Professor and Grad Student Start ‘Cultural Connections Club’

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After the most recent election, America has seen a division of values, cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic status and political leanings and with the new president in the White House, those divisions are being exploited – across the world.

Bill Meissner, a retired SCSU professor from the Creative Writing department, is troubled by the new president’s first month in office and the attempt to ban refugees from seven different countries.

“I have been really upset and irritated by what the administration has done the past few months,” Meissner said. “I want to change these feelings into some kind of positive action.”

In order to breach the cultural divide, Meissner and Yuhman Zhao, a graduate student from the Center of International Studies, are forming an organization called the SCSU Cultural Connections Club to introduce students of multicultural backgrounds and American students in order to build empathy and develop a wider global perspective.

Originally, the club was supposed to consist of students from the honors and international program, but they decided to keep it open to anyone who would like to join.

“We want students to feel welcome, no matter the background whether that’s in a small group or a large group,” Meissner said.

Yuman, who is an international student from China, said she’s been on campus for over a year and has always wanted the opportunity to share her culture with others, while learning about other lifestyles from a multitude of backgrounds.

“To me, this would be an opportunity to share about my culture on a larger stage and it would give me the chance to improve my English,” Yuman said.

When it comes to activities, Meissner and Yuman said they want the club to have a more social environment, while there are opportunities for international students to get tutoring from American students. The two want to focus more on creating long-lasting friendships.

“We don’t have an exact plan of what we are going to do in terms of activities, but we want to exchange ideas with everyone,” Meissner said. “There are foosball and ping-pong tables in Lawrence Hall or we could also go to culture nights on campus or other social events. I would love to see students exchanging emails and developing friendships, I was involved in the international friendship program for a while and I found that the connection is great, you broaden your life, you broaden your relationships by meeting people from around the world.”

Even with St. Cloud State being a diverse campus, Meissner said there still seems to be a split between groups. He often says in his classes, it’s the international students talking amongst themselves and American students doing the same thing.

“Over the past 10 years, I’ve found that most international students are only friends with other international students,” Meissner said. “I think that there should be cultural presentations as a part of group activity, international students can talk about their cultural origins and then Stearns County students can talk about growing up on a farm and picking rocks, those kinds of exchanges would be great.”

Meissner and Yuman said their group plans to meet on a bi-weekly basis. The first meeting is Feb. 28 in the basement lounge of Lawrence Hall.

If you’re interested in joining, you can email Yuman atΒ CISGA4@stcloudstate.edu.

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