Graceland University students bring their unique customs to the Shaw Center stage once again through dress, instrumental numbers, dancing and singing for an Intercultural Night of entertainment. The show begins at 7 p.m. on Nov. 5. “Intercultural Night lets our students share their cultures. The audience enjoys a tour of countries around the world,” Diana Jones, Director of the Intercultural Office, said, “and it’s free to the public – no airfare, no hotel charges and no guide fees.”
Jones has been director of the program for almost 19 years. The primary function of the office is to provide students assistance in the adjustment to life in the United States and at Graceland. She serves as a liaison between the international students and various university offices, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), embassies, consulates and off-campus constituencies. Currently, the university is home to 51 international students. In addition to these responsibilities, she provides leadership development, training and support for the leaders of the Black Student Union, Latino Club, International Club and Polynesian Club.
“The first international show began in the mid 70s at the MSC when we were dealing with fewer international students,” Les Gardner, who was responsible for international student affairs at the time, said. “A few weeks after the new international students arrived, we officially introduced them to the campus and community this way. The students responded by offering some entertainment representative of their country.” Over the years, the event has been held at the MSC, Commons and Shaw auditorium. For many years, it featured international cuisine or desserts. Currently, it has evolved into a night of entertainment – saving a taste of the world’s dishes for the cultural celebration in the spring.
“It’s also expanded to include the complete spectrum of diversity that Graceland University represents so well – that’s why we call it Intercultural Night,” Jones said. “This is an occasion to throw the spotlight on our differences – and celebrate them.” Intercultural Night is sponsored by the Black Student Union, International Club, Latino Club and Polynesian Club. The leadership of each organization finds the night’s acts, organizes the evening, markets it, and represents their group as masters of ceremony.
Intercultural Night begins with a parade of flags ceremony. Once the students take the stage, a country role call follows. Then, it is time for the show to begin. The full program typically runs under an hour and a half with 12-15 acts. Among the many acts, this year’s audience can enjoy a traditional Ojibwe (American Indian) honor song and prayer, a Spanish love song, American Samoan dance and song, and Scottish Highland dancing. “Let me warn you,” Jones said, “come prepared to participate with the players in an Australian Nut Bush Dance – think of our chicken dance – which is performed at Australian parties and weddings.” Senior students are then honored. Finally, all the players gather for a series of fun and serious group pictures.
“Intercultural Night helps create awareness and – I hope – appreciation of all people,” Jones said. “It’s meant to bring us together as a campus and community. It gives our students confidence – and a sense of pride. We look forward to a night when the Graceland University community and area residents and students can join us in these festivities.”
Written for The Lamoni Chronicle by Gary Rees.