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Intercultural Center Has Grand Opening, Hailed as a Gathering Place for Vibrant, Diverse ODU

The culmination of years of hard work, dreams and vision was realized with the grand opening of the Intercultural Center (IC) by Old Dominion University's Office of Intercultural Relations.

Hugo Owens Jr., was one of numerous guests who attended the opening ceremony for the IC in Webb Center on Thursday, Sept. 17. He was presented a brick with a plaque from the Hugo A. Owens African-American Cultural Center, whose work will be continued and expanded at the IC.

The elder Owens, who died in July 2008 at age 92, was a human rights champion in Hampton Roads who was appointed rector of Old Dominion University's Board of Visitors in 1992.

For Lesa Clark, assistant dean for intercultural relations, the grand opening was an emotional moment. She had worked on the idea with Student Affairs for a number of years.

Clark said people come to Old Dominion University from all over the world. Many visitors struggle to find their place at their new school, in their new home. "This is the purpose, this is the mission, this is the role of the Office of Intercultural Relations."

Clark read a poem from the plaque dedicated to Hugo Owens Sr. called "Only a Minute," about making a difference with the time we have. "This Intercultural Center is a reflection of Dr. Owens' vision," she said.

Dean Chandra de Silva of the College of Arts and Letters said in his keynote address at Thursday's dedication ceremony that advanced education is all about the intersection of boundaries. He said students, faculty and staff need to strive to bring those boundaries into central focus, so efforts can be made to bridge them, and form bonds between what they divide, in academics, and in their relations with fellow students.

"It is my hope this will become a place, become a home to people who want to seek each other and understand each other," de Silva said.

That understanding is what Kurnia Foe has worked to foster since he arrived at ODU several years ago.

Foe, from Indonesia, works as a graduate student at the Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory in Newport News. He loves his studies, but his only regret is that this work takes him away from the campus.

"This place is home to 23,000 students, more than 1,400 of us are international students. We call all of these places our home, but we are truly one big family," he said.

Foe, who frequently reaches out to other international students to form connections, related a story of a fellow student from India who couldn't adjust to life in America, and returned home. On the day before he left, his flight was cancelled, Foe said. So he and his friend ended up at his home, and spent the afternoon singing Hindi songs.

"He told me that if there had been somewhere he could join, and sing, it could have helped him feel at home here," Foe said. "Unfortunately, he felt he had to go home, but this Intercultural Center will hopefully be a place for other students who feel like they need a home away from home."

The IC is on the second floor of Webb Center, across the hall from Student Affairs. It has two 42-inch plasma televisions, computer stations, and features books, videos, and video and board games from around the world. It has Rosetta Stone software to teach languages, and beautiful artwork from all corners of the globe adorning the colorful walls. It also is the location for ODU's Diversity Institute.

The center is designed as a place for students to hang out and enjoy their friends and make new connections in a relaxed environment.

This article was posted on: September 18, 2009

Old Dominion University
Office of University Relations

Room 100 Koch Hall Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0018
Telephone: 757-683-3114

Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.