Throughout the year there are many holidays celebrated, but most recently the Marist community celebrated one that helped to teach students about their fellow peers and open the community up to a greater global education and cultural understanding.
With the help of multiple offices, faculty, and other students, a team of international students from India came together to sponsor a week of events surrounding the annual Indian celebration of Diwali, the Festival of Lights. The week long event included numerous displays and demonstrations to immerse students in the Indian culture and Diwali. The events included an opening reception, interactive exhibits during the following days and a closing reception. The Exhibit integrated Indian fashion, jewelry, henna, turban tying, cultural artifacts, artwork and multimedia, including light displays, music, a video explaining the celebration of Diwali in India and photographs of India in the Lowell Thomas lobby.
“I’ve never organized something on such a large scale, but when we approached Iris, the Director of the Center for Multicultural Affairs, to create an event for Diwali and to help us interact with the undergraduate student she recommended approaching other departments to see what they had to offer,” said Saranya Radhakrishnan, one of the lead graduate students involved in the event.
With support from numerous departments, Saranya and five other lead students from India enlisted the help of new faculty member Juan-Manuel Olivera-Silvera, who was eager to help them execute the idea. “Professor Olivera-Silvera traveled to India plenty of times and was very enthusiastic to get involved when we asked him,” noted Saranya. He enlisted help of two other new faculty, Professor Joanna D’Avanzo from Advertising and Dr. Jennifer Robinette from Communication and Public Relations to join him in leading the project with the students. Together they all met on a weekly basis with international graduate students from India and administrators to bring the Diwali celebration to life.
“As new faculty members, being involved with the Diwali Celebration helped us get to know students, staff members and administrators on campus we would not know otherwise,” said Dr. Robinette.
Categorized more as a national holiday, Diwali celebrates hope and happiness. The “light” aspect represents the greater idea of good conquering evil. “It is also a reminder to know that you have people around to whom you are important. On Diwali you call everyone you know and wish Happy Diwali and remind all that they are remembered and loved,” said Saranya Radhakrishnan, one of the lead students involved in the event.
The community was very supportive of and intrigued by the display. Many shared their experience and involvement in the events with positive feedback on social media using #MyDiwali and #MyMarist. One of the biggest being Wednesday’s Henna demonstrations, with over 180 people visiting the exhibition that day alone. However, it was not just about attendance but the actual interaction between the graduate students from India and the rest of the Marist community. “The best part of this exhibition is being able to interact with other students and share our culture with them,” said Bhargav Uppalaptati.
“I cannot imagine a better way to meet members of the Marist community than through our interactions surrounding the Diwali Celebration. Interest in the events and the Indian culture was extraordinary. Learning more about it as we worked on the project helped bond us with the Indian students and bond the Indian students with countless others on campus,” said Dr. Robinette.
President Murray and his wife also attend and took part in the week’s event in support of the students and expressed interest in making the Marist week-long Diwali Exhibit and Celebration an annual event. The entire week of events brought the Marist campus community together in a vibrant celebration of international culture. The students, faculty, and departments involved hope to take the success of the Diwali celebration as a model to engage with more cultures and promote the global Marist experience.
Diwali at Marist was sponsored by: Center for Multicultural Affairs, School of Communication & the Arts, Academic Technology, School of Computer Science & Mathematics, School of Liberal Arts, Fashion Design Seniors & Indian Graduate Students