An Interview with SIC Associate Director, Okazaki

Fostering Inclusivity and Community

Whatcom Community College’s Simpson Intercultural Center (SIC) serves as an inclusive hub, promoting diversity and unity within the campus community. With a focus on providing a welcoming space for all backgrounds, the SIC plays a focal role in students’ lives.

Associative Director of the Simpson Intercultural Center Yusuke Okazaki. Photograph courtesy of Raymie Washington.

Associative Director Yusuke Okazaki described the SIC, managed by Director Tanya Zaragoza and himself, as more than just a physical space: it’s also a symbol of unity. Okazaki explained that this is a place where students from all backgrounds can come together, creating a visual representation of diversity and inclusivity. The SIC blends social space and academic resources, and is designed to cater to various student needs.

“A typical day at the SIC offers students a home base in between classes,” Okazaki explained. “We provide free snacks, tea, and coffee, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere like a cafe.”

The SIC raises awareness about the importance of diversity and inclusion, and provides a platform for students who are underserved and underrepresented to find their voices. This is done through a series of events, such as “Talking Stories” and initiatives that focus on “Actions for Change,” which rallies students to be passionate about what matters to them.

SIC houses three student groups or student unions: the Black Student Union, the Latinx Student Union, and the Pride Student Union. These unions meet once a week and playing a role in fostering inclusivity on campus.

The SIC regularly leads weekly gatherings and presentations to facilitate understanding among students from diverse backgrounds. They just finished the event celebrating Dia De Los Muertos, and are planning a new “Talking Stories” for Nov. 15.

A successful past event Okazaki pointed to was the “Pride Union: National Trans Day of Remembrance.”

One of Okazaki’s personal favorite past events was “Effects of Social Media on Latinx Youth” where he was “able to see the effects of media on kids who are navigating different cultures.”

Okazaki pointed to the “Intercultural Center Fun in The Sun” as another successful event: “We played games in the field like kickball, and we had a bunch of snacks too.”

In addition to organizing events, the SIC supports the development of student leaders through programs like Peer Navigators. As Associate Director, Okazaki supervises the Peer Navigator program including recruiting, hiring, and training students. He also oversees department training for faculty in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

WCC faculty also have a role in the SIC. They hold office hours there, making it less intimidating for students to engage with faculty. The SIC’s communal space provides a place for students and faculty to connect, facilitating academic growth and community building.

“If a student wants to join a class but is hesitant to, they can come to the SIC to talk to the teachers. I think this makes it easier for them to connect and make it less scary to join their class,” Okazaki said.

Looking to the future, the SIC aims to maintain its values and core objectives. It envisions expanding its physical space, potentially securing another room on the second floor of Syre. Plans include the establishment of a Pride Center, a prayer and meditation space, and more gender-neutral restrooms on campus. The Intercultural Center strives to be an inclusive space open to everyone.

The SIC at WWC stands as a testament to the power of inclusivity, diversity, and community-building. It’s a space where anyone of any background is welcome, and it’s at the forefront of creating a more inclusive campus environment.

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