The University of Dallas held its International Celebration on Feb. 18 and 19.
The annual celebration provides an opportunity for the university community to celebrate its cultural and ethnic diversity, and for students of foreign languages to present and develop their studies.
On both Thursday and Friday, the Haggar foyer was home to the Goods and Crafts Fair, which included free henna tattoos.
On Friday afternoon, the traditional Parade of Flags, in which students carried flags from their home countries, was held on the Mall.
Student Programming at the University of Dallas (SPUD) hosted a Global TGIT, and various clubs and organizations used the week to showcase their skills and interests.
In particular, the Modern Languages Department used the event to illustrate its students’ passion for their work.
Thursday evening began with an international wine tasting in the Rathskeller, followed by the Foreign Languages Poetry Slam held in the same location.
Spanish professor Dr. Jose Espericueta organized the poetry slam, though the event included reading in not only Spanish, but also French, German and Greek.
In the fall, Espericueta taught a Spanish-American poetry class during which students wrote odes in the style of Pablo Neruda’s “Elementary Odes.”
“They were really good … so I was left wanting to do something with [the] poems,” Espericueta said.
From there, the event expanded to include a variety of poems, both original and translated.
Because of the diverse nature of the poems presented and the creativity that the event honored, Espericueta hopes that the event will return in future celebrations, although his class will not always be a key feature.
“UD students are natural poets … [they] are intellectually curious and romantic at the same time,” Espericueta said.
The idea to unite UD’s general disposition with cultural diversity was not exclusive to the poetry slam.
On Friday, French professor Dr. Jason Lewallen held a student panel on Catholic France.
Lewallen had the idea for the panel during last year’s International Celebration.
The panel was conceived of as a way for Lewallen’s advanced students to create something that would integrate French culture with UD’s larger interests.
“The idea of France as the eldest daughter of the Church seemed to be one that could attract some interest,” Lewallen said.
Students from Lewallen’s French Catholic Writers course presented on France as the eldest daughter of the Church, Saints Joan of Arc and Thérèse of Lisieux, and the Marian apparitions at Lourdes.
The final talk, delivered by Lewallen, tied French-Muslim relations in the early medieval French epic “The Song of Roland” to last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
Lewallen hopes the event and others like it might help students fully appreciate France’s important place in Catholicism.
“French history is, to a large extent, Catholic history,” Lewallen said.
By putting the Modern Language Department and its students in the spotlight, the International Celebration stressed not just innate cultural diversity, but the diversity and creativity that comes from learning.
The event would not have been possible without the efforts of the Office of Student Life (OSL), particularly Director of Student Life Dore Madere.
“[Madere] did a great job organizing the whole thing,” Espericueta said. “[The organizing committee] came up with ideas, and [she] made everything come to be.”
The celebration helped draw attention to what might not immediately be apparent on a campus where most students appear to believe, study and value the same things.
“There’s a unity we have … but there’s an ethnic and cultural and linguistic diversity that’s present, and it’s nice to celebrate that,” Espericueta said.
Events like the poetry slam and the France panel show that cultural diversity does not undermine the unified quality of UD.
Rather, encountering diverse cultures and ideas might help widen perspective and allow for richer cognitive, theological, and emotional unities.
Senior Joe Dougherty, a participant in the poetry slam, believes the event’s efforts were successful in this regard.
“It’s sometimes hard to recognize the ethnic diversity of UD, but it has become richly apparent this week,” Dougherty said.