After almost 50 years of use, the Cultural and Heritage Houses alongside the Pullman campus are going up for sale. In their place, the Division of Student Affairs is opening a new cultural and affinity center that will provide enhanced space for students to meet and connect.
The sale is part of an effort to build stronger connections among the cultural spaces on campus: the Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center, the cultural and affinity centers located in the Compton Union Building, and the new center being established in Waller Hall. Jaime Nolan, the associate vice president for community, equity, and inclusive excellence in the Division of Student Affairs, said the goal is to honor the legacy of the Cultural and Heritage Houses while providing a better experience for students.
“We really want to ensure that the intention of the houses, the spirit in which they were developed, is retained in the new space,” she said. “I believe that’s what we’re able to do with this move.”
Cultural house roots are deep
The Cultural and Heritage Houses were established in the 1970s. The first house, called the Diversity House when it was founded by faculty member Talmadge Anderson, hosted a variety of students and programming. Other houses were added over the years as part of former WSU President Elson S. Floyd’s vision for a “University District” that would include several cultural houses where students could host programs, convene meetings, and simply have spaces they could feel at home.
“It was a wonderful idea, but over time it became clear that the ‘University District’ just wasn’t going to happen,” Nolan said. “Students started using the houses less, and there was no budget for the maintenance the houses needed.”
With usage down and maintenance costs up, the university decided to sell the houses and use the proceeds from the sale to fund equity and justice initiatives on campus, including the new equity and justice center that will open this fall.
New space honors a strong legacy
The Talmadge Anderson Center for Equity and Justice, in Waller Hall, will hold meeting rooms and casual gathering spaces, plus a few elements that student groups specifically requested, such as a kitchen.
Student input has been instrumental in developing the new center. Nolan and other Student Affairs leaders held discussions about the sale and the new center with student stakeholders from several registered student organizations and affinity groups. Those focus groups were key to ensuring student concerns were addressed – and that the new space in Waller would be welcoming to and useful for all.
“Developing the new center has been a really thoughtful process, and we welcome the work we’ll continue to do with students and others to bring this space into its full expression,” she said.
With its proximity to the Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center and the centers in the CUB, the Talmadge Anderson Center will let groups from around campus and the community collaborate across spaces, finally bringing to life Floyd’s vision of an intracultural, intersectional hub on campus.
“I’m excited by the possibility of students seeing, in these spaces, that they don’t have to dilute their individual or group identities to make connections with others,” Nolan said. “These spaces help them create capacity for a deep appreciation for the lived experience of others and acknowledge that they’re part of both small and large communities.”