Asian American Resource Center hosts long-awaited grand opening of new location

By Kierra Frazier

DeKALB — The Asian American Resource Center [AARC] invited community members and students to the grand opening of its new location Monday.

AARC relocated Oct.17 from the Jacobs House, 429 Garden Road, to a location shared with NIU Health Services and the Department of Police and Public Safety at 375 Wirtz Drive.

AARC Director Michelle Bringas said the grand opening was a chance for alumni and students to see how much their hard work paid off.

“We had students who graduated in 2005 come in and see the new resource center,” Bringas said. “It’s gratifying to see alumni visit us when they too advocated for a change years ago.”

Monique Bernoudy, assistant vice president of academic diversity, equity and inclusion, said it was exciting to see NIU move forward with opportunities that student’s have been working on for years.  

“It’s an opportunity for alumni who have been involved in these conversations and plans for years to be able to come back and see that their work was not for naught,” Bernoudy said. “People have worked so hard and invested so much into it, it’s nice to have a space that’s so centrally located on campus.”

Bernoudy also said she’s excited for students to have a place they can utilize which is in the middle of campus. She said the AARC is a place where students can work on student development whether it’s academically or socially.

Ashley Palmer, office manager of the AARC, said the resource center has been waiting for a more permanent and proment space since it received the Jacob House in 2004.

The Jacob House was donated to NIU in 2004 and was known as one of the only Asian-American resource centers on a college campus in Northern Illinois, according to a timeline presented at the grand opening.

“The Jacob House was supposed to be a temporary site, but then we were there for 14 years,” Palmer said. “Since then, our programs and amount of students expanded without the expansion of resources or space, which started to weigh heavily on us.”

Bernoudy said the old AARC location didn’t provide the chance for discussion in a room with more than seven or eight people.

Most meetings in the Jacob House were held in the central room of the house which allowed up to 10 people. Organizations associated with the AARC, such as the Asian American Association and OHANA, held most of their meetings in the Holmes Student Center.

“There was no opportunity for presentations, classes, readings or places for student organizations to meet,” Bernoudy said. “It wasn’t consistent with the other resource centers we had on campus so it’s nice to have a place where students can actually come to.”

The new center provides a conference room, offices, a small kitchen and bathrooms. Bernoudy said the center is great for students who want to come in and do homework in between classes or warm up a meal in the microwave, which is provided for students.

Bringas said the new resource center can hold up to 50 to 80 people, opposed to the Jacob House where it’s maximum capacity was 10 people.

“The new space allows us to host different events at the same time,” Bringas said. “We hope to hold different workshops and study tables soon.”

Palmer said with the new location being in the middle of campus it feels more like a resource center than ever before.

Palmer also said it’s in the perfect location to market the center’s events better. She said it’s as simple as posting flyers on the windows of the AARC to attract more people walking by, something they weren’t able to do at the previous location.

“This new building allows us to expand our programs and services,” Palmer said. “We moved one of our programs, OHANA, back into the AARC and we are already seeing 40 to 50 people every Tuesday.”

Bringas said the resource center is made for anyone on campus and it’s not limited to only Asian-American students.

“For finals week we plan on opening up the center from 8am to 12am,” Bringas said. “Students will have the opportunity to come in and study whenever they want.”