A look inside The Culture Corner

A student-designed safe space In for cultural discussions and identity exploration

You matter here. That’s the message students will read when they enter The Culture Corner, a newly curated space within the Health Sciences Building where students can go between classes to rest, study and discuss and learn about various cultures and identities.

The University of Cincinnati offers a diverse range of resources and support services that are designed to help students thrive. Uptown Campus, for example, is home to several spaces that promote a sense of community among students, including the African American Cultural Resource Center, Women’s Center and LGBTQ Center, to name a few. While these resources are available to all UC students, it can be difficult for students taking classes on medical campus to access them in person due to the distance between campuses.

To cultivate a stronger sense of community among students within the College of Allied Health Sciences (CAHS) on the medical campus, a group of students advocated for creating The Culture Corner.

“We want [students] to walk in and immediately feel like this is a place where they can be themselves. This is a place where they can speak their thoughts and be their authentic selves in a way that maybe they can’t elsewhere,” said Taryn Booker, a second-year master’s student studying speech-language pathology.

These students are so driven to make changes that better our university community.

Amy Hobek Associate professor and clinical supervisor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department

Bringing the space to life

Booker, along with speech-language pathology graduate students Jasmine Robinson and Lauren Prather, is part of a student-led diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) subcommittee within the college’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders that meets monthly to explore ways to increase equitable opportunities. During the group’s first meeting in the fall of 2022, Robinson voiced the idea to establish a space to foster a greater sense of inclusion and community at the college. Prather, who co-led the committee with another student, had a friend who created a similar space at a different university and was immediately on board.

Prather, Robinson and Booker each played a significant role in turning this idea into reality. After garnering support from Amy Hobek, who served as the department’s DEI committee co-chair at the time, the students were encouraged to apply for grant funding from the college’s DEI office. In preparation for presenting their proposal for the grant, Prather advocated for funding at the college’s DEI meetings, Robinson crafted a blueprint for the space and summarized its purpose, and Booker designed the logo and helped spread the word among students. Last March, the trio received $1,000 through a CAHS diversity award to support their mission.

“These students are so driven to make changes that better our university community,” said Amy Hobek, PhD, CCC-SLP, an associate professor and clinical supervisor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department. “As Black students in a predominantly white institution, they have lived experiences in needing a space where they can recharge, connect and feel a sense of community and belonging. Now they are paving the way for more inclusion and community for all students, current and future, in CAHS.”

Students enjoy refreshments at the grand opening of the Culture Corner.

Students enjoy refreshments at the grand opening of the Culture Corner. Photo/Sarah Eifert

Last spring, Prather, Robinson and Booker used the grant money to host a mixer to garner more awareness of the planned space among students, faculty and staff and gauge their reactions. The feedback they received reinforced the need for this kind of space, with several undergraduate and graduate students sharing that they would use the space to decompress, meet with classmates and friends, engage in difficult conversations and explore culturally relevant resources.

Prather, Robinson and Booker then secured additional funding from CAHS and resource support from external sponsors like the Student Inclusiveness Office at Northern Kentucky University (NKU), as well as local businesses The Roundtree Group, Dynamic Therapy, Hear2Speak Academy, GDMoore Photography and SpeechTea Podcast.

After designating a portion of the Learning Commons on the first floor of the Health Sciences Building for The Culture Corner, the three speech-language pathology graduate students spent the next year collaborating with faculty like Hobek and other students and staff to curate an inviting, warm and inclusive space.

Booker, for example, partnered with Devonte Stewart, program coordinator for the college’s dean’s office, to purchase furniture and educational materials. Prather designed the You Matter Here signage, which was inspired by NKU’s Student Inclusiveness Office. Jaiden Hilton, a second-year speech-language hearing sciences student helped design and construct the space, while Hobek helped manage the budget, timeline and other logistics.

Increasing inclusion for future students

In April, Prather, Robinson and Booker hosted a grand opening for The Culture Corner and encouraged students to donate books that reflected their cultures and identities. In addition to the materials and resources displayed on a bookshelf, the space features soft chaise-like chairs, a couch and a coffee table and side tables, plus personal “homey” touches like rugs, lamps, fake plants and a red neon sign that reads The Culture Corner.

“We want it to be a safe space where students can go to sit and rest between classes,” said Robinson, a second-year speech-language pathology master’s student. “We want it to be comfortable enough that people from different backgrounds can feel comfortable being there among each other and have discussions about identity and culture.”

The Culture Corner, Robinson said, will not only support the college’s recruitment efforts by attracting prospective students but it will also support retention by showing current students that they are safe and accepted exactly as they are.

“[Investing in creating this space] shows that UC is not afraid to stand up for the students who belong to this college,” said Prather, PhD, CCC-SLP, who earned her PhD in speech-language pathology in May.

Prather hopes The Culture Corner will inspire other colleges to create similar spaces in their respective buildings to foster a greater sense of belonging and inclusion for students. Robinson and Booker, who will graduate in August, hope that students serving on the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders’ DEI Committee will continue to steward the space and update it to reflect the needs of future students.

“The Culture Corner space signals to our students, especially our students from underrepresented cultures and ethnicities, that we see you and care that you feel like you belong in the College of Allied Health Sciences,” said Larisa Franklin Wright, the college’s assistant director of diversity, equity and inclusion. “I am even more happy that the space was designed by our student group to meet their needs and will continue to be stewarded by students.”

Students sit in the culture corner at the grand opening.

Students sit in the culture corner at the grand opening. Photo/Sarah Eifert

Featured image at top: Left to right: Jasmine Robinson, Lauren Prather, Taryn Booker and Amy Hobek sit on the couch in the newly assembled Culture Corner. Photo/Sarah Eifert

The Culture Corner

The Culture Corner is open to all students. Use your Bearcat card to enter and check it out today. The Culture Corner is located in the Health Sciences Building, G05. 

Headshot of Katie Coburn

Katie Coburn


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