Interim Associate Director for the Office of MISSE to maintain sense of community online

After coordinating the Latino and Native American Cultural Center for nearly two years, Thomas Arce was named Associate Director for the Office Multicultural and International Student Support and Engagement, which they said felt “full circle.”


Mary Hartel, News Reporter

After nearly two years working in the Latino and Native American Cultural Center on the University of Iowa campus, Thomas Arce started as interim associate director for the Office of Multicultural and International Student Support and Engagement this month.

Former associate director of the office, Tabitha Wiggins, was appointed interim director of the Center for Diversity and Enrichment at the UI earlier this month.

“For me, this is a very exciting moment and a very full circle moment,” Arce said.

Arce graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from the UI in 2012.

Arce said being involved with different programs such as Residence Education and the Latino Native American Cultural Center during their undergrad helped spark their interest in student affairs and student life professions.

Arce, originally from Gary, Indiana, said they got their Masters of Education in educational leadership and policy through Iowa State University, and then worked at Grinnell College and Southern Oregon University.

Arce returned to the UI in 2018 to serve as Latino and Native American Cultural Center coordinator — a program they initially got involved with as an undergrad student.

“I wanted an opportunity to come back to Iowa,” Arce said. “I always want to give back to what gave me, so kind of a pay-it-forward mentality.”

Stepping into their new position as interim associate director of the Office of Multicultural and International Student Support and Engagement in a remote work environment will be challenging, Arce said, and continuing online engagement and keeping up a social media presence will be key to maintaining a sense of community among the cultural centers.

Arce, who will continue their role as Latino and Native American Cultural Center coordinator until the position is temporarily filled, said adaptability and flexibility will help the centers adjust to the virtual format as the physical cultural centers will not be opening in the fall.

Arce added that they hope to strengthen the multicultural office’s campus partnerships, ties within different colleges, and to the division for student life to ensure student success remains the top priority.

The office will also adhere closely to the solidarity statement it released earlier this summer, committed to being proactive and critical of ways each center can focus on centering Blackness and dismantling anti-Black practices, Arce said.

Arce said they are looking forward to working closely with the rest of the center coordinators, along with the student staff.

“I’m excited for the team… this is not individual for me, but it’s really collective action,” Arce said. “I definitely see it as a team dynamic.”

Emma Welch, coordinator of the UI Pride Alliance Center, said she’s excited for Arce to be stepping into the new role of interim associate director of MISSE.

“Thomas is a visionary and has always brought creative and innovative ideas to our team. They definitely center students in their work and they always seek the why behind the action,” Welch said. “I’m really excited about that because especially right now, when we are living in this virtual world, it’s important to center why we take and make time to focus on the themes that the cultural centers and international student support and engagement covers.”

UI Director for Justice and Equity for the Undergraduate Student Government Ruth Kahssai said Thomas has been a helpful resource within her role of justice and equity and supporting BIPOC students.

“I think so many people that interact with Thomas, not only just students that are involved with the LNACC, can say that Thomas has been just incredibly helpful and supportive of them and their goals and their organizations,” Kahssai said. “It’s so well deserved.”