Friday, November 22, 2013

Coffee and Cross-Cultural Dialogue

By Nora Kirkham ’16

How to encourage students to explore conversations about cultural identity and international issues? Create the Global Village Café and give their imagination, experiences and ideas a voice.

Among the student programs geared towards fostering world-wide dialogue, the Global Village is a shining new avenue for students to engage in such discussions with their peers. Created by Gordon’s Global Education Office, the café is not a physical place or group but attributes its name to the atmosphere its dialogue provides. Its main goal is to encourage students to "step outside the Gordon Bubble." The café’s major launch took place earlier this semester in Chester’s Place with a discussion based on the popular TED talk, "The Danger of a Single Story" by Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie.

The launch was sponsored by Global Education, the Office of Community Engagement and the student group Advocates for Cultural Diversity. Sipping on delicious fair trade coffee provided at the event, students watched the TED talk and then engaged in rotating student-led discussions. Chimamanda’s talk provoked thoughtful questions and dialogue.

The author of several critically acclaimed novels and short stories, Chimamanda recounted her story of growing up in Nigeria as a lover of English and American literature and the culture shock she encountered upon arriving to the United States for university. Chimamanda’s peers confronted her with a variety of presuppositions about what it meant to be African. Though she felt frustrated and alienated, Chimamanda eventually realized she herself had presuppositions about life in the western world and discovered how dangerous relying on a single story about a culture can be. The TED talk evoked questions such as: “How does the media affect our view of other cultures?” and “How does traveling abroad change our worldview?”

Seeking to address this latter question, Global Village Café held a second event later in the semester titled, “So You Want to Live Abroad?”, which featured a panel discussion with students who had lived abroad for part or all of their childhood. The purpose of this event was to clarify the term, "TCK," or "Third Culture Kid." As members of the International Student Organization, these panelists are American citizens who happen to have lived abroad and may or may not share a sense of belonging to one country alone. With a wealth of experiences to offer, these panelists shared their stories and struggles in hopes of encouraging students to consider thoughtfully their aspirations for an expatriate career.

The conversation is just getting started. With two successful events, the Global Village Café is serving as an eye opening catalyst for thinking more globally on campus.

Photo: Students dialogue as part of the year's first Global Village Cafe event.

Nora Kirkham ’16 is a sophomore history major at Gordon College and a writer in the Office of College Communications. She is a 'Third Culture Kid' raised in four continents and currently claims her home in Moscow, Russia. Her interests include history, international relations, literature and sustainable development. 


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Monday, November 18, 2013

Revealing Drew Hall: An Intentional Community

Drew's girls apple picking together
By Sarah Tang '16

When fall semester began and students flowed back onto the campus, they found many changes. There were brand new signs, new furniture in lounges, and a new coffee shop in the library. Something else changed as well, and that was Drew Hall. I have heard many times when people walk pass it saying, “Do people live in this barn-looking building?” The answer is yes. Drew Hall was intended to be an intimate residence hall with complete facilities just like any other residence hall—only smaller. There always have been students living in Drew; but this year saw a rebirth of sorts for the small red residence hall—an intentional community of 30 students ranging from sophomores to seniors now inhabiting the building, led by Resident Advisors Cody Larkin ’14 and Danielle Slomka ’15. 

Named Reveal, the community originated with an idea from Wilson and Drew Halls' Resident Director, Elizabeth Lyon, known more commonly on campus as Ebeth. “Ebeth had mentioned in conversation that she thought Drew could be used for a more intentional dorm, and Cody and I got really excited and started planning,” Danielle told me during our interview. “One thing led to a thousand other things and here we are,” Cody added. Over time, Reveal became the group of people always seen attending campus events together, walking to Lane Student Center for dinner together, having rubber band fights in their lounge together...

Students who’ve been accepted into the program benefit from not only weekly floor fellowship and floor dinners, but also Friday morning devotions, hall dinners every other week (at which three members of the community prepare a meal for the whole group), and monthly talks with faculty guests. Each student is also asked to find a mentor to walk him or her through at least the year. 

Drew's monthly faculty speaker - Root Beer with Barry Loy
Anna Hadorn ’16 commented, “I have never had one [a mentor] before, and it has been so amazing having someone who just listens to me talk, someone who knows how to use what I have to say to help me.” On the floor dinner, she added, “You are not required to go but most of the time I go just because I want to see everyone and I know they will all be there.” 

Jose Soltero ’15 had been living in Nyland hall for the past two years at Gordon, and when I asked him why he had wanted to apply, he said, “I knew that if I wanted to go further in my spiritual life, I would need to meet people who wanted the same thing. I now have people to keep me accountable with a common desire to grow as me, and it’s great.” 

Cody Larkin has been the RA in Drew Hall for the past two years. When I asked him how his experience is different this year, he said, “Being a RA is essentially cultivating a micro-culture on your floor, and this year, it became trying to make it a place where people can be themselves, living openly and vulnerably with one another in terms of faith, struggles, relationships, school work, family, etc...” 

Reveal’s other RA, Danielle Slomka, has found that listening to each person leading devotions and talking to each girl about how other girls have impacted them as the most rewarding experience so far. She said, “Each person adds such a different element and a lot of what we do is formed by everyone, rather than forming everyone around what we want to do or the programs we have in place.” Regarding the girls on her floor, she added, “Knowing the women on the floor genuinely want what is best for each other and are willing to give advice and be there for one another has been so rewarding.” 

“Reveal is not what it is because of its schedule but because everyone is invested,” said Cody. “Everyone is Reveal and it’s up to us to make it unique.”  The excitement and passion these two individuals have for the Reveal community is contagious.

At the end of the interviews, I asked each of the four to think of something they would say to the students who would want to apply next year. Jose answered and said, “Reveal is like that family cabin up in the woods, no one really wants to live without the newest amenities and in the middle of no where—although Drew is right by the library and it’s fabulous—but it is the people you are spending time with that brings you joy when you are there. I am with my family, and that’s what makes it a good time.” 

Sarah Tang '16 is a sophomore Sociology and Communication Arts double major at Gordon from Hong Kong, China and a writer in the Office of College Communications. She is a member of the Campus Events Council and works as a barista in Bistro 255. She is passionate about human trafficking and special needs orphans and has a burden for Southeast Asia.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Alumni Photo Shoot Supports Adoption Effort

This coming Sunday and Monday (November 17th and 18th), open studio photography sessions will be offered in Gordon College’s the Bennett Athletic Center. The sessions will provide an opportunity for students and faculty to have head shots or group photos taken by a professional photographer—alumnus Danny Ebersole ’11—at a significantly discounted rate. 

With the growing popularity of professional networking websites such as LinkedIn, as well as the increased presence of online resumes, quality photographs are of growing importance in cultivating professional opportunities. 

The two sessions will be open to all. Those interested are encouraged to book a session via email (k.danielebersole@gmail.com), though walk-in appointments are also welcome. 

The sessions will run Sunday from 1–5 pm and Monday from 3–7 pm. Come by and get some high quality images with no hassle. For a payment of $40.00, clients will receive full-resolution edited files to share freely online or to print. Short family photography sessions are also available upon request for a suggested donation of $140.

All the proceeds from these sessions will benefit Danny and his wife, Brandi-lin ’10, in the process of adopting their first child. You can learn more about the shoot, read couple’s story and follow their journey through "paper pregnancy" at their blog.

Photo: Danny and Brandi-lin Ebersole

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