Brookdale’s Lincroft campus was transformed into an international hub of ideas, initiatives and cross-cultural experiences from Nov. 14-16 during 2017 International Education Week.
This year’s celebration, co-sponsored by a variety of college departments including the International Education Center (IEC), Student Life and Activities and the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program, was centered on the theme of “Unity in Diversity.”
At a time of unprecedented division and political strife in the U.S., IEC Director Janice Thomas said International Education Week served as a valuable opportunity to encourage inclusion, understanding and mutual respect among all members of the Brookdale community.
“Thinking about the values and the ties that bring us together is timeless, but we need to use every opportunity we have to let folks know that our community is open to them,” said Thomas. “No matter where you come from, no matter your background or your beliefs, you are welcome here.
“It’s also a great opportunity to encourage global thinking among our students,” she added. “It’s important to elevate our dialogue, to challenge traditional viewpoints and encourage healthy, productive discussion among the diverse members of our community. It’s that kind of dialogue that enables us to grow and affect real-world change.”
The week began with a college hour discussion hosted by grassroots activist and Belmar native Jim Keady, who spoke about his first-hand experience with the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015. Keady, who flew to Europe in the wake of the crisis to help refugees secure safe passage to Greece, spoke passionately about to need for young Americans to “wage peace” with the same fervor and determination that others wage war.
The presentation, held in the Student Life Center on Nov. 14, drew an audience of nearly 200 students, employees and community members.
Programming continued on Nov. 15 with an all-day, “Pop-up Cinema” screening of “The Road Home,” an award-winning 1999 Chinese film centered on a man’s quest to return home to his North China village following the death of his father.
On the same day, representatives from the University of Dundee, Scotland hosted a free information session on campus to discuss available study abroad opportunities and showcase traditional Scottish music and treats for Brookdale students.
On Nov. 16, in recognition of the United Nations’ International Day of Tolerance, students and employees from every corner of the college came together to host the 2017 International Festival. Attendees were treated to globally inspired music and cuisine along with a variety of free gifts, games and information booths representing nearly every continent on Earth.
At the International Students Association table, for example, students were encouraged to write their country of origin on a sticky note and add it to a massive map of the world. At the EOF Rising Leaders Academy’s table, students could add flair to the college’s new “Peace Pole” and create a custom handprint reflecting their unique national background, which was then added to a map titled “Hands Across the World.”
“It encourages students to interact and to appreciate their heritage,” said Rising Leaders member and Brookdale humanities major Maria Cortes. “Many people are often surprised to find out they have a different or a more diverse cultural background than they thought. Our goal is to erase that stigma and show that people are more than just one thing.”
Elsewhere, faculty from the Brookdale Reading Department hosted a table promoting Water for South Sudan, an international initiative aimed at drilling new, freshwater wells for hundreds of thousands of residents in rural, remote villages. Students from a wide range of clubs and departments, including the English as a Second Language program, the Brookdale Honors Program, the Asia Society and the Russian Club, offered attendees traditional entrees and desserts along with a wealth of information about their respective cultures.
Attendees could also don traditional clothing and snap pictures at a free group photo booth, take home a custom “lucky bamboo” plant, and sign a “Unite Against Hate” pledge sponsored by the Brookdale Diversity Council.
“This year’s theme – Unity in Diversity – is an important message,” said Cortes, whose parents hail from Columbia. “No one should feel like they are alone. We are all in this together.”
Programming concluded on Nov. 16 with a free screening of the documentary “The Deportation of Innocence,” hosted by the Dreamers+ Club in the Student Life Center.
Check out more photos of the 2017 International Festival here.