International Student Association raises cultural awareness on campus

Mon, 2011-07-25 08:00 -- univcomm
July 25, 2011

While many students at Anderson University are from local towns in Indiana or around the U.S., students from Zambia, the Cayman Islands and at least 40 other countries also study at AU. These students are represented through the International Student Association, which promotes cultural awareness in the Anderson community.

isaorientationISA provides international students with an outlet to share their stories, as well as a student network to support them through their transition to college life at AU. The organization also hosts several events each semester designed to highlight cultural diversity on campus. Last year's ISA President Oscar Ndao, a recent business management graduate, has seen the number of enrolled international students and their retention rate increase dramatically during his time at AU. Ndao, who was raised in Zambia, applied to AU after his mother attended a Church of God conference in Anderson. At the beginning of his freshman year, there were only eight students in ISA. [Photo on left: ISA Orientation 2010. ISA hosts International Orientation for all incoming International students a week before the All-Freshmen Orientation to give International students a more one-on-one experience as they adjust to their new environment and life in the U.S.]

“We’ve grown because we’ve addressed the perception that the International Student Association is only for international students. Anybody who is interested in learning about the different cultures on campus is invited to participate in any of our events,” said Ndao.

Two major events presented by ISA include the international dinner, which occurs once a semester, and Heritage Week. The international dinner provides ISA students with the opportunity to share a unique part of their culture with the city of Anderson. The students prepare dishes from their home countries and perform live music, skits, and poetry. Last spring's Heritage Week featured daily events including a concert, a multicultural market fair, a heritage dinner, and a celebration of dance presented by the AU Swing Club.

“It is amazing to watch how all the planning comes together. The theme, decorating, entertainment, and the wonderful food is all prepared by the students,” said International Student Services Director Cynthia Sprunger, who also serves as a faculty advisor for international students. “They do a fantastic job.”

Senior Latoya Francis, an accounting and youth leadership-development major, will be ISA president for the 2011-2012 school year. Francis is from the Cayman Islands and chose to come to AU because she admired the strong sense of community on campus and the Anderson University-East Africa campus ministry. She hopes to continue Ndao’s efforts to promote awareness of ISA within the Anderson community.

“My biggest goal for this year is to see international students giving back to the city of Anderson by serving local schools and retirement homes,” said Francis. “Also, I hope to see all of the student-led initiatives join together to support a greater cause.”

From dinners to dancing, the International Student Association has spread cultural awareness to much of the Anderson community. “I believe ISA does a great job of giving international students a sense of belonging,” said Matthew Parker, a sophomore psychology major from Zionsville, Ind. “It provides them with the community they need to develop meaningful, healthy relationships during their time at AU.” [Photo on right: The International Student Association (ISA) organized a trip to Washington D.C. over Spring Break 2011.]

Sprunger is thankful for the relationships she has established through ISA. “I am so privileged to meet and build relationships with each one of our international students and their families,” said Sprunger. “My life is so much richer and blessed from knowing them.”

— Eva Christine McKnight is a junior from Batesville, Ind., majoring in communication arts and minoring in dance performance and English. McKnight is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh 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.