Tri-C Western Campus Experiences 'Culture Shock'
April 18, 2014
Savita Gautam took the stage dressed in a brilliant red dress, its sequins casting flecks of light on the audience assembled April 17 in Tri-C’s Western Campus Galleria.
Gautam, a Tri-C staff member, proceeded to perform an interpretive Indian dance. She was, however, one of many who had the urge to move. By the end of the day, casual passers-by would be taking the stage as part of an impromptu Latin dance lesson.
Latin and Indian cultures were but two of many on display as part of Culture Shock, an event that celebrated cultural diversity. Booths around the Galleria offered visitors glimpses into Hungarian, Romanian, Saudi Arabian, Ukrainian, Puerto Rican, Native American, Serbian and Chinese cultures, to name a few. Student groups and community members helped work the booths.
Visitors could have their names written in Arabic, handle handmade Romanian crafts, learn about Buddhism and take in facts about the geography and history of Iraq. Students milled about in ethnic dress.
Culture Shock “is the first step in interesting many of our college-community students and staff in other cultures,” said Dr. Susan Lohwater, associate professor and coordinator of the English-as-a-Second Language program at West. The event replaced the College’s Diversity Days about four years ago. She and a College committee plan Culture Shock with help from the Parma City School District.
The school district landed a grant to help pay for the event. Refugee and immigrant students in the district and their parents are a big part of Culture Shock. The students had booths set up with information about social services, human trafficking and more — 12 tables in all.
In an email, Lohwater wrote, "[T]his type of event is the first step in a process to create a climate on campus which promotes understanding and respect among cultures. This is my passion."
Julia Shearson, executive director of the Cleveland Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was a featured speaker at Culture Shock. She spoke to a standing-room-only audience about Islam and Islamophobia.
“Her message was so important because Islam is a religion of peace,” Lohwater said.
Indeed, peace, tolerance and understanding were the orders of the day.