The Cross-Cultural Center was founded on October 16, 1974 by a group of concerned UCI faculty, staff, and students who recognized the need for creating a social-cultural support system for ethnic minority students. We were the first UC campus to establish a multicultural center. The stated purpose of the center was "to create Third World interaction, student outreach, and provide necessary information to the minority community on campus." The first director was Dr. Larry Onoda, a psychologist from the Counseling Center. The Cross-Cultural Center was housed in an 1,800 square foot temporary building located across Ring Mall from the School of Humanities. The original facility consisted of a reception area, a director's office, several student offices, and a conference room separated from the reception area by an accordion-style partition. Under the direction of one full-time staff, and in partnership with students, faculty, and staff, the 'Cross,' as it affectionately came to be known, embarked upon a series of programs, activities, and services support the emerging needs of UCI's growing underrepresented student population.
In 1976, the Cross-Cultural Center dedicated the first of several murals that would become synonymous with the facility. The first mural, designed and painted by UCI students, was developed under the direction of Manuel Hernandez, a visiting lecturer in Studio Art. It depicts prominent historical figures who were voices for equality and justice. It also portrays significant events in the annals of California's minority communities.
Another date important in the hxstory of the Cross-Cultural Center was the creation of the annual Rainbow Festival (now known as the Community Roots Festival). Established in 1984, the Rainbow Festival has become a tradition at UCI and has served as a multicultural program model for other colleges and universities. Occurring in the fall, the Rainbow Festival is a celebration of cultural and ethnic diversity that offers a cultural fair for the entire campus community. The theme of UCI's first Rainbow Festival was Many Faces, Many Dreams.
Changing demographics and campus growth necessitated the expansion and relocation of the Cross-Cultural Center. After considerable campus debate about the siting of the new center, it was determined that the new Cross-Cultural Center would be located on Ring Mall across from the Administration Building (now Aldrich Hall). On April 18, 1989, the new center opened its doors to the UCI community. The facility grew to be 3,400 square feet and consisted of a lounge, administrative offices, student offices, a small library, a student work room, and two conference rooms divided by a moveable partition. The original mural, dedicated in 1976, was moved to the new facility and is prominently displayed in the lounge. In 1993, a mural conceived by the well-known muralist, Judy Baca, was installed in the Ring Room. Commissioned by the National Institute of Mental Health for the National Conference on Refugee Services, and undertaken as a mural class project by UCI students, this mural depicts the silent suffering of Asian/Vietnamese and Latino/Central American refugee communities.
In the spring of 1991, concerned student organizations within the Cross-Cultural Center established the Ethnic Students Coalition Against Prejudicial Education (E.S.C.A.P.E.). The goal of E.S.C.A.P.E. was to push for the implementation of ethnic studies programs at UCI. All of the student umbrella organizations unified in this effort and they sponsored several major rallies to generate campus support. In 1993, Asian American students held a 35-day rotational hunger strike in an effort to secure more faculty for the Asian American studies program as well as an additional staff member for the Cross-Cultural Center. This extended but peaceful protest received considerable media attention and galvanized the Asian American community.
In July 1999, Corina Espinoza departed UCI for a position at California State University, Bakersfield. Corina had served 15 years in various staff positions at the Cross-Cultural Center, nine as Director. After serving as Acting Director, Anna K. Gonzalez became Director of the Cross-Cultural Center in 2000. In 2008, Anna departed UCI for a position as Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Director of the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Anna left the Cross-Cultural Center having contributed to another CCC expansion. This expansion, in conjunction with a referendum that redeveloped UCI’s Student Center, led to the creation of an administrative suite of offices on the third floor, as well as a large multipurpose room dedicated to Professor Emeritus Joseph L. White, who is known as the godfather of Black psychology. Upon Anna’s departure, Kevin Huie was hired as the Director of the Cross-Cultural Center and served in this role until July 2015. Jade K. Agua joined us from Santa Clara University in December 2015 and served as Director until May 2018 and left for an opportunity to join the USC Race & Equity Center. In May 2018, Marcela Ramirez-Stapleton joined the Cross-Cultural Center as Interim Director.
During the 2011-2012 academic year, the students at the Cross-Cultural Center, led by graduate student Yaron Hakim and 2010 alumna Edwina Dai, both from UCI’s Department of Studio Arts, created its third mural. Though untitled, this mural was created to give voice to students who were wanting to express their values and perspectives during a time in which their education was threatened by the drastic cuts throughout the state – a result of a national economic crisis. The mural is now hung immediately outside of the Dr. Joseph L. White Room.
Five student umbrella organizations continue to be recognized by the Cross-Cultural Center: Alyansa ng mga Kababayan, American Indian Student Association (AISA), Asian Pacific Student Association (APSA), Black Student Union (BSU), and Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlan (MEChA). The number of individual organizations under these five umbrella organizations continue to grow. As it has since its establishment in 1974, the Cross-Cultural Center continues to provide many students a home away from home. And for many, it remains a safe space from which students may launch their involvement in a myriad of campus programs and leadership opportunities.