Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 4 September 2015.Phone: 718-997-2980
History Founded by Professor Mark Rosenblum (director) and Sophia McGee (associate director) through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding (CERRU) was established at CUNY Queens College in 2009. According to McGee, CERRU was created to “provide a safe space for students, faculty, and the surrounding community to come together across ethnic, racial, and religious barriers to discuss issues that affect them and their daily lives.” While primarily a campus-based organization functioning as a student training and research institute, in recent years CERRU has increased its direct involvement with the surrounding community through joint programs and partnerships with other religious and interfaith institutions like the Flushing Interfaith Council [link to profile], the Queens Turkish Cultural Center, the Central Queens Y, and local synagogues. In addition, McGee emphasizes that CERRU hopes its work will shape surrounding areas through a “butterfly effect” in which students involved with CERRU bring the skills and lessons they’ve learned back to their own communities. At the same time, CERRU also regularly collaborates and maintains contact with the Queens College Office of Student Life, and the student and professional leadership of the campus’s various faith based clubs like the Muslim Student Association and the Hillel Club for Jewish Life. CERRU’s primarily goal, however, is to provide dialogue facilitation and conflict resolution skills training to student cohorts through their fellowship programs. CERRU’s role as what McGee calls a “hybrid organization” has allowed it to be in touch with both the campus administration as well as the needs of the college’s extremely diverse student body. CERRU is housed in Delaney Hall, which faces the Queens College Quad, and consists of several offices for staff and rooms for meetings with cohorts of students. When there are not formal meetings taking place, students often drop by during their breaks to chat with each other and the CERRU staff, lending the center a vibrant and club-like atmosphere. CERRU’s location within Queens College is itself significant as the college is located in Flushing, which McGee says makes the campus “a reflection of the surrounding community,” given that the neighborhood is “incredibly diverse both ethnically, racially, but also religiously.” Leadership CERRU was founded and is led by the current director, Professor Mark Rosenblum, and by current associate director, Sophia McGee. Four additional full-time staff members do research and work on CERRU’s student training and event programming. The six staff members are all also affiliated with different departments of the College, including the Center for Jewish Studies, the history department, and the Michael Harrington Center for Democratic Values and Social Change. According to McGee, because CERRU is run by a small “really smart, creative, innovative staff,” all decisions are made horizontally. Significantly, McGee emphasizes, the students that CERRU serves are also an important part of CERRU’s decision-making process and help to shape CERRU’s selection of dialogue topics and programming.