With over 47 different countries represented in the student body of Anderson University, Heritage Week is an engaging and insightful experience for the students, faculty, staff and the community of Anderson, Ind. This year, the “Passport to Freedom” theme intertwined with the campus theme of “Exercising Freedom.”
“Heritage week is an annual campus-wide celebration of culture and heritage,” said Michelle Williams, director of Multicultural Student Services. “The Cultural Resource Center, in partnership with the foreign language department, student activities and various other campus departments, hosts this week of cultural fairs, live entertainment, authentic ethnic meals and much more.” These programs seek to promote and challenge students to consider what freedom means to them and what it means to citizens of other countries through activities and events offered throughout the week. This years Heritage Week began March 22 and ended on March 26. [Photo on left: The New Image Gospel Choir performs at Imagefest.]
Director of International Student Services Cindy Sprunger is the chairman of Heritage Week and started organizing the event back in January.
“There were numerous amounts of campus groups involved with Heritage Week this year, and I was lucky to work alongside eager and willing students, faculty and staff members,” said Sprunger. “Our goal for Heritage Week was to not only represent the different cultures amongst our community, but to provide opportunities for the students to learn what freedom means to them. Generally our understanding of freedom isn’t always the same in other countries. We want to provide the students with the opportunity to become more aware of human trafficking in other counties, women’s rights movements, health care issues and the understanding that freedom has a different definition to everyone.”
Heritage Week continues to improve and grow every year by bringing in different activities for the students to get involved in and by providing special guest speakers to reach students at chapel and other planned events on campus. “One of our biggest attraction last year that came back this past week was the genealogy table, run by a local librarian representative,” said Sprunger. “It was great to have Anderson’s public library represented on AU’s campus and to participate in our celebration…the students loved it.”
The executive director of Operation Love Ministries, Joy Plummer of Anderson Ind., spoke to the students during Tuesday’s chapel about bonds that are getting in the way of the people they have the potential to be.
“We are free to worship when we want and how we want,” said Plummer. “Freedom has lent way to bondage.” Plummer challenged the students to think about the bonds that are holding them back from freedom and to step out of their comfort zones to discover healing and hope.
After Heritage Week was announced in chapel, it was pretty hard to miss the excitement and energy that went into making Heritage Week special for the students. Whether it was featured ethnic meals in the marketplace or Poetry Beats in Mocha Joes, there was a little bit of ethnic culture spread out all over campus.
Display tables were set up by Acting on AIDS, Advocacy and Awareness, International Student Association, Multicultural Student Services and many other organizations in the bottom of Decker that educated students on freedom issues within different countries and communities. Junior Oscar Ndao’s display represented his hometown in Zambia and how their political system has been celebrated since they’ve gained independence in 1964.
“I hope students realize that when we talk about heritage, it doesn’t just mean for people of color or for people who are from outside the United States,” said Ndao. “While heritage mainly covers one's background or family history, it’s important to note that every person, regardless of where they grew up or what skin color they are, they have a unique history…and it’s important to celebrate that history. Freedom has a wide range of meanings, but for one, it is very rare and considered a luxury for anyone back home in Zambia to get a chance to study abroad. Being at AU has allowed me to develop a broad perspective on a lot of issues and has helped shape the person I am today, and that for me, is freedom.”
Heritage Week came to a close after the events planned throughout the weekend. After Williams spoke during Cultural Conversations on Thursday night about women’s rights around the world, the Gospel Choir performed at the Imagefest concert Friday evening. The concert was followed by the much anticipated International Dinner at Park Place Church of God Saturday evening. [Photo on left: Covenant Army dances and performs at the 2009 International Dinner.]
- Laura Overman is a junior from Anderson University, majoring in Communication Arts. Laura is an associate with Fifth Street Communications, writing in behalf of Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2009, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the sixth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.