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Cultural conversation invites perspectives

Conversation- every group has their own style, their own way of conveying thoughts and ideas. There are different accents, different languages and even different gestures. People know this. And yet, there is another element of much greater benefit, which can be achieved through having a conversation, especially if it is with someone who is quite different from you. This is because those differences can come together to create something unique and beautiful.

On Tuesday, Sept. 17 the Office of Multicultural Development hosted its first Cultural Conversation Hour at the Heterick Memorial Library in room 301. Since this was the leading discussion for the year, those in charge decided to focus on what the multicultural team is all about, and what it can offer to both international and native students. They are hoping to hold a session once every month, and
discuss topics that are relevant to everybody by examining the ideas of multiculturalism and diversity in greater society. Although the room was not packed, Dianne Ricks, advanced administrative assistant of the Multicultural Development Office, felt that the conversation was very successful.

"It’s not successful just because a lot of people showed up," she said, "it’s about whether or not there was a great exchange of ideas and thought." And that is what the team hopes to achieve through their cultural conversation hours during the course of the year. Director of Multicultural Development, LaShonda Gurley, feels that it is necessary to prepare students for global citizenship, and that these conversations are a great way to launch them into an ever-evolving world that is requiring more and more cross-cultural communication.

The multicultural team is hoping to involve more than just multicultural organizations this year. They are seeking to vary the speakers from session to session by collaborating with the different academic colleges and student organizations on campus. Gurley hopes to see members from the Ada community attend future sessions as well. "We want to spur additional research, involvement
and conversation," she said. "We want to be the catalysts for change."

However, they need the input of ONU students, faculty and staff—like you!—in order to better understand what topics should be addressed, and how to go about doing so. In some cases we may assume that students have an understanding of something when they really don’t, Gurley said, and sometimes the opposite is true. But, the only way that we would know is through verbal interaction. Ricks feels that the cultural conversation hours provide students with something that many of their academic classes cannot. "We converse and really have the freedom to exchange ideas,"
she said. "You don’t get that in your major classes. You don’t have the opportunity unless you make that opportunity." She feels that it is important to understand that these sessions provide a safe environment where people can ask questions and nobody will be offended.

You can set aside the barriers and just learn, she said. “We’re just talking. We’re just sharing.” It’s not just about striking up a conversation—it’s about selfgrowth, building friendships, and
having a better overall understanding of the world. "I challenge those who’ve never attended to do so," Gurley said. "And maybe you can be a catalyst for change yourself."

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