The Markaz: Resource Center is the newest community center on Stanford’s campus, created through the advocacy of students, faculty and staff. On May 29, 2013, formal plans for the Markaz were announced with the goal of catering to a unique subset of the student population. Students who identify with or are interested in Muslim experiences both here and around the world can access the center’s wide variety of resources and programming. The Markaz brings together students from a wide array of cultures, and thus the name, which means “center” in Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, Turkish and Urdu, becomes even more meaningful.
The Markaz has several programs that aim to promote growth, resiliency and camaraderie. The center stimulates intellectual growth through the Chai Chat series, which allows members of the community to engage with difficult questions and pressing issues that face our society. Guest speakers come to campus, discussing everything from integrating LGBTQ+ Muslims to helping the refugee crisis locally. Wellness is also a priority of the Markaz, as the Project Pomegranate program holds workshops and study breaks to foster healthy practices for students. The weight of academic demands and other personal struggles can be overwhelming, and activities such as watercolor painting breaks in conjunction with lessons about handling stress help promote self-care. Additionally, the center provides group sessions and one-to-one counseling for community and individual healing.
Camaraderie flourishes within the vibrant yet soothing walls of the Markaz. Afternoon chai every week allows our community to meet new members and catch up over sweets and a steaming cup of tea. The professional staff and student team successfully create a welcoming atmosphere at this social hour. The Markaz also supports and works with 11 affiliated VSOs every week in their impactful, important work at Stanford.
To continue serving its community in the best way possible, the Markaz needs additional support for all that it does. A third professional staff member to help carry the burden of administrative tasks and day-to-day coordination of the space would be extremely helpful. This would allow the program associate and associate director to focus on assessing the qualitative worth of the new resources the center has been providing so far. This becomes even more crucial as the center hopefully shifts towards base funding with a budget that is renewed every year, rather than one-time grants every couple of years. The professional staff would also be able to collaborate more with admissions officers on outreach to prospective applicants, which would allow better recruitment and retention of students that identify with the Markaz community.
Furthermore, with the help of a third professional staff member, the staff could be able to devote more energy to consultations across campus about Muslim issues and sensitivity.
Ultimately, The Markaz’s presence on campus aims to address the needs of a robust community, while also serving as a model for other higher institutions as one of the first community centers of its kind. The center’s creation and quick growth also wouldn’t be possible without the history, advocacy and support of the other community centers. The success of the Markaz is inextricably linked to their successes, and so this is a call for adequate funding for the other community centers as well as our own.
Jana Kholy ‘20
Khaled Aounallah ‘19
Alex Rezai ‘18
Lina Karamali ‘20
Contact the authors at communitycentercoalition ‘at’ stanford.edu.