Month-long cultural festival kicks off tomorrow

By Sarah Wainright

Students can take a trip around the world this month — try new foods, listen to unfamiliar music, watch foreign films — without leaving campus.

The 19th annual UK Cultural Diversity Festival begins tomorrow evening and continues through March 30.

Nearly 50 events are part of the month-long festival, which kicks off Saturday with a talent show. The events range from food tasting and art shows to lectures and career planning.

“The goal is to have a month-long event where we can not only celebrate diversity, but learn and grow from each other,” said Mahjabeen Rafiuddin, the director of Student Diversity Engagement.

The event committee, which is made up of about 20 students and faculty, has met every week since last semester, Rafiuddin said.

“UK has a lot of international students, and this is one way for us to celebrate them being here,” said Patrick Nally, a marketing and integrated strategic communications junior who is a member of the event planning committee.

The festival will expose students to different cultures and give them an opportunity to learn more about the world, said Naitore Kiogora, an integrated strategic communications senior.

“A lot of people don’t really get the chance to step outside their own personal culture,” Kiogora said. “You get to learn about yourself, but you also get to learn about your world.”

For many international students, “the events give a feeling of home away from home,” said Arthi Vasudevan, an electrical engineering graduate student.

That is especially true for Vasudevan, whose home country is India, because former Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is coming to give a speech on March 24.

“I am highly excited,” said Vasudevan. “He really respects students.”

Rafiuddin is looking forward to the Diversity Connection Panel and Reception, a new event where local companies will talk about the importance of a diverse work environment. CEOs from corporations like Lexmark and Thomas & King will discuss the measures they are taking on diversity. The reception will connect students of all majors with employers.

Nally said it is important to take time to focus on diversity.

“It can get lost if you don’t,” he said.

Cultural diversity goes beyond students just attending these events — “it seeps into everything we do,” Rafiuddin said.