Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center is turning 50! Share your memories

Through a project curated by Kelly ECC staff, Isabella Dalmacio shares the meaning of the center.

Lyndsey Ferguson

In the late 1960s, students called on the University to create an on-campus meeting space for underrepresented minority students. That dream was realized in late 1972 with the grand opening of the Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center, one of the first and largest student cultural centers in the nation.

Starting this fall and well into 2022, the Kelly ECC is celebrating 50 years of serving the student community. One of the key events is a Grand Celebration from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 3. The entire campus, alumni and University community are invited to attend.

Research shows that ethnic spaces on campuses help underrepresented minority students feel a greater sense of belonging. A UW/University of Exeter study published last spring used data collected from hundreds of students to explore the value of establishing cultural spaces like the ECC. The study found that such spaces announce to the entire campus that the students served by a cultural center are valued and welcomed at the university.

Khatami Chau

In its half-century of use, the Kelly ECC has been a hangout and second home for thousands of students. With a dance studio, a midsize theater, meeting and multipurpose rooms, offices for student organizations and places to just drop in and do homework, the center is a weekly or even daily stop for BIPOC undergraduates. It has also become a place where students can find advising, support and empowerment.

To commemorate the anniversary, students and staff at the center are asking alumni to share their memories, stories and reflections from their years at the ECC.

The University of Washington Magazine, Viewpoint and the ECC is hoping you will share your stories and photographs. Please reach out through For more details about the Grand Celebration, contact Maggie Fonseca, at