Lopez seeks to strengthen cultural ties as ICC director

Photo/Mike Lovett

Madeleine Lopez

Brandeis University’s Intercultural Center (ICC) has just welcomed Madeleine E. Lopez as its new director. Lopez plans to build on the center’s mission to serve as a place of respect, education and celebration that fosters growth and awareness about the many cultures at Brandeis.

Lopez’s arrival comes just ahead of a major milestone for the ICC:  in April 2017 it will mark its 25th anniversary as a campus space where students can connect and learn about social responsibility through programs that focus on issues of culture, race and ethnicity. The Intercultural Center operates inside Swig Hall on the East Quad.

Lopez is closely connected to Brandeis, having served as a lecturer here in Latino and Latina history. Previously she was the founding director of the Cultural Education Center at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York.

BrandeisNOW sat down with Lopez to discuss what she’s looking forward to most in her new role.

BrandeisNOW: The new academic year has started and you’re in a new role. How has that transition been for you?

Madeleine Lopez: I’m in a new role, having moved from faculty to staff, and it’s been wonderful to see how supportive the different offices within student life and  [the ICC] have been.1

While the center was operating without a permanent director for a while, a great deal of collaboration took place which allowed programming and student support to continue. The work of the students has created an incredible energy here, and has allowed me to step right in.

What do you want the Brandeis community know about the ICC?

ML: I want the community to know that this is a place of learning. The ICC supports 16 specific cultural arts, racial and ethnic groups. But it’s more than that: We also support the student organizations affiliated with the Gender & Sexuality Center.

When something happens, whether local, national, or international that furthers discussions of race and ethnicity, this is where you come to heal, to learn and to discuss with the entire community.

With a renewed emphasis on education, learning and collaborating, students develop as strong leaders and informed globalized citizens.

In what way has the ICC changed since it was founded and how does it still resonate today with the mission of Brandeis?

ML: This year marks the Intercultural Center’s 25th Anniversary. We are all taking time to revisit our history and mission, which is to celebrate racial identity and our different cultural groups.

We are actually looking to bring alumni back this year to join us in celebrating the growth of the Intercultural Center. This is an opportunity for them to appreciate the work done by our current students. We are also hoping alumni can help us bridge the gaps with some of our center’s history.

In the past two decades, the ICC has expanded its mission. We are dedicated to developing and implementing cultural enrichment programs, developing student leadership and serving as advocates for our diverse student body.

Do you see any overlap between your experiences as a historian and your new role as ICC director?

ML: I am strongly committed to the idea that while we can use the ICC to celebrate cultures and identities, we also have to use this space as a place of learning.

As an educator and historian I believe than learning our past makes all us more knowledgeable and stronger. For example, Latinos and Latinas have a long, storied history past rooted in the American experience. Since 1848 until the present day, Latinos and Latinas have been active citizens, built community institutions, served our nation and advocated for equality. When the ICC and affiliated student groups celebrate culturally relevant holidays and traditions, they continue the long tradition of immigrant, racial and ethnic Americans to preserve their cultural heritage. The ICC serves as a venue where this occurs.

What are you most looking forward to as you prepare to celebrate the ICC’s 25th anniversary?

ML: The 25th anniversary of the center is on April 28 and 29. We want to celebrate the history and longevity of the ICC. This will be a great upcoming year. I welcome the entire Brandeis community to take advantage of the physical space inside the ICC as well as the cultural programs we put forth.

Categories: Alumni, General, Student Life

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