Each year, the AU community sets aside one week to focus on recognizing and appreciating all of the different heritages that come together to make our community diverse and unique. Heritage Week is sponsored by the Cultural Resource Center and will take place March 1-5. This year’s theme is “In Search of Home.” Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to use this time to consider what home means to them, as well as what it may mean to others.
The week started off with a special chapel on Tuesday, March 1. Mike Thigpen, director of the Cultural Resource Center, believes that “we have a good combination of chapels this year. By incorporating the university theme into our chapel, we are going to bring the campus together with the idea of what home is.”
During chapel on Thursday, guest speaker Josh Smith will share about the importance of crossing boundaries between the church and the community when it comes to preserving social justice. “Josh is a great example of going through AU and using that experience to connect back into the world,” said Thigpen.
Today from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the bottom of Decker Hall, students will have the opportunity to discover their family heritage through a genealogist brought to us by the CRC and the Anderson Public Library. Thigpen believes this is a unique and very important resource in discovering how diverse our campus us. “If you just look at the statistics, we’re 80 percent Caucasian,” said Thigpen, “but if we go back far enough there’s way more than that. We are an eclectic community.”
CAB and the CRC bring us the AU World Cup Classic on Thursday at 8:00 p.m. in the Kardatzke Wellness Center. This annual event brings people with a love for soccer together in competition and camaraderie.
On Friday at 7:00 p.m., the AU Gospel Choir will be hosting Image Fest in the Park Place basement. This event will involve singing, dancing and spoken word, and according to Thigpen, will be “a good opportunity for the community to come together around music and be supportive of what it has meant to the church.”
Heritage Week will conclude with the International Dinner hosted by the International Student Association on March 5 at 5:30 p.m. The theme of this year’s dinner is “The World Olympics,” and tickets are available to anyone from the CRC or at the door. Stu Erny, Director of International Student Services, believes the International Dinner is an outstanding event because “it’s a great way to celebrate culture with tastes from around the world.”
According to Thigpen, events like these allow students to “experience the cultures of countries that you may never actually step foot in.” This is his first Heritage Week as Director of the CRC and he is excited about the opportunities it will give for relationships to grow and horizons to be broadened. “It’s an invitation for everyone to spend time trying to connect to their own unique cultural heritage, and once we are more in touch with our own heritage, we are more curious to learn about other heritages.”
Thigpen encourages students to use this week to step out of their comfort zones and try something different. “No one should come to AU and leave exactly how they came. Build relationships, discover who you are, step outside of your own little box,” he said.
Linda Robertson, the Cultural Resource Center office manager, describes the purpose of Heritage Week as prompting students to “think about what home is to you and within your culture. Your location might change but you always keep certain things with you.” She believes that Heritage Week will “connect people and deepen our awareness of the fact that everyone has culture, and this should be a safe place to share it.”
Over the past few weeks, through forums held by President Pistole and multiple chapel sessions, there have been increased efforts towards cultural competency on our campus. Erny believes this has a direct connection to not only the work of the CRC, but to the greater work of our campus. “It makes my day when I see intercultural work happening, and we all own it. Any effort to connect across borders and bring understanding about cultures is so important, and is a part of our education here,” said Erny.
The CRC seeks to be a catalyst for conversations that need to be had and issues that need to be resolved. “We want to address issues before they happen or while they’re happening. This tells our campus that these things matter,” Erny said. “We want to live out of the truth that we don’t understand everything about everyone, but we’re talking about it and trying to learn.” Heritage Week serves as a starting point for students who believe it is important to make a genuine effort towards understanding cultures different from our own.
“There is a mentality that this is for ‘them,’ but in reality, ‘them’ is us. This is not for a few, it’s for you. Count yourself in the ‘us’,” Thigpen said.