“Celebrating Us” Multicultural Fair Brings Students Together and Fosters Community

From left to right, Kristin Ng, Kellyn Gonzalez, Maya Walker and Estevan Garza. Photo courtesy of Claire Downey.

Conversation, laughter, music and mouth-watering smells transformed Caf Lane last Thursday, Sept. 14, as students came together for a night celebrating the cultural diversity found on Point Loma Nazarene University’s campus.

This is the first year PLNU hosted a multicultural fair to recognize the MOSAIC clubs (Multicultural Opportunities for Students Actively Involved in Community) and create space for the PLNU community to connect, listen and learn. Roughly 400 students were in attendance, according to Jordan Roby, the Associated Student Body (ASB) director of activities and a fourth-year marketing and organizational communications double major.

The event was created in collaboration among MOSAIC, the ASB Board of Directors and the Student Senate Diversity Committee. It was originally brought to ASB by Ana Paula Cuen, a recent graduate of PLNU and previously the chair of the Student Senate Diversity Committee.

“Last year’s ASB Senate Diversity Committee was interested in finding ways to foster a meaningful partnership between MOSAIC and ASB,” Maya Walker, director of Multicultural and International Student Services and director of MOSAIC, said via email. “With that, the committee proposed a Multicultural Fair that would highlight/showcase each of the MOSAIC groups but also an opportunity for all of campus to see the diverse experiences, identities and backgrounds that should be celebrated.”

Planning for the event began last semester, according to Bailey Pickard, the ASB vice president and a third-year philosophy and biochemistry double major.

“The Student Senate Diversity Committee has been brainstorming this idea for a while, but last year they decided to present it as a partnership between MOSAIC and ASB and the current Board of Directors wanted to make it one of the first events of the year,” Pickard said via email. “Jordan Roby, the Director of Activities, took it on as a project and partnered with MOSAIC to help turn it into what we saw last week.”

Roby said that the planning required communication and collaboration among the spring Student Senate Diversity Committee, new ASB leadership and MOSAIC leadership stepping up over the summer and fall, and Walker. 

“It took months in advance of planning and the interns had to meet a couple of times to discuss the logistics of everything: how we wanted the event to look, expectations, [etc.],” Faith Lowe, the Black Student Union (BSU) intern and a third-year social work major, said. “We did that over summer.”

The clubs part of MOSAIC include the Asian Student Union (ASU), Association of Latin American Students (ALAS), Black Student Union (BSU), Hui ‘o Hawai’i, Middle Eastern Association (MEA) and UNITE (Uniting National and International Through Education).

Some additional clubs present at the event were Delta Alpha Pi (DAPI), B.R.E.A.K (Beauty, Revival, Equity, Action, Knowledge) and Voices of Love (VOL), which is a student organization. 

Each group hosted a booth at the fair and offered snacks, information and resources. Walker said this event was important in setting up the community and clubs for success this year.

“I believe this timing was so important because it showed to our new students and the rest of campus that this is something that is important, valued and should be celebrated,” Walker said via email. “It was so exciting to witness the collaboration between ASB and MOSAIC Interns in the planning of this particular event.” 

Kellyn Gonzalez, the intern for Team Barnabas and a fourth-year marketing major, said getting to engage with students and encouraging an openness to learn was powerful.

“It was a joy to be surrounded by a variety of different cultures with the interns that I know personally work so hard to create an inclusive environment on campus,” Gonzalez said via email. “As the intern for Team Barnabas (which is a mentorship program for first year students of color and international students), I had a matching game at my booth where you had to match a fact from the culture to the MOSAIC affinity group. It was such a highlight for students to come to my booth and learn an interesting fact from each culture. I hope there was no embarrassment in getting them wrong, but an openness to learning from others.”

Likewise, Sophie Cho, a board member of the ASU and a third-year nursing major, and Joy Shang, the ASU intern and a fourth-year kinesiology major, said that getting to see connections formed and similar experiences shared was a highlight.

“Celebrating Us was a wonderful opportunity to share my Asian culture and help students of all cultures learn about the multicultural resources and communities available to them at PLNU,” Cho and Shang said via email. “I also loved learning about other communities on campus and finding our similarities between cultures! For example, Hui’O Hawaii shared butter mochi at the fair, which I realized was very similar to Korean castella rice cakes. I think this event was an absolute hit for many of us.”

Pickard said getting to spend time at each booth allowed her to find opportunities to listen and learn more about the different experiences found on PLNU’s campus.

“I really loved getting to interact with each booth,” Pickard said. “Playing games, trying food, and listening to music taught me a lot about so many of  the cultures that are represented here at Loma.”

Lowe also said that, in addition to the fun foods and activities, she hopes students learned more about MOSAIC.

“I really just hope that students were able to learn something about the different cultures that are on campus or just in general and learn some interesting facts about the different cultures that may interest them,” Lowe said. “Most of our events are for educational purposes and also to gather up as a community. I really hope that people were able to not only have fun but also learn something from the event.”

According to PLNU’s website, “39% of traditional undergrad students are racially diverse.” The actual demographic breakdown is not published on that same site. 

However, according to statistics about PLNU from the U.S. News, 27% of students identify as Hispanic, 8% identify as two or more races, 7% identify as Asian, 2% identify as Black and 1% identify as international students. 

Given this is the first time PLNU has had a multicultural fair, students like Cho and Shang said they appreciated having this space to share resources and experiences, but they look forward to continued follow through from PLNU’s student body and leadership in creating space for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) students on campus.

“We hope to see greater student involvement and hope that this will be an opportunity for bigger showcases of culture,” Cho and Shang said. “While there were many amazing MOSAIC booths, it would be wonderful to see independent student vendors and performers and have the rest of the school show up with open minds in support of them.”

“I’d also love to see the school further endorsing this event, to demonstrate to BIPOC students that they are actively making space for us and devoting attention to our voices and experiences,” Cho and Shang said. “As diversity and representation grows in ASB, we feel a growing support from them. I hope that BIPOC students feel especially empowered to pursue leadership positions in school, because it results in new opportunities such as Celebrating Us. ASB was a wonderful support and collaborator for this event this year.” 

Lowe likewise said, with this being the first year for this event, there are areas to improve for engagement and activities. At the BSU booth, students could play “guess that song” or “guess that lyric” for music from the 1950s all the way up to modern day music by Black artists.

“It was hard because ASB was also playing music so we kind of felt like our music was being drowned out and we didn’t have a poster stating what our game was so people didn’t know what we were doing,” Lowe said. “We didn’t really have that big of a turnout [as] how we’d have hoped at our booth, but some students really seemed to like it.”  

As students continue to navigate learning from their peers’ experiences through opportunities offered through MOSAIC, Lowe said she hopes students keep the momentum going.

“After Celebrating Us, it’s just my hope that the student body becomes more involved with MOSAIC and they are more in tune with our events and more motivated to attend our events,” Lowe said. “It’s a misconception that each MOSAIC group is only for that ethnicity or culture, but honestly we want everyone, no matter your race, no matter anything, to join our events and to just come, have fun, learn new things and build a community. I hope Celebrating Us transformed that message to the student body.”

For more information on MOSAIC, follow the instagram @plnu_mosaic.