Hey readers! My junior year continues to surprise me with novel opportunities to experience cultures foreign to my own. Did you know there are refugee families living in the western suburbs of Chicago? Are you aware of the controversy over mosque-communities in both towns and cities throughout the U.S.? Continue reading to find out-
Exodus World Services is an inspirational organization that reaches out to families in foreign countries that are experiencing discrimination and even persecution because of their religion, ethnicity, and marginalized position in society. With the help of Exodus, each week families make their way from refugee camps and slums to airports where they are then flown to the United States. They are provided housing normally in areas where people of their same country of origin are located.
For the same course mentioned in my last post, in which I have spent time with ELS students, my peers and I recently participated in a Welcome to America! Pack program event. Over the course of this spring semester we collected household supplies to provide for a family of eight from Burma (Also known as Myanmar, but this term has a negative connotation for refugees). On the day we visited the family’s apartment in Wheaton, IL, to drop off the supplies, they had arrived earlier that same day. Even after their long flight from Burma they still had the energy and courage to spend time with us. We helped them put away kitchen items, prepare bedrooms, and even showed them how to dispense plastic wrap from its container (The hardest part is finding which end to open). The family knew only broken English, but with the help of the Exodus contact person we were able to hold a conversation about why they chose to leave Burma and what their hopes are as Burmese-Americans. Since I come from the suburb of Carol Stream, during this coming summer I hope to participate in the New Neighbor Program, when I would meet with the family once a week for three months.
Time to change paths, but follow the same general direction-
Jamil Khoury, artistic director and cofounder of the theatre production company Silk Road Rising, is a bold playwright with the tools to break into the public discourse of Islamophobia affecting American Culture. Through Silk Road Rising he is directing the Mosque Alert project. Khoury recently came to campus to give a presentation about his work thus far on the project. He spoke about his inspiration for the production and process involved in its creation. He then showed a video called Meet Mosque Alert, which presents the characters and introduces the various conflicts that occur between two families: a young Muslim couple and a Caucasian Christian family of four. A second video titled The Imam and the Homosexual was shown, which highlights the normally unspoken comparisons and contrasts between Muslim and LGBTQ discrimination. As a Catholic institution working toward ‘the creation of a more just and humane world,’ students should expect to engage in dialogue over liberties and prejudices concerning both religion and sexual orientation.
Illinois is metaphorically ablaze with controversy over the provision of citizenship to refugees and undocumented immigrants alike. During this same period, society is in a state of unrest over non-Christian faiths and gender norms. Dominican is an active community in search of the Truth, for the sake of love and justice, in the same sort of manner as of St. Dominic de Guzman during his own time.
Dominican University is an intercultural goldmine. As a communication student I have had two opportunities to get to know foreign students in English Language Services (ELS), based on the Priory Campus. Students who enroll in ELS spend from a few months to a couple years at Dominican to learn the ever-prevalent English language. Some students decide to stay in the U.S. to earn a bachelors or masters degree. They visit from South Korea, Taiwan, China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Argentina, among other countries.
The first opportunity I had for intercultural conversation was with Mjeed, a male student from Saudi Arabia, during the spring of my sophomore year. We met on two occasions for an interview about the Saudi Arabian culture. While I learned about Mjeed’s culture from back home, he was able to practice the English he was focusing so much of his time on learning. I was surprised to learn that people in Saudi Arabia who are caught littering on the street are fined. Religious practices of the Islamic faith and other daily activities are intermingled. During a school day students have faith-recesses (a phrase I created) when they go for brief prayer services at a local mosque. Women in Saudi Arabia at home are not expected to wear a hijab or veil. The work place is slowly adjusting to a enlarging pool of female professionals.
This current spring semester I am participating in a second opportunity to spend time with ELS students. A fellow Dominican undergrad student and I have met with a group of four Saudi Arabian male students. We have gone to the local coffee shop, bowling alley, and Italian cafe. The focus of this time together is to dialogue about social justice topics- homelessness, global poverty, sexual orientation issues, discrimination, labor practices etc. My peers and I have enjoyed every moment spent with them. We share more similarities than differences.
I am pleasantly exasperated by the many speakers who have graced the campus. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and the anniversary of Vatican II have brought a commended group of thought-provoking men and women. During the past month Tim Wise and Jane Elliot (See Abel’s blog) separately came to campus to encourage reflections on societally approved white privilege and innate bigotry. Students and staff alike were called to open their eyes to the possibility of change, for greater community driven by compassion. Dominican is providing the tools to ‘participate in the creation of a more just and humane world.’ I am looking forward to the panel presentation “Three Generations Discuss 50 Years of Vatican II,” when social justice and liturgy, among other topics in relation to the momentous council will be dissected.
Numerous documentary-viewings have also graced campus. Among them was Miss Representation, which analyzes how American media is sending mixed signals to females of all ages. The documentary closes with a message of empowerment and a push for mentorship. Band of Sisters told the story of the transforming landscape of Catholic women religious in America. The film highlights the various ministries and outreach sisters and former-sisters alike are living daily, in light of Vatican II and other global movements.
A whole different set of tools provided to students can be found in a department situated in the lower level of Coughlin Hall. I am of course referring to the boisterous Office of Student Involvement (OSI). Michael Lango is the director of OSI (spoken as Oh-sigh), an enthusiastic and inspiring gentleman every student should meet. Lango has brought with him a handy-dandy connection with the Association of Campus Activities Administers (ACAA). The ACAA (Spoken as Ah-Cah!) coordinates an annual leadership exchange among colleges and universities in the Chicago-area. This year’s exchange, with a focus on arts and activism, just happened recently at Roosevelt University. My fellow peers and I attended three sessions about topics such as athletics-inspired leadership, emotional intelligence, and social identities. I enjoyed meeting and connecting with a number of student leaders, among a group of around 100 attendees, from other universities.
Over the past few weeks I have lovingly daydreamed about the crowded streets of Rome. Not long after Christmas 21 of my Dominican peers and I together were whisked off on an overseas flight to Europe, led by fine arts professors Jeffery Cote de Luna and Jean Bevier. We came prepared with a mindset toward the Baroque and Renaissance art of the 15th through 18th centuries.
The Eternal City is an overwhelming place. When we first arrived I was overtaken by the foreign, hurried pace. Not long into the trip I became filled with curiosity and a sense of adventure. We made full use of daylight as we walked throughout the city. Some highlights from the short study abroad trip include the local culture, the Farnese Palace, and the Jesuit church Il Gesu.
I would love to step into the shoes of a modern day Roman. These Italians are surrounded by immense, ancient structures. One way toward the Coliseum is paralleled by awe-inspiring ruins. The city is pocked with piazzas or squares, each containing one or more ornate fountains. Many of these squares are home to markets and vendors where fresh produce and various wares are sold. Along side roads and squares alike my peers and I enjoyed light lunches along with plenty of cappuccino and gelato.
We visited numerous galleries and museums located throughout the city, from the Capitoline Museum to the Borgese Gallery. I particularly enjoyed the Farnese Palace, now the French Embassy. I will remember our time there initially because three-four months in advance we had to request entry. Looking up at the walls surrounding the courtyard one can see the architectural design of three consecutive artists. Inside the palace holds a grand sculpture of Hercules, tapestries, and a ceiling fresco of love mythology, among other art pieces.
Roman churches are like US grocery stores. Both the façade and interior of many are worth admiring. Each Catholic worship space we visited contained a nativity scene. Even though St. Peter’s Basilica is a vast structure, its nativity scene was placed in the square outside. The Jesuit church Il Gesu is worth emphasizing. The ceiling fresco is an artistic marvel, extending beyond its set borders to further engage the space. Angels and saints stand among the clouds as demons and lost souls spill away from the main section of fresco.
I second my fellow student blogger Caitlin Guerra’s words about the impact of studying abroad. Traveling with the mission of academic veritas makes for lasting memories.
The trees surrounding campus are bursting with fall colors. The entrance to Lewis Hall is draped in purple and red vines. The ground is covered with large, newly fallen leaves. The trees in the Mazzuchelli courtyard of Parmer Hall are glimmering at night with bright white lights. The cool Midwest weather has yet to stay below 50 degrees. Dominican’s campus and the surrounding area are abuzz with student activity!
As autumn arrives so does Monday Night Bowling at Circle Lanes. Students take the Dominican shuttle to the Green Line stop, at the corner of Harlem and Lake, and then they walk five to ten minutes south to Circle Avenue in Forest Park. Crowds of students arrive each first evening of the week to socialize, compete for the highest score, and some have fun bowling with bumpers. Food trays provided for the event allow students to fill their late night appetites.
Scholarship is abuzz at Dominican. In one of the Honors Language Arts and Science Junior Seminars, taught by Professor David Perry, students are working on their self-directed final projects. After learning about Darwinian evolution and the history of eugenics, while also looking forward to the topic of disabilities in America, students are now called to choose a related topic of interest for further research. I have chosen to research the work of Teilhard de Chardin, whose theories include the noosphere and the ultrahuman. My overarching question is as follows: In what way – and how – does de Chardin believe human evolution is now in the realm of neurological and spiritual development?
Wednesday, October 18, was the second leadership workshop of the academic year called DU Lead. The workshops are facilitated by Assistant Director of Student Involvement Katie Kramer, who is also the staff advisor for the Campus Activities Board and director of the freshman Emerging Leaders Retreat. Each workshop participant receives a code for an online survey called Strengths Quest to find out his/her top five leadership strengths. Achiever, Belief, Connectedness, Developer, Input, and Learner are some examples of strengths found through the survey. At the workshops students discuss the benefits, stereotypes, and areas of growth related to their strengths.
The Discover Dominican event is just under a month from now. This three hour-long group event includes a student-led campus tour and an academic and activities fair, where both faculty and staff will be available to answer questions. Both prospective freshmen and transfer students are welcome to attend. I will likely be at the event to talk about university ministry, and possibly even the communications department since I am the student assistant for faculty. Make sure to RSVP!