Multicultural Resource Center Assisting Minority Students Through Pandemic


It may seem like it’s harder to stay connected and receive assistance than usual this semester. But there is a hidden gem for multicultural students at Penn State: the Multicultural Resource Center.

The Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) provides educational and counseling services on an individual scale to undergraduate students who self-identify as African/Black American, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian/Pacific Islander/American Desi, American Indian/Alaskan Native, or biracial/multiracial.

The center serves all students of color at University Park, most commonly first-year students transfer students, and those seeking academic and personal assistance. Students are assigned a counselor once they attend Penn State.

The center is a safe place for minority students to discuss their concerns and ask questions to counselors who are their advocates. Its staff helps students navigate any challenges they face at Penn State.

The center focuses on three important aspects of one’s college experience: academic success, engagement with campus resources, and opportunities to establish relationships. Its services are provided through one-on-one meetings with MRC counselors, affinity groups, orientation programs, specialized workshops, and transition courses.

Many students come to the center seeking assistance with maintaining and strengthening their skills for academic success and adapting to the college lifestyle. The staff, specifically the counselors, works with students to help them manage their time, organize cause materials for studying efficiently, and connect them to free academic tutoring.

Although the center does not directly schedule courses for students as an academic adviser would, its members do evaluate students and integrate their goals and interests to their intended major and career. The center recommends that students meet with their counselors even if they do not come across an issue or concern. This helps counselors better understand the student’s goals and interests so they can look for opportunities that fit them best.

“Everyone can benefit from having support through connection with a counselor, especially when we are away from our natural support systems,” Melissa Landrau Vega, director of the Multicultural Resource Center, explained. “It is beneficial for students to reach out to the people and spaces that can offer them support while they are in college. Although students cannot currently visit our space to meet with their counselors, we are here for them through Zoom connections”.

The MRC promotes engagement with campus resources by partnering with other Penn State offices to support students’ needs and interests. Normally, the center would invite liaisons from these offices for students to meet with and have their questions answered directly, but this is now done remotely.

The staff stresses how essential it is for students to have the opportunity to establish relationships and have a sense of belonging on campus, especially at a large university. Staffers provide affinity groups for Black and Latino males, women of color, Latinx and biracial/multiracial students, and supporting initiatives for Native American, Asian, Pacific, and Desi-American students. These initiatives come in many forms such as socials and facilitating peer-to-peer relationships.

In past semesters, the MRC has promoted its services with in-person orientations, in-person groups, and one-on-one meetings where students have the opportunity to meet their assigned counselor and other multicultural students in the center. Although it’s still welcoming new students and meeting with their students, things are done remotely and through Zoom meeting rooms.

“This year, we expect to continue to provide services to meet these goals, even amid the remote/hybrid learning period,” Vega said. “Also, as we experience racial unrest and a contentious election, we hope that our one-on-one meetings and our affinity groups provide opportunities for students to share and process their thoughts, concerns, ideas, and experiences.

The center’s affinity groups continue to meet biweekly through Zoom, providing safe spaces for students to meet and discuss their experiences and offer support.

Students interested in the Multicultural Resource Center should call 814-865-1773 for an appointment with their assigned counselor or send an email to [email protected]. The MRC also has a weekly electronic newsletter students can subscribe to and an Instagram page.

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About the Author

Aubrey Miller

Aubrey is a third-year landscape architecture major and a writer for Onward State. She is from North Carolina, but can't stand country music. Aubrey is obsessed with her four cats, and some would say too obsessed. Feel free to follow her on Instagram @aubreymillerr to see her cat posts.

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