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International committee emphasizes diversity awareness

| Friday, December 12, 2014

Within the Saint Mary’s Student Government Association (SGA) is the Council of Committee Chairs (CCC), headed by senior Katie Stare and made up of 18 committee chairs and co-chairs who lead 12 different committees.

Stare said the 12 committees encompass aspects of the College community such as alumnae, athletic, community, first-year concerns, food services, market research and media, mission, social concerns, Sophia Program, sustainability and technology. But one of the committees worth spotlighting, having established and accomplished noteworthy goals during the fall semester, is the international committee, Stare said.

The international committee is spearheaded by co-chairs Catherine Sullivan, a senior, and sophomore Ruby Truong, who is an international student from Vietnam, Sullivan said.

“As committee chairs, we arrived back on campus a week earlier than everyone else in August to work on first-year orientation, and even before that, we did group bonding time where we broke into groups and talked about our goals for the year,” Sullivan said. “Those goals are still posted in the SGA office, and we check them off as we go along.”

Along with Truong, Sullivan said she recognized early in the year that the International Committee would focus on three major goals.

“One of the first goals we worked towards was the diversity dinners, which bring together different cuisines and groups of international students to celebrate the diversity of our student body,” she said. “We wanted to have four or five the first year (this school year), which highlight different aspects of the culture that represents Saint Mary’s and also the tri-campus community.”

Sullivan said the two diversity dinners held during the fall semester were very successful — more successful than she and Truong had predicted.

“The Italian dinner, which took place in September, was the kickoff diversity dinner event, and then we had the Chinese diversity dinner in November,” she said. “They both sold out, so to speak, because each dinner is limited to 50 people, and we had some extras sneak in.”

In the spring semester, Sullivan said the international committee has planned for a Tunisian dinner and a Vietnamese dinner to take place.

“It’s great, because all of the food is either cooked by our students, by our faculty or is donated by local restaurants,” she said. “So we are also helping local restaurants in the South Bend community, alongside our international community.”

According to Sullivan, the committee’s second goal for the year was to help the international students at Saint Mary’s make their way into the bigger community as a whole.

“At Saint Mary’s, we have that issue that the international students are sort of on their own. Even at orientation, the international group is separated,” she said. “We wanted to work on integrating them as best as we could, so the Diversity Dinners work towards this goal — in that anyone can come to them, and it also teaches non-international students about other cultures.

“At the Chinese dinner, we were actually taught about the seven different areas of China and the different cuisine that come with each region and why that happened and how that developed. One of our Fulbright scholars did the presentation on it, so that was really great.”

The third and final goal of the committee is the International Buddy Program, which pairs each new international student with a returning student, Sullivan said.

“Basically, you sign up to be a roommate for an international student and end up rooming with the person,” she said. “This way, the international students can easily feel a part of the community and have a friend base, which intertwines with our second goal.”

This program will begin during the spring semester or next fall and will be organized under an application process and facilitated by the international committee and Residence Hall Association.

“This will majorly help with the rooming situation for international students because oftentimes these students are juniors or seniors who get randomly paired with first-year students, and it doesn’t work out so well,” Sullivan said. “And single [dorms] are a bad idea because they don’t get to practice English or meet anyone.”

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About Kelly Konya

Kelly Konya is an English major bred on Catcher in the Rye and Roman cornettos.

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