The Story Behind The White House on the Corner

Feathers are strewn across the tables. The room is buzzing with excitement and chatter. Someone shout outs that all of the supplies are gone, but that doesn’t seem to prompt anyone to turn around and leave. Students continue to trickle in through the front door of the big white house on the street corner, curious to see what all the commotion is about. Once inside, each student finds a comfortable space within the room to call their own. It feels open, full, cozy and safe all at once.

Welcome to the American Indian Heritage Month dream catcher workshop at the Mosaic House.

Located at 346 East Orange Street, the Mosaic House serves as a safe place for students of diverse backgrounds and interests to come together to socialize, have meetings  and study. Throughout the year, the Mosaic House will be hosting educational programs, such as the American Indian Heritage Month dream catcher workshop, that are developed by students and faculty in the hopes of creating a welcoming and supportive environment on campus.

The House also offers workspaces for student groups who have demonstrated a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“We really wanted to make sure that we had some unique features for the house and to use those features to really encourage student involvement,” said Interim Coordinator of Multicultural Programs and Residential Communities Stephanie Collins. “The house can’t exist without student involvement.”

Collins, whose office is located in the Mosaic House, reached out to every student organization on campus to hear about their commitments to diversity and encouraged each one to apply for a designated workspace in the House. She was both surprised and excited to see that so many organizations that people wouldn’t normally refer to as diversity-oriented are working to be more inclusive of all groups of people.

“We had a really interesting application from a new electrical engineering club on campus called High Voltage,” Collins stated. “The club does have diversity because it was started by a history major and most of the students involved are not engineers, but rather students from all different backgrounds who share this common interest.”

Every student organization that seeks to acquire a workstation in the Mosaic House must be willing and able host a program in the house each semester that promotes diversity and inclusion, regardless of the focus of the club. Currently, there are five student organizations with workspaces in the House but any group or individual can ask to host a program in the house.

“I don’t think that I would ever turn someone’s idea down as long as it has something to do with diversity, which is honestly almost anything,” Collins said. “Any educational opportunity for students is important.”

The College Democrats are one of the five student organizations that acquired workspace in the Mosaic House this year.

“We are a club that supports diversity and the Mosaic House was offering support to clubs who were willing to create programming focused on diversity,” sophomore John Koons, Vice President of the College Democrats said. “We wanted to make sure that we took advantage of that.”

The College Democrats have already hosted their first event this semester at the Mosaic House: a promotional campaign highlighting the presidential candidates’ views on diversity issues.

“We created posters that detailed where each candidate stood on diversity issues such as religion and same-sex marriage,” Koons said. “We kept it as unbiased as possible to appeal to the greater audience of the Mosaic House.”

Next semester, the College Democrats plan to focus on facilitating conversations around diversity-related issues that people don’t feel comfortable talking about.

“We want to start conversations that help people gain an understanding of different identities they might not have been aware of before coming to college,” Koons mentioned.” As a private institution, Etown might not get the same diversity levels that state school do so it’s even more critical to have that conversation.”

Noir, the student diversity union on campus, also earned a work station in the House.

“The Mosaic House is a place where I can embrace the idea of being a minority and feel safe doing so,” sophomore Noir member Guadalupe Carnero said. “It’s a place where I can learn about who I am and my place in society.”

Noir has been a key advocate for the Mosaic House all along, speaking out about the importance of creating a safe place for diversity and inclusion on campus. The organization was highly involved with last year’s Six-Word-Story project and hopes to continue participating in local actions and advocacy.

As long as students are willing to participate, Collins is willing to provide programming that incorporates student-driven ideas.

“The house to me is about breaking down barriers when talking about identity,” she said. “It’s about creating a space where students feel more safe and more heard.”

The Mosaic House expected a turnout of around 40-50 students at the dream catcher workshop. Over 85 students showed up. Whether they realize it or not, those 85 students who crowded into the Mosaic House revealed that support of multiculturalism, of diversity and of acceptance is alive on our campus.

Check out a quick walk through tour of the Mosaic House here.

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