Center for Identity & Inclusion at CU Denver

The University of Colorado Denver, known for its diverse undergraduate student body, has changed the name of its Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP) to the Center for Identity & Inclusion (CII), marking an expansion of the center’s role in promoting a diverse campus. The CII seeks to enhance unity among all forms of diversity, with a name nimble enough to capture the nuances of identity.

“It’s not just a space. We’re honoring, providing resources, opportunities and education,” said Brenda J. Allen, PhD, vice chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion at CU Denver. The Center encompasses American Indian, Asian American, Black, and Latinx student services. It also provides programs and support to all students, faculty, and staff to cultivate a more inclusive campus.

EOP was founded at CU Denver in 1969 (as one of many similar programs across the United
States) to assist students from underrepresented racial-ethnic backgrounds as they sought access to higher education. CII celebrated its name change at a recent back-to-school event at the Student Commons Building. CII also announced a new name – Latinx – for its program for Latino/Latina students;  “Latinx” is inclusive of all gender identities.

A celebration of unity

Center for Identify & Inclusion name change event
Aztec dancers perform unity prayers at the Center for Identity & Inclusion back-to-school event at the Student Commons Building.

The annual event began with a Pueblo blessing by Benito Concha, from Taos, N.M., as well as the Taos Pueblo national anthem, performed by a healer who spoke of the history of the land under Denver as a place where people came together. He noted that everyone is indigenous to somewhere, and that CU Denver is still filling the role of a place where people come together.

After a lunch featuring wild rice, mushrooms, sushi and horchata, Aztec dancers performed two unity prayers. They spoke about three types of family – that which you’re born into, that which you’re adopted into, and that which you choose to join.

After these festivities, Allen announced the organization’s name change.

“EOP now moves into the next phase as the CII,” Allen said.

A history of success

The CII is currently writing a historical overview of the EOP to memorialize the program and its contributions to CU Denver. For nearly half a century, it supported underrepresented students, often providing a “home away from home” for students. Always highly student-driven, the program was also central to the creation of the university’s Ethnic Studies program.  It also was instrumental in developing CU Denver’s Intercultural Engagement Certificate program, which offers students opportunities to learn about and engage with various cultures.

Looking forward

By changing its name, the center hopes to better highlight its role on campus moving forward. The CII will continue to offer all the programs offered under EOP, while expanding its role to help people of all backgrounds and identity to come together – to unify.

“We’re truly inviting the campus community to value this jewel,” Allen said. “And our staff is going to be very deliberate in this regard to increase the visibility so that we can all benefit from what CII offers to our campus.”

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