May 07, 2008

Intercultural Dialogue student group honored

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The winner of the 2007-2008 Spirit of Diversity Award, presented by Southern Illinois University Carbondale's student development office, is the Intercultural Dialogue Student Association.

The award recognizes the registered student organization best exemplifying a commitment to and support of diversity with its programs and activities during the past year. The University boasts more than 400 registered student organizations. The annual Celebration of Leadership and Involvement Reception at the SIUC Student Center April 23 included the award to the Intercultural Dialogue Student Association, more commonly referred to as IDSA.

The award recognizes IDSA's efforts on behalf of the SIUC goal of fostering a multicultural community and valuing and celebrating diversity on and off the Carbondale campus. The goal of IDSA is "promoting dialogue, tolerance, and understanding among students of diverse culture," according to its Web site. Organized in fall 2007, IDSA has about 20 members and has already "achieved a great success within this short period of time," said Ismail Guneydas, IDSA president.

The new group wasted no time in beginning the "Learn a Language, Learn a Culture" program. It's all about bringing together people interested in learning and teaching languages and cultures, enhancing the multicultural exchange and community.

The group participated in "International Dialogue on Faith: Women's and Men's Perspectives" organized by the SIUC Office of International Students and Scholars. Guneydas and Aslihan Akkaya, vice president of IDSA, were members of the panel in Harrisburg discussing how cultures and various religions affect one another from male and female perspectives.

To promote and celebrate diversity, the group organized a campus sharing of ashura or "Noah's pudding," Guneydas said. Symbolic of unity and the gift of friendship, the cuisine features all sorts of nuts and fruit and its symbolism is apparent as people of all cultures and races consume it with one another. IDSA members told the story of the tradition as they distributed the pudding free to students and staff. The Interfaith Center hosted the event.

The IDSA also organized an Abrahamic Dinner in conjunction with the Interfaith Council's Interfaith Week with Jews, Christians and Muslims attending and offering differing perspectives regarding Abraham. Guneydas said the goal was "to bring together people from three major world religions and emphasize commonalities rather than differences in order to establish a stronger community whose members can respect and accept each other regardless of their cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds." More than 70 people from SIUC and the community attended.

Guneydas said the IDSA believes these types of events demonstrate "our commitment to foster diversity, dialogue and mutual understanding among people on and off campus and help to create a multicultural community with diverse values. We will continue to organize such events in the future."

He said they were "honored" to receive the Spirit of Diversity Award and glad that their efforts were appreciated by other people as well. Kemal Akkaya, computer science assistant professor, is the faculty adviser for IDSA.

Also during the awards ceremony, 59 recipients claimed Multi-Ethnic Academic Excellence Awards. Each received a certificate and a lapel pin.

Student Development-Multicultural Programs and Services also noted with sadness during the awards presentation that Paulette Curkin, coordinator for Student Development and the GLBT Resource Center, will be retiring soon.