Students celebrate culture at GV

GVL / Sara Carte - The Kaufman Interfaith Institute Program Manager, Katie Gordon, speaks with students and staff at the Religius & Spiritual Identity Listening Sessions in the DeVos Campus on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2016.

Sara Carte

GVL / Sara Carte – The Kaufman Interfaith Institute Program Manager, Katie Gordon, speaks with students and staff at the Religius & Spiritual Identity Listening Sessions in the DeVos Campus on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2016.

Ashlyn Korienek

Festivals offer the chance to indulge in entertainment, activities and, of course, try free food. However, they also provide the opportunity to try something new and learn about diversity. At Grand Valley State University, the Intercultural Festival has become a tradition to ensure students experience culture in an interactive way.

The 2016 Intercultural Festival, hosted by the Laker Traditions Team, took place from March 22 to March 24. During the week, various events were hosted by GVSU clubs and organizations, however many events will happen throughout the day Thursday.

Noelle Milad, coordinator of the event, said the festival became a tradition in 2005, but later transitioned into an official annual event in 2012, when the Laker Traditions Team was established.

The festival, Milad said, celebrates diversity at GVSU with the understanding that culture represents human traits defined not only by one’s ethnicity.

“I think that GVSU is recognizing diversity very well. We are making a lot of progress, and we are doing it more than has been done before,” she said. “We have a long way to go and progress to be made, but I think people are embracing culture at Grand Valley and showcasing it to their peers in new ways.”

Last year, Milad said the festival was a week-long process with small scattered events throughout each day. By condensing the process into three days, the festival can now encompass diversity issues on a larger scale with fewer featured events.

“Grand Valley is an ever-growing diverse campus, and it’s imperative that we support each and every student for who they are, and the unique characteristics they bring to the campus,” Milad said. “Taking on the event this year, I really wanted to focus on small cultural or special interest organizations that have a huge impact on the culture of our university.”

The 2016 schedule featured more than 10 events.

Here are some of the highlights of the festival:

Tuesday, March 22

To kick off the festival, the Muslim Student Association hosted “Wear-A-Hijab Day” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center’s Lobby. Students were encouraged to try on hijabs, express how they felt and take photos to post on the MSA Facebook page for awareness.

Jesse Bernal, vice president of the Division of Inclusion and Equity at GVSU, revealed the fall 2015 Campus Climate Survey results at 4 p.m. in the Mary Idema Pew Multipurpose Room. Those who attended could ask questions and learn more about the university’s 2016-21 strategic plan.

The only event to feature multiple cultural groups, “All Around the World” offered students the chance to learn about GVSU’s diversity and culture. The event took place at Pere Marquette from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., where several GVSU student organizations were presented at the event.

Wednesday, March 23

The Duke’s Ball Renaissance Festival offered the chance for students to learn about different eras, weapons, cultures and lifestyles related to the Renaissance. From 5 p.m to 10 p.m., the event was hosted in the Kirkhof Center’s Room 2263, where various weapons were on display.

To end the night, GVSU’s Italian Club shared the “Chocolate History of Italy” along with providing samples of tasty Italian sweets. Starting at 7 p.m., guest speaker Francine Segan, a food and cultural historian, presented in Kirkhof’s Grand River Room.

Thursday, March 24

For the final day of the festival, the annual event “Sexy Accent Night” will take place in Kirkhof’s Grand River Room from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. This event celebrates the diversity of GVSU’s international students, along with free food and entertainment.

Wrapping up the celebration, the GVSU Drag Show for 2016 will begin at 9 p.m. located at Cook-DeWitt Center. The Residence Housing Association is hosting the event, and anyone is welcome to attend.

Sean O’Melia, Laker Traditions Team programming chair, said the Intercultural Festival is one of the most important Laker traditions, as it helps to unify different groups and cultures across campus. O’Melia expected an exceptional turnout this year for all of the featured events.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if all of the events had filled rooms, because I know that the coordinator and the organizations have put a lot of effort into the events,” he said. “Students get to learn and grow to become culturally minded, competent individuals, which is something that I don’t think many other events on campus provide.”