The Intercultural Center at Swarthmore has seen significant transformation in space and personnel over the past year, and while substantial changes in leadership and staff can often create challenges as a program transitions, the new staff members and students alike are determined to hit the ground running this semester.
After Nyk Robinson, the former interim assistant IC director and associate director of gender and sexuality initiatives, departed at the end of last year, Imaani El-Burki was hired to be assistant dean and director of the IC. Tiffany Thompson was also came on board as the associate director of gender and sexuality initiatives and Women’s Resources Center program manager. Hanan Ahmed ᾿19 was hired as diversity, inclusion and community development associate.
Imaani El-Burki, the new assistant dean and director of the IC, is returning to Swarthmore after having first visited the campus in 2008 as a Black Cultural Center graduate intern. El-Burki also spent two years as the program director for Project Blueprints, which provided academic and cultural support for middle and high school children in the Chester, PAarea.
El-Burki received her BA in communication from Temple University, an MS. in communication and Ph.D. in communication, culture, and media from Drexel University. El-Burki also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Lehigh University, where she worked as both an active professor and associate director of Africana studies, before moving to become the Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Moravian College.
Tiffany Thompson is the new associate director of gender and sexuality initiative and WRC program manager. Thompson has fifteen years of involvement in sexual and reproductive health, gender rights, homelessness, trauma, and LGBTQ+ advocacy. Thompson completed a BA in international business and marketing with a Japanese minor, at Georgetown University, and an MS. in strategic communications at Temple University.
Thompson comes to Swarthmore from her role as the associate director of the LGBT Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to this she has been involved with the Philadelphia Youth Network, Philadelphia FIGHT’s Youth Health Empowerment Project, and Galaei (a queer Latinx social justice nonprofit based in Philadelphia). Thompson has also served as the city liaison for the Philly Dyke March, a grantee selection member of the Jonathan Lax Scholarship Fund for Gay Men, and spent five years abroad in Japan.
Hanan Ahmed is the new diversity, inclusion and community development associate. A 2019 Swarthmore graduate, Ahmed, completed a BA in psychology and Peace and Conflict Studies. During her time as a student Ahmed was a lab associate with Professor Ann Renninger in the Educational Psychology lab, a Student Academic Mentor, and was one of three Swarthmore students selected to participate in a Stanford University Innovation Fellowship. Over the past summer Ahmed interned at the Black Women’s Health Alliance in North Philadelphia, helping with the organization of the National Coalition of Black Women’s Domestic Violence Summit, as well as co-facilitating a Safe Dates Teen Dating Violence workshops.
“As a new team in this space and in this building we are excited to support and inspire the creation of a shared vision. Our goal is to build upon the already rich culture of the Hormel-Nguyen Intercultural Center as the empowering and healing environment that the IC is to the Swarthmore Community,” wrote El-Burki, Thompson, and Ahmed in a joint statement in an email to the Phoenix.
Working alongside the staff to coordinate the IC program for this semester are a team of interns. These students are involved in the organisation of the center’s activities, from hosting discussions on relevant matters, to providing resources to other groups on campus.
Looking forward to the semester ahead IC intern Dani Gomez ᾿22 is confident that the IC’s transition will be seamless.
“The interns are really invested in making this a smooth transition … it was really important that we have deans that understand the students and don’t come from a place of ‘back where I used to work we did it this way’ … having the ability to adapt to our environment, to realise what we need, and what direction we want to be going, I think is really important,” said Gomez.
As the semester unfolds the IC team is fully dedicated to providing a supportive and empowering environment for the student body.