Ettihad Cultural Center fosters community, welcomes all cultures

Amarah Khan, ECC facility supervisor, speaks to ECC members. The ECC hosts several events throughout the year. 

The Baro Staff

Oregon State University’s Ettihad Cultural Resource Center works to highlight the rich culture of southern, southwestern and central Asia, as well as northern Africa, by developing programs that increase the visibility of students with ancestors from this region, according to Dr. Amarah Khan. Khan serves as the faculty supervisor of the ECC and is also the Associate Director for Global Diversity Initiatives in OSU’s Department of Diversity and Cultural Engagement, which oversees all campus Cultural Resource Centers.

“I come from a long career in promoting diversity at the international level. I worked with various international aid agencies to develop gender-based equity programs in rural communities,” Khan said. “My own identity as an immigrant and an international student drew me into working for one of the key diversity and inclusion efforts on campus.”

This commitment to inclusion and diversity is reflected in the name of the center itself, which means ‘unity’ and has roots in multiple languages from the region: Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Hebrew, according to Khan. Extending beyond cultural community-building, the ECC (located in Student Experience Center room 380) is also an academic resource for both international and domestic students, according to the ECC website.

While some on campus think of the ECC as a Muslim-only center, Khan explained this is a misconception.

“While the geographic representation is central to our mission, we include and welcome all cultures and identities regardless of what faith an individual practices,” Khan said. “There are a lot of members of our community who are born in the U.S. but take pride in their heritage elsewhere too.”

One of these proud community members is Khawater Hussein—an Oregon-born Yemeni American, second year undergraduate student in pre-mechanical engineering and one of two Leadership Liaisons at the ECC this year. Hussein began her time at the center as a Volunteer Coordinator winter term last year, because she wanted to find a sense of community with others who shared similar cultural norms.

“I have been able to find constructive and effective ways to bridge the divide between my cultures personally, and I would like to help my community members find a sense of belonging and find opportunities that are open to them to make their lives easier,” Hussein said. “Our team does this in tandem with encouraging the rest of the OSU community to learn about our culture and see us as humans with many, many narratives instead of as a poorly written scary headline.”

The ECC broadens their reach to the greater OSU community through a number of events held throughout the year. According to Erich Pitcher, the Associate Director for Research and Communication, one of the most well-known events is the spring Ettihad Cultural Festival.

“This is an event that shares cultural traditions and creates community amongst the nations and peoples represented throughout the Ettihad region,” Pitcher said. “Dance, music, food all bring people together.”

Pitcher encouraged those interested in learning more to stop by the center. This is a space for dialogue and a way to express our shared OSU values of keeping an open mind and having a willingness to listen.

“ECC is a cozy, welcoming space with friendly faces. There are couches, hot tea and amazing dialogue ranging from the mundane to the current events,” Pitcher said. “ECC is a space for connection, unity and mutual learning.”

According to Khan, any student can make minorities feel welcome by visiting ECC, as well as the other six CRCs on campus, and offering time and friendship.

“Take the time to learn about minority identities on campus and value their history, their struggles and embrace them in unity,” Khan said. “A little bit goes a long ways and you will find your outreach efforts reciprocated by the student leaders at DCE.”

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