Fifteen minutes before the start of the festival, groups of students from different campus affiliations sat behind tables covered in the decorations they had deliberated on for days.
Everyone had their own message to convey to the mass of festival attendees, but the themes remained mostly the same.
Salisbury University's culture is a collection of many voices that cry out to be noticed, even if it is merely within a thirty-second conversation at an event specifically to make them heard.
Those are the voices of the multicultural students on campus, and this year’s Culture Fest kicked off the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month a day late on Sept. 16.
Vaughn White, advisor for Multicultural Student Services and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, understood the importance of this event for many overlooked groups on campus, especially to the 16 organizations in SU's Multicultural Alliance.
White said the event was among the semester's first purposefully, "to start off the school year with culture as the main theme.”
“I think that over the years we’ve become more and more diverse,” White said. “I’ve seen it when there was not much diversity at all and not many cultures represented because I started the program for the Multicultural Festival, which is the spring festival. So, that was the reason we started ... to get folks communicating about culture."
White’s statement was the general consensus of guests that evening, sporting giant smiles as they plated food from buffets and listened to music.
Over a hundred campus community members turned out and each had something to take away from the experience. Some even gained new and unique perspectives to add to the conversation.
Wellington Uzamere, a second-year graduate student in the Master of Business Administration program, participated in the table put together by the Graduate Student Council with his own story to tell.
Uzamere said oftentimes it is unusual to see graduate students participating in events organized by clubs and groups and targeted towards undergraduate student populations. But that reality, he said, is exactly the problem.
“Just because we’re graduate students doesn’t mean that we have to just sit in our rooms away from all of what’s happening on campus,” Uzamere said. “Grad students have a right to be at events just as much as undergrad students. We feel as if we’re adults amongst teenagers, and we’re trying to break that cycle.”
There was not much room to feel isolated at Culture Fest. Every table had clusters of students surrounding it, including undergraduates interested in hearing new perspectives and those like sophomore Ella Jazelpascual, just looking for somewhere to belong.
Jazelpascual, who studies medical laboratory sciences, said she found it would be in her best interest to attend the Culture Fest, in hopes of connecting with people of a similar background.
“I’m Asian. I’m Filipino, and I came here when I was little, and when I first came here, I was so lost,” Jazelpascual said. “I gravitate towards my roots and people who are Filipino and who have recently arrived.”
Culture Fest served as a reminder of where the school has been and where it is headed for faculty witnesses of SU's evolving diversity, in time to welcome the most diverse freshman class in the university's history.
History professor Joseph Venosa said diversity is a fundamentally beautiful thing.
His relationship with the community extends beyond teaching - Venosa said he decided to attend the event because he loves seeing students get to know people from different backgrounds.
“I like meeting new students and getting a sense of where they’re coming from,” Venosa said. “And also, turning them on to what we do have to offer at SU. I think you can go to college and not even explore what’s going on around you, so this is a good opportunity to do that.”
By MIKAYLA LINDSAY
Featured image courtesy of salisbury.edu