IDEAS Center launches theme nights to boost engagement

Staff and students interact at the IDEAS Center sports theme night. The theme nights were created to invite students who might not otherwise join the IDEAS Center into the space.

The Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access and Social Justice Center sports theme night took place on Monday, Feb. 21 in the IDEAS Center in the Henderson Campus Center.
Students were invited to engage with the IDEAS Center by participating in activities such as board and card games. Refreshments were also provided along with a self-serve nacho bar. Students had the chance to win prizes, as competitive games and a raffle were also organized.
Director of the IDEAS Center Darnell Tucker described the IDEAS Center as a home to many students and a space where students can feel comfortable being themselves.
“The IDEAS Center is a space that we want the students to utilize in whatever way they feel comfortable rather than confining it,” Tucker said. “The staff at the IDEAS Center is very much the same in the sense that we’re not only here to guide you professionally but are also here to chat with you as friends.”
Tucker mentioned that the idea of hosting a theme night was the result of a meeting with the Program Coordinator of IDEAS Center Mikka Hunt in Dec. 2021.
“The reason why the idea of the theme night came up was (Hunt) and I noticed the same students coming in and out of the IDEAS Center,” Tucker said. “Although having the same students is not a bad thing, we saw it as a challenge to encourage more students to interact with the IDEAS Center and see it as a place where they are comfortable and valued.”
Tucker said that a goal of the theme night was to expand the IDEAS Center as a part of student knowledge.
“A lot of the students who use the IDEAS Center are introduced to it by friends, faculty members or other staff members,” Tucker said. “But we have to think about the students who aren’t surrounded by people who know of the IDEAS Center.”
Hunt added the IDEAS Center staff wants to encourage students to take ownership of their experience within the IDEAS Center.
“We just want students to come to the theme night and have a laid-back experience,” Hunt said. “A lot of stress comes with the semester so we just want students to know that the IDEAS Center is a place where they can feel relaxed.”
Hunt mentioned that an inaugural Pride theme night was held in Jan. 2022 and that more theme nights will be organized in the future.
“We will be organizing a theme night every month for the rest of this semester,” Hunt said. “The next theme night will be in March and the theme will be A Letter to my She-ro.”
Hunt explained that the next theme night will be an open mic poetry style night where participants will be encouraged to give thanks to a woman that they see as a hero. Theme-related activities, food and crafts will also be available.
Rachel Olivares, ’23, who works at the IDEAS Center front desk, recalled her experience at the IDEAS Center throughout her time at Allegheny as highly engaging.
“I’m in my third year at Allegheny and I’ve been coming to the IDEAS since I was a freshman,” Olivares said. “There’s such an expansive range of people from all sorts of backgrounds that come here and so I’m always learning something new.”
According to Tucker, the IDEAS Center is a hub for diversity support services on campus.
“We talk to students about how they can get involved within the diversity structure at Allegheny based on the different aspects of their identity,” Tucker said. “We have over 16 Culture, Identity, and Leadership Coalition organizations that students can affiliate themselves with whether it’s based on culture, ethnicity or religion.”
Olivares also said that she has noticed newer faces as a result of the theme nights.
“I’ve seen people at the IDEAS who aren’t frequent visitors since the beginning of this semester,” Olivares said. “It’s also nice to see that the second theme night is already showing signs of improvement from the last one.”
Hunt reinforced that the IDEAS Center is a place where students can not only find resources to help their school work but is also a place where they can garner new experiences and find resources to help them in their personal lives.
“We’re here to help you in whatever way you need because we understand that things can get overwhelming sometimes,” Hunt said.
Tucker echoed the sentiment. He elaborated that while the IDEAS Center was constructed as a space in which students of color can feel safe and represented at a primarily white institution, it is committed to a welcoming environment.
“Although the IDEAS Center is a place where students of color should feel welcome and supported, it is important to note that that is not where it ends,” Tucker said. “While we do host a lot of diversity groups and organizations, every single member of the Allegheny community is welcome.”