New Program Wakes Up Students to Different Cultures

Global Students Programs and Development introduces a biweekly event as an extension of the university's commitment to diversity

Mar. 13, 2015 By Mystiana Victorino

Biola University’s student body represents more than 40 different countries with nearly 500 global students currently enrolled. With such a wide variety of cultures, Global Students Programs and Development (GSPD) director Stephanie Sanford noticed a need to bolster students’ awareness of diverse cultures and create an open environment for dialogue between ethnic groups on campus. One solution is the new program, Wake Up Wednesdays.

“The goal of the program is to build bridges between cultures, and provide students with an opportunity to share who they are with one another,” said Sanford.


Finding common ground is the starting point for establishing unity between cultures, according to Sanford.


“We have things in common. We are all humans, we all share the same faith,” said Sanford.

 

She emphasized how realizing similarities can be key in developing relationships and understanding other cultures while respecting the differences.


In pursuit of Biola’s mission to respect and reflect the multiethnic, multicultural and multinational church body, GSPD started hosting Wake Up Wednesdays — a biweekly cultural celebration program which aims to introduce students to learn about other countries and cultures.


An estimated 400 students have participated in past Wake-Up Wednesdays, which have included presentations of Czech Republic, Slovakia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Korea, Ethiopia and China.

 

Sanford described a global student as one who is local to a culture outside of the U.S. and also has spent a significant period of their developmental years there. This would include children of missionaries, children who were raised within a culture outside of their parents’ culture and traditional international students.


With an objective to bridge the gap between global and domestic students, as well as international students, Sanford and her team brainstormed for a lighthearted and non-intrusive way to continue positive multicultural interaction on campus. Wake Up Wednesdays were initiated in the fall semester of 2014.

 

The four student event coordinators in charge of organizing the program decided to highlight one country per week through ethnic dishes, dances, crafts, clothing, musical instruments and more. Student volunteers are in charge of creating the space, where they strive to make the experience as authentic as possible.

 

“It’s a gateway event where people can start engaging with other people from different places,” said senior business major Edlyn Tjhatra, who is one of the student coordinators. “It gives opportunities for the global students to share their cultures and stories, and it gives domestic students the opportunity to engage with those stories.”

GSPD anticipates to host at least five Wake-Up Wednesdays per semester.

Written by Mystiana Victorino, iBiola intern. For more information, contact Jenna Bartlo, media relations specialist, at (562) 777-4061 or jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu.

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