ISSO, Honors College celebrate global community
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The International Students and Scholars office collaborated with the Honors College to hold “Celebration! An International Meet and Greet” at 11 a.m. on Feb. 28 in the Honors College, which is in Oak View Hall.
The goal was to have a good time while recognizing global connections on campus through study abroad, language learning and cultural exploration.
The function began with a word from Graeme Harper, dean of the Honors College, who came up with the idea for the event. He assigned students the task of meeting one person from somewhere new — and to eat as much food as possible.
The latter was not different, as there was what seemed like a mile-long table of international dishes. From butter halal chicken to vegetable samosas, no one left hungry.
Harper aimed for the event to be more of a party. The room was decked out with colorful centerpieces and flags from around the globe. Guests wore party hats to top off the festive look.
While mingling, attendees were encouraged to grab sticky notes and jot down why they thought international experiences and students are important to OU. The notes were then posted on a map.
Caitlyn Theis, a junior marketing major, said she recognizes the importance of learning about various cultures. She has a personal connection: Her roommate is from the Middle East.
“It’s great to see life through different perspectives, even just in eating the food or hearing about their experiences growing up,” said Theis.
Later, rhythmic melodies reverberated throughout the room as people were treated to a performance by Mark Stone, coordinator of the World Music Program for the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance. He played the traditional gyil, a pentatonic xylophone from Ghana.
Stone has worked to share global music with the OU community through different ensembles and concerts, and has led study-abroad trips to Ghana and Trinidad.
“Events like this give us an opportunity to celebrate our common humanity,” Stone said. “We are all citizens of this planet, and as such, need to recognize the oneness of humanity.”
Allison Radell, assistant director of the ISSO, said the function may be even more important in light of America’s current political climate.
“Recently, there have been some public displays of hatred or fear of immigrants, and it is important for international as well as domestic students to know that we are a safe and welcome environment here at OU that values all of our global connections,” Radell said.
Stone referred to the “us vs. them” mentality being pushed by some politicians.
“To counter this, we must shun all partisan politics, all divisions of race and all divisions of religion, and instead acknowledge that we are one,” Stone said. “It is time for us to simply move to an ‘us and us’ way of thinking.”
Sharfaa Chowdhury, a senior nursing major, said she feels similarly.
“It makes you realize you have more similarities than differences with people of different backgrounds,” Chowdhury said.
Harper said that no one benefits from ignoring global understanding and rejecting global cooperation.
“A nation becomes infinitely weaker when it only looks inward,” he said.
Harper believes participants celebrated ideals embedded in OU’s DNA.
“Oakland University has such a wonderful relationship with global understanding,” Harper said. “It was part of our founders’ vision that students here at Oakland would be global citizens — that they would meet people from many countries, who would travel to study at this wonderful institution, and that students from here in Michigan would go out into the world, too.”
Moving forward, other organizations will soon be holding multi-cultural events on campus. This includes International Night on March 24 and Arabic Week from March 27-31.
For more information on the ISSO, visit https://oakland.edu/isso/.