Prom! in Norris.

For Members Only

Operating primarily out of the Black House, FMO is NU’s Black student alliance, hosting community-building events throughout the school year. These programs include a Spring Concert and Guest speaker events. In April, “Abbott Elementary” star Tyler James Williams spoke to FMO for its Black Union address.

One of FMO’s goals is to encourage political, social, cultural and intellectual unity and growth within NU’s Black community and broader community.

Middle Eastern and North African Student Association

Founded in Spring 2021, the MENA Student Association aims to uplift the cultures, people and languages of the MENA region at NU. The Association hosts a variety of events and programs for its members ranging from bonfires and cooking events to game nights and poetry readings. During Fall 2021, the MENA Student Association hosted its first “So You Think You Can Dabke” dance workshop.

While the MENA Student Association is relatively new to campus, the organization has worked to increase its visibility on-campus over the last year through calling on MSA to establish programming for Arab Heritage Month and asking NU to create a census box for MENA students on official forms.

Student Enrichment Services

As a part of NU Student Affairs, Student Enrichment Services works with first-generation, lower-income, and/or undocumented students navigate campus, build community and foster identity development. The SES office and team is based in Foster-Walker Complex and was first founded in 2015. Today, SES hosts various programs, including a year-long membership program called Compass and the Ryan Scholars Program.

SES can provide a variety of material resources for FGLI students, ranging from laptops to winter gear.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @PavanAcharya02

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