On Sept. 15, the Smithgall Student Services Building celebrated the opening of a new space initiated by the Black Culture, Innovation and Technology department. Notable Alumni who were previous leaders of their respective Black Student Organizations (BSOs) as well as current leaders were present to witness the
Tech has prioritized the increase access and success for students from historically underserved communities, with a particular emphasis on students who identify as Black or African-American, but in 2021, the Institute only had around 5% of Black students enrolled in the college. Recently, however, with every incoming class, the proportion of Black students has been rising steadily. There are many Black Student Organizations (BSOs) on campus such as the African American Student Union (AASU), Society of Black Engineers (SBE) and the African Student Association (ASA). Additionally, the recent establishment of the Black Culture, Innovation and Technology department is a new milestone for Tech as well.
In 2021, the Black Alumni Organization (GTBAO) and the Department of Student Life proposed a specific initiative that the Black Culture, Innovation and Technology department could pursue: the creation of a new
space for Black students.
Now, two years later, the new space serves as an administration hub for the various BSOs and includes office spaces, a lounge and a kitchen. Each organization has desk storage, and bulletins to put up their events and the future director of the initiative will have a main office there.
The Technique had the opportunity to interview Azalia Cyphers, fourth-year BME, who serves as the current president of the AASU and was present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. She advocated strongly for the creation of a safe space for Black students, and she emphasized the importance of maintaining a strong Black community on campus.
“The intent behind it is for us to ultimately organize our organizations there. We can plan events, we can bring in our executive board, and it can serve as a lounge for those of us who serve within those organizations so that our impact is greater and we are also able to directly tap into the student life here,” said Cyphers.
An important aspect of the space was the ability to provide resources for current students to thrive, whether it be financially, academically or emotionally.
“The importance of this space is to connect and communicate us to those resources because they exist but we [the general student body] don’t know that,” Cyphers said.
While it is meant to be an administrative place, all students are welcome and encouraged to visit.
“The idea is that a Black student walks in and sees all these organizations that they can be a part of that they didn’t know about. One of the newest projects is the creation of a huge calendar and bulletin board to be put up in the space. The idea is to have every event and opportunity listed out so that any student can walk into the space and see exactly what Georgia Tech has to offer them. Students are welcome to tap in if they want to see the work we’ve been doing or if they want to join the executive board, that’s the place to go,” Cyphers said.
The opening of the new space is just the first in line for all the goals the Black Culture Innovation and Technology department has in mind. Dr. Luoluo Hong, the VP of Student Engagement and Wellbeing (SEWB), outlined several achievements that the opening of the new space would bring forward.
“The new office will enhance recruitment and yield in the enrollment management process, increasing our competitive edge with top-tier peer institutions, support academic learning and success at the undergraduate, master, and doctoral levels with the goal of increasing retention and graduation rates, facilitate student belonging and mattering, as well as community and connections with fellow students, as well as with alumni, faculty, staff, and public and private sectors, by leveraging culture, history, arts, sciences, and other fields of inquiry as the catalysts and foster synergies between Georgia Tech and the broader community to support innovation and entrepreneurship in technology and related fields,” Hong said.
Cyphers talked about how the benefit of providing spaces for organizations that didn’t have much of a voice before could cause a snowballing effect.
“When you have a tangible space like this now that is progress, and when the organizations that benefit from access to such spaces go out and do the work, do outreach and community service such as scholarship funds and MLK day service, that is the embodiment of service, and I can’t wait to see how Georgia Tech’s motto of progress and service can be amplified and exemplified by Black Culture, Innovation and Technology,” Cyphers said.
Tech students should expect to see new events and opportunities come up in the upcoming months such as the Annual National Pan-Hellenic Council Step Show , the Taste of Africa and a Thanksgiving dinner.
Cyphers encouraged students, especially freshmen, to go to the BSO lounge in the John Lewis Student Center. This gives them the opportunity to meet other students and to immerse themselves in the culture that is active on campus.
She also encouraged students to go to the space in the Smithgall Student Services Building to take an active role in developing and enriching these various organizations and initiatives.