Ladeisha Bhide '09 began the day's festivities with a chapel talk about the importance of the international student community at St. Olaf. "We all do our part in embracing and celebrating diversity," she said. "We want to emphasize taking pride in where we're all from and where we have been."
A member of the International Students Organization (ISO) and an organizer of Wednesday's events, Bhide sees events such as United Nations Day as opportunities for cooperation and visibility. "The international community needs to be made visible on the St. Olaf campus," she said. "With [the two year] theme of Global Citizenship, we need to recognize the global citizens in our midst."
Bhide conceived the idea for a United Nations Day celebration at St. Olaf through experiences at her high school in Nigeria. "We used to do it at my high school, and I loved it," she said. "It was my favorite part of the year."
Events of the day included Bhide's chapel talk and inter-religious prayers read by students from the Movement for Inter-religious Action (MIRA), a hallway display on ISO and United Nations Day, a parade across campus and by a reception in the Buntrock Commons' Crossroads. During the parade, many members of ISO dressed in traditional clothing and carried flags representing the countries hailed by St. Olaf's international students. At the reception, each student introduced his or her country and presented the flag to a lively audience.
Mia Philips '10, ISO's Diversity Celebrations Committee (DCC) representative who helped organize Wednesday's events, emphasized that United Nations Day is a celebration of community. "With the events that ISO puts on, there is a sense of solidarity and making our presence known," she said.
Many students in ISO collaborated to make the day's events successful. "When international students come to St. Olaf, many of them come to ISO and step up and take leadership roles," Philips said.
Lejing Wang '10, co-leader of the ISO, stressed the importance of recognizing individual's stories. "I don't want to be treated exclusively, but I want my special background to be recognized," Wang said. Philips agreed. "When you're in the chapel, look at the flags," she said. "Those flags have faces here on campus, and we can fully appreciate that diversity."
Wang serves as the organization's representative to student Senate, where he connects the organization to the student body at large and examines the needs of international students that can be met by the student government.
Wang also emphasized the importance of a campus with a global perspective.
"I'm from China, and when I first came to St. Olaf I felt really comfortable," Wang said. "That made me want to involve the St. Olaf community in ISO. I wanted it to represent the international student body on campus, but I also wanted it to represent the global awareness that we all have on campus."