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Multicultural Storyfest Showcases International Students

(Posted April 9, 2012)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- International students will perform stories, songs, poems, and dances from their home countries as part of the "Multicultural Storyfest" during Juniata College's Liberal Arts Symposium at 2:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 18, under a canopy outside the von Liebig Center for Science.

The inaugural Multicultural Storyfest is the idea of Grace Fala, professor of communication and assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion. Because international students are not necessarily on campus for four years, many miss out on the opportunity to contribute to the Liberal Arts Symposium by presenting a research project.

Juniata's Center for International Education, the Global Village, and the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, have collaborated to sponsor this event.

"I realized how incredibly meaningful stories can be when it comes to bridging relationships between people who we perceive to be different," says Fala. "I thought we should have something similar to the Bailey Oratorical speech contest that encourages the international students to be a part of our community."

Fala teaches both intercultural communication and storytelling at Juniata.

The event will feature students from Panama, Mexico, Costa Rica, Kazakhstan, China, Burma, Ukraine, Russia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, each depicting a part of their home country's culture. Fala believes that the Storyfest will encourage dialogue about common morals that stretch beyond the borders that "weave us all together as a global village," she says.

The participants meet each Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the Tussey and Terrace residence hall lounge to practice their performances.

In addition, Fala enlisted student help in making the event a success. Zalina Smith and Monae Dewitt, both juniors from Baltimore, Md., both took Fala's storytelling course and now attend rehearsal meetings every Thursday to provide assistance to international students with storytelling techniques. Natalie Roll, a senior from Huntingdon, Pa., serves as the intercultural programming assistant and Luke Thompson, a junior from Newton, Pa., contributes as the diversity and inclusion associate.

"I hope that this is the foundational year, and the community embraces it so that it grows year after year," says Fala.

Written by Ellen Santa Maria '12

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.