Emerging from behind the high brick wall that obscured its previous home, the Carl A. Fields Center is hoping that its gleaming new location at 58 Prospect Ave. will encourage broader campus interest in its multicultural events and programs.
“It’s amazing how a change of address — literally across the street — has made such a difference,” said Makeba Clay, director of the center.
Ceremonies were held Sept. 17 to celebrate the center’s move across Olden Street from the former Osborn Clubhouse into the restored Italianate revival structure that once housed Elm Club, an eating club. Renovations and construction of a 5,000-square-foot addition that houses a gallery and large reception area took more than a year.
The Fields Center, established in 1971 as the Third World Center, traditionally has had a dual function: to be a supportive facility for minority students, and a place to promote diverse experiences through training, social programs, and service. The center can play an important role in developing the ability of students to “lead in a diverse world,” Clay said, and the facility plans to emphasize leadership, empowerment, social justice, and understanding as its core values.
The building’s third floor is the home of Community House, created by students 40 years ago to address the achievement gap of minority students in the Princeton public schools. Among its programs is a tutoring center staffed by students and community volunteers.
“Community House really brings home the point that Princeton is willing to help out its community, whether that means internationally or right here,” said Jane Yang ’11, a member of the organization’s executive board. “With our new location, we can reach out to the entire University community and get more support from within the ‘orange bubble.’”
Speaking at the opening event, President Tilghman said she expected the Fields Center and Community House to continue to provide students “with opportunities for service, with places to celebrate diversity and to celebrate differences, and to see those as enriching rather than limiting.”
The Daily Princetonian said in an editorial that the center’s new visibility provides an opportunity to overcome what it termed “a striking lack of awareness of the center, its mission, and what its role could be on campus.”
Clay said a primary goal for this year is to “introduce ourselves to the Street.” Students and staff hope that the building will become a popular location for social events, especially by the more than 30 campus programs and groups supported by the center. Thursday nights will feature musical performances followed by dance parties. The center hosts a social-issues roundtable over lunch on Fridays, in which students meet with local activists and faculty members.
Alumni have played an important role in the center’s activities, Clay said, pointing to a speaker series on leadership and a mentoring program. The center is seeking additional funding through the University’s Aspire campaign.The center was named the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding in July 2002 in honor of Fields, who became the first black administrator to hold a significant position at an Ivy school when he was appointed Princeton’s assistant director of student aid in 1964.