Intercultural Life and the Office of Spiritual Life have a new home on the Knox College campus: the House of Peace and Equity, also known as the HOPE Center.
The HOPE Center opened in April and contributes to Knox’s goal of creating an inclusive campus community.
“We envision it as a place where students from all social identities can feel welcome, find affirmation, find mentorship, find community, and find peace,” said Vice President for Student Development Anne Ehrlich. “Intercultural Life and Spiritual Life are both housed there in support of that goal: Whatever your race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability status or gender, you belong there.”
The creation of the HOPE Center is “representative of the primacy of celebrating the diversity within our community, and creating space in which we can move from diversity to inclusion,” Ehrlich added. “That goal, of course, has deep roots in our mission and history, and is a focus of so much of the life of the college. Dedicating such a beautiful, large space to those efforts reinforces that equity and justice are of primary importance at Knox.”
Students chose the new facility’s name, and they have been quick to start settling into the renovated space.
“Students were coming in as soon as they knew they could, and already all of our faith clubs are meeting here,” said Monica Corsaro, director of spiritual life. “What’s fun is students are starting to think of ‘Oh, how we can make it ours?’ which is exactly what we want to do.”
Yasmine Davila, a student who serves as a member of the Multicultural Student Advisory Council and a peer educator with the Center for Intercultural Life (CIL), said the CIL and the Office of Spiritual Life play crucial roles in student life at Knox. “It is extremely important to me as a student that the HOPE Center be space [that] students can feel welcome to use for studying, holding meetings and events, chat with staff, and find a place to relax throughout the day,” she said.
Tianna Cervantez, director of the Center for Intercultural Life, said the HOPE Center is “a space for community to come together—whether it be in hope and joy, or at times, in anger and despair.”
The HOPE Center features open, flexible spaces that students and other members of the Knox community can use in a variety of ways, such as for worship, prayer, meditation, and reflection. In addition, students can use the center as a study space and for club meetings, programs, and socializing. The building also includes conference rooms, offices, gender-neutral bathrooms, a big-screen TV, and a kitchen.
“We know how important food is to community and building community. A lot of our student organizations, and students we work with, do activities around food,” Cervantez said.
The building that now is the HOPE Center previously served as the longtime home of a Galesburg church. The building became available when the congregation decided to relocate elsewhere in Galesburg. The building was purchased thanks to the generosity of ten members of the Knox College Board of Trustees. The renovation was funded by an anonymous donor.
“I see this as a place where one day [there] might be Christian worship. The next day is a yoga class, the next day is a Buddhist meditation group, the next day is Muslim prayers,” Corsaro said. “This is truly a space for all.”