Meet The Greenfield Intercultural Center. Fondly known as the GIC to those who have been involved with it before, the Greenfield Intercultural Center serves as a home to countless students on campus.
Created to serve first–generation low–income students at Penn, the GIC also provides innumerable services to many other students who are interested in what the center has to offer.
While many of the workers enjoy their time at the GIC, for student–assistant Ivy Williams (C '19), it’s fun. “You get to meet different people. Different FGLI students, you get to see different faces, interact with different people. I usually crack corny jokes all day long to people that come in with sad faces.”
So, what’s the main objective? “On an institutional level, we try to bring intercultural awareness and bridge people together. It’s a safe space and it’s a home for people, but it’s also a way to increase intercultural awareness,” states graduate student worker, Sara Wong.
Ivy adds, “We have a lot of events going on. For example, for those that are undocumented we provide support services. Earlier this year when Trump reformed DACA, Penn law center came here and provided free of charge services to DACA students about their processes and offered information about how Trump’s new laws would impact them. We support all communities.”
Ivy can trace her decision to become more involved in the GIC to an experience she had there her freshman year during Thanksgiving.“Everybody came and cooked throughout the whole day and I didn’t go home. I usually don’t go home for a lot of the breaks because going home is sometimes not an option. Thanksgiving Day we had movies, games, food, we had a lot of fun, even after hours.”
She remembers how the director of the center got to know her more personally and connected her to resources when she needed them. “They are resourceful and they care about the welfare of the students and about establishing relationships with students.”
For those who are hesitant to come, Sara encourages everyone to reach out. “It’s never too late. I also feel like whenever people hear the word intercultural they automatically assume that it’s only for certain groups of people, which isn’t true. It’s a space for anyone. Especially for people who are interested in understanding about different races or different religions—it’s a home, a safe space. Definitely stop by. Most of the time we also have food here, so if people are ever hungry, stop by and get some food! The intercultural center isn’t just for people of color.”
Sara told me a bit about the kinds of students the center serves. Although many are FGLI students, the GIC has offerings such as a textbook library and a kitchen that are open and appeal to everyone. She says, “I feel like we get a bunch of students, not just FGLI students. I think it’s mostly people who are interested in finding a space, who want a safe space, because this space is kind of like a home. Everyone’s so welcoming, everyone’s always offering something to students. So, I would say a mixture. There isn’t really a definition of who comes here, everyone is welcome at the GIC.”
In addition to students, the GIC invites many guests including faculty members and other professionals to come in and give talks, according to fellow worker, Cristian Garcia.
Ivy cheerfully says, “Amy Gutmann comes in, she sends gifts and whatnot, because she’s FGLI too.” Once a full–scholarship student at Harvard, President Gutmann was the first in her family to graduate from college. She has more than doubled the number of students from low–income and first–generation college families attending Penn.
Despite the GIC and Amy G’s efforts, there’s still room for improvement. Ivy believes that both professors and peers should be more sensitive towards the issues faced by students in these communities.
Sara states, “I work with FGLI students and I hear their concerns, most of which are usually financial. I think a lot of it has to do with not having enough money for textbooks, and there are certain costs that are just not included in the costs of attendance, so I wish that Penn could be more transparent about that when giving students awards so that students know exactly what is covered. I think Penn is getting better at being more cognizant about that, but definitely there are still students struggling financially despite their package.”
As for upcoming events, 1vyG, a large conference meant to empower FGLI students across the Ivy League, is coming to Penn in a couple of weeks. “It’s for different students who go to different schools in the Ivy League. It’s a way for students to connect with each other, to better understand their identity, and to explore how to navigate higher education given their identities.”
And every day there are new things going on at the GIC. So go! Check it out. Maybe you will find a space you didn't know you needed.