First Annual Multicultural Student Organization Fair

There?s a foot of water outside, rolling rapidly down Forbes, but there?s a party in the University Center. Well, not precisely a party, but the colorful clusters of balloons might make one think otherwise. What it is precisely is the first annual Multicultural Student Organization Fair, held during the most inclement weather of the season. Fortunately for all involved, the fair was held indoors, with booths and decorations safely lining the walls of Kirr Commons.

The fair was attended by a variety of groups, mostly cultural or religious, but also several GLBT and women?s interest organizations as well. Despite the frightful weather outdoors, the UC was bright and bustling with students and alumni happy to inform attendees of the special nature of their groups.

The Multicultural Student Organization Fair was organized in part by Emily Half, an Associate Dean of Student Affairs as well as the housefellow for Boss and McGill. She directs Carnegie Mellon?s Multicultural Initiatives Program. Half wrote in an e-mail an explanation of how the fair came into existence. ?The fair was actually an idea that one of my multicultural interns from last year originated. Elisa Echeverr?a [a 2004 alumna of the Heinz School] suggested that the general activities fair was so large that it was harder for some of the small groups to really shine. She and I toyed with this idea last year, but this is the first year that the Multicultural Student Organization Fair came to fruition.?

There were 29 groups that participated in the fair last Friday, all eager to attract the students who may have missed them at the general Activities Fair, or hoping to interest the semi-soaked passersby. Half wrote that Monique Lanaux, a masters student in the Heinz School who is a current intern of Half?s, helped to contact the groups that participated. Lanaux is the current president of the Black Graduate Student Organization, which was one of the groups that had a table at the fair.

With the groups clustered in the main entrance of the UC, as well as along the wall near the Connan Room, the affair was certainly an intimate one. The event brought energy into the University Center; there were groups singing and some occasional dancing as well. Most tables had candy or some sort of snack to hand out along with their literature explaining what their group represents. The Multicultural Student Organization Fair was certainly a lot easier to navigate than the Activities Fair, but it could have benefited from a little more publicity.

One of the newest groups at Friday?s Fair was Shalom-Salaam. The description pages that Half handed out at the fair describes the group as ?a non-political organization focused on educating the campus about the varieties of cultures in the Middle East.? Inna Aronzon, a senior double major in history and design, is a member of this upstart group, and was excited to comment on the benefits of the smaller and more culturally directed fair. ?I think it?s fantastic, especially ?cause the last Activities Fair was swamped.... These organizations didn?t have the opportunity to attract a lot of people because it was so crowded,? said Aronzon.

There were a number of Greek organizations present at the fair, all with a focus on cultural issues. Among them were Pi Delta Psi, a cultural awareness fraternity; Kappa Phi Lambda and alpha Kappa Delta Phi, Asian-interest sororities; and Kappa Alpha Psi, a historically black, city-wide fraternity.

Earlier in the fair, around the Kappa Alpha Psi table, the brothers performed some impromptu dance moves. Larry Thomas, a modern languages senior and a brother of the fraternity, commented on possible reasons for holding the fair, ?[I think it?s] CMU?s attempt to make people aware of the different cultures on the campus. It?s definitely a good start.?

It seems that the fair will return and possibly grow larger in subsequent years with the help of Half and her interns. As these groups continue to expand, interest in the Multicultural Student Organization Fair will expand as well. Until then, it is a step toward forming a greater understanding of the opportunities at Carnegie Mellon.