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The Belonging Center, a space dedicated to stewarding community, fostering connection, and hosting programming focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across the College of Engineering, has opened in the A-level of ANSYS Hall. On February 20, a celebratory program was hosted to commemorate the space, and more than 100 students, staff, and faculty from across the college attended. Several college and university leaders, including Provost Jim Garrett, Dean Bill Sanders, Associate Dean of DEI Alaine Allen, and Vice Provost for DEI and Chief Diversity Officer Wanda Heading-Grant, delivered comments followed by a dessert reception.

Designed to be a hub of connection and opportunity, The Belonging Center will host community-building activities, informal interactions, and an expansive catalog of DEI-focused programming in the days ahead. Such events will include mentorship events, study and writing sessions, coffee chats, and intergroup dialogue, along with weekly office hours for College of Engineering DEI staff and monthly drop-in counseling sessions hosted by CMU Counseling and Psychological Services.

A woman speaking at a podium

The space will also serve as a point of contact for Carnegie Mellon University’s engineering diversity organizations, such as the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Out in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics, the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and the Society of Women Engineers.

“The Belonging Center creates the perfect environment for students to embrace our whole selves as we continue to develop their identities as engineers,” said Teresa Myrthil, a fourth-year chemical engineering student and current president of the university’s NSBE chapter. “It allows us to find community not just in student organizations, but also in our college. Instead of leaving our identities at the door, we can find strength in the diversity of our engineering community.”

Three people smiling with their arms around each other

Plans to open The Belonging Center initiated in 2021, in tandem with efforts to develop and implement a new DEI Strategic Plan. As one of the plan’s designated actions, the College of Engineering committed to cultivating a space that would nurture a sense of belonging for students, with an intentional focus on including students from historically underrepresented groups. This stemmed from scholarly research that articulated the impact of such spaces for students with an intersection of historically marginalized identities in the areas of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and immigration status.

I believe the existence of this space and the associated programming reminds everyone, regardless of background or perspective, that they are needed to address today’s engineering needs.

Alaine Allen, Associate Dean of DEI, College of Engineering

“I am thrilled to see the opening of The Belonging Center, because I believe the existence of this space, and the associated programming reminds everyone, regardless of background or perspective, that they are needed to address today's engineering needs,” emphasized Allen. “It’s an honor to stand on the shoulders of all the champions who have worked hard to create an inclusive and supportive environment within the College of Engineering. Together, we will continue to shape a campus culture that embraces diversity and celebrates the strength that is shared from our collective experience.”