SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Meligha Garfield was finishing up his master’s degree at New Mexico State University when he came across the job posting for Director of the Black Cultural Center at The University of Utah.
Having worked as a coordinator in programs aimed at working with Black students for a couple of years at New Mexico State, the New York native researched and found that the University of Utah was making some very progressive changes on campus.
“The Center was one of those, and I was like “Okay, they’re actually doing something, and I want to be a part of that,” Garfield said.
The Black Cultural Center opened in February 2019, and Garfield became the Center’s director in June 2019. He said he was tasked with directing and strategically planning for where the center was headed over the next few years and modeling what similar centers could look like across the state.
“I would say in the most honest respect, it’s challenging, but rewarding and fun. Being tasked to just build something from scratch, it can be daunting. It can be scary, but it’s just extremely fun,” he said. “The main part of that is just gathering different populations to come here and kind of pushing out, like, hey, we’re here!”
According to Garfield, the center’s goal is to counteract racism and provide a safe place for faculty and students.
“To put it in simplest terms, we’re here to counteract anti-Blackness here on the college campus, but also in the state. And with that, just making sure that faculty, staff, students and the community just kind of feel like its a place where they can be themselves and feel a sense of belonging here on campus,” he said. “So we’re a cultural/ resource center to make sure that those populations are best served, but also that they stay here and they feel welcomed here at the University of Utah.”
Garfield said his favorite part of the job is seeing a new generation of bright minds come to the college and progress every Fall.
“Their understanding of the world is maybe a little bit different than other people who have been in college for a while. But constantly just seeing the next generation of people is uplifting, and the world is not all bad,” he said.
Garfield said he also loves the event planning portion of the job, whether the event is for faculty, students, or the general Salt Lake community. When asked what unique opportunities he has working here in Utah, Garfield said that being one of the first Black cultural centers in the state provides the opportunity to be an information hub of why the center is there.
“We’re trying to progress, and in progressing, we’ve been doing amazing things. Just kind of highlighting that, and then also bringing attention that,” he said.
Garfield said another opportunity is helping minority college students to stay in college and succeed. He said they are coming to college, but not always staying.
His message to the community?
“Please come by, anyone, to the center. We are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day Monday through Friday. Anyone’s welcome to come in the center,” he said.
For more information about the Black Cultural Center, please visit diversity.utah.edu.
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