By: Byron Hoskinson – News Editor
On the afternoon of Sept. 15, students, cuisine, musical instruments and dances with origins scattered across the globe came together under the canopy of a single tent at the University of Dayton to take part in the university’s annual Culture Fest.
Organized by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Culture Fest gives students the opportunity to “experience the rich cultural diversity at the University of Dayton” and supplements that experience with “free food from a variety of cultures [and] great music and dance,” according to the OMA webpage at udayton.edu.
The three-hour event began at 5 p.m. and was held on the university’s Central Lawn.
Patty Alvarez, director of multicultural affairs, said the festival has been held every fall since 2011.
Carlos Stewart, assistant director of the OMA, said this year’s festival set a new attendance record and drew approximately one-third of the university’s undergraduate population.
“Every year, there has been an increase in attendance,” Stewart said. “This year we had approximately 2,500 attendees.”
OMA student engagement assistant Yvette Cabrera, a senior marketing and international business major, said aside from Culture Fest, the OMA organizes and facilitates other campus programs to promote cultural diversity and awareness.
“While Culture Fest is the biggest [event] that the OMA organizes through the year, OMA does a lot of programming around cultural heritage months,” Cabrera said.
“We do Hispanic Heritage, Black History, Native American and Asian and Pacific Islander American [months],” Cabrera said. “Almost all of these programs are done with the collaboration of other offices.”
Shelby Marolla, a senior marketing and leadership major, said she attended the festival in previous years and thought this year’s event was the best so far.
“It seemed to be a much bigger production than [previous years’] events,” Marolla said.
She also said events like Culture Fest that showcase other cultures and lifestyles are more important than ever.
“Given that we live in an increasingly globalized and connected world, awareness of how other people live and think is only going to become more relevant to everyday life,” Marolla said. “Especially at UD, which is rapidly becoming a more international and diverse university,” she said.
International student population, students’ travel opportunities and the university’s partnerships, highlight UD’s growth as an international university.
Approximately 10 percent of the current student population hails from outside the United States, according to the fall 2013 University of Dayton Fact Book, published by the university’s Office of Institutional Reporting.
Similarly, UD’s study abroad program and opportunities to travel internationally have expanded in recent years, with the number of students studying abroad rising 58 percent from 2010 to 2013, according to statistics from the Fact Book.
Notably, the University of Dayton China Institute opened in 2012 in the Suzhou Industrial Park, one of the most competitive and ultramodern industrial zones in the world, according to the UDCI udayton.edu webpage.
The institute’s opening ceremony included the finalization of partnerships between UD and five multinational corporations and saw UD become the first American university to open a center in the industrial park, according to Dayton Daily News.
Students said they attended Culture Fest for a variety reasons, the most common ones being the educational opportunities, free food and live entertainment.
Victoria Young, a freshman discover arts major, said the opportunity for new experiences and food motivated her to attend the event.
“I came to Culture Fest because I like seeing different things from around the world…and I want free food,” Young said.
“Though I would come even if there wasn’t free food,” Young added.