Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

The Global Engagement Team hosts Diwali for its fourth year


This last Friday, October 19, Diwali had the campus buzzed with activity as the Global Engagement Team put their final preparations in for the event. Banners stretched across the ceiling of the Gerber Center, leading to ornately painted windows and bright orange marigolds sold in the Brew.
The Global Engagement Team operates in different sub-committees. These committees include the marketing committee, financial wellness committee and two signature events committees that plan campus events. The signature events are split into the gold and blue groups. The Signature Events Blue is in charge of planning and facilitating the event.
The co-chair of Signature Events Blue and junior Shayna Smith explained, “Diwali is a widely celebrated Hindu festival in countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and sort of that region. Essentially it’s an event that represents good overcoming evil, light overcoming darkness. It’s just a time to come together with family – as I’m told by people who celebrate – eat food, just sort of light up everything with lights and sparklers so it’s just a celebratory time.”
Since last spring term, students on The Global Engagement Team, which is affiliated with The Office of International Student Life, have been coming together to think of ideas and work on the event.
The students looked to expand Diwali after four years of the event taking place.
The first year Diwali was held in the Brew by the Slough. The second year, the Global Engagement Team held it in only Gavle 3. Last year, along with this year, they have the whole Gavle room.
Also with each year, the students also select a new theme. “Our specific theme last year was blue and pink. This year is kind of different because we really tried to hone in on symbols, like with the marigold,” Smith explained.
The marigold was a primary part of Diwali’s advertising and theme, since they are a symbol for new beginnings. “The marigold flowers are the symbol of the event this year and as we’ve been told by some of the Belize students and students from some South Asian countries that celebrate Diwali, marigolds are one of those symbols used to celebrate the event so we’ve used them to decorate,” Smith stated.
Throughout the week the marigolds were being sold in the Brew to bring notice to the event. However, the marigold was not the only new thing added to the event this year.
“We’re going to have a marigold centerpiece for the event this year. The performers will be new, [and] we have the director of an Indian dance academy in the area performing a semi-classical piece. We always make it an effort to take the input of students who celebrate the specific holidays we’re trying to orchestrate on campus, so I think this year we’ve tried to do that especially,” Smith explained.  
The Director for International Student Life, Danny Kim, loves watching the planning process come together: “One of the coolest things about the whole planning time is students,” Kim stated, smiling.  
“American or international students who didn’t know each other come together during these committee meetings and develop these meaningful relationships with each other,” Kim continued. “That’s really cool for me to observe because that has been a known issue in this campus-this weird wall that exists between these two groups. And so that’s really beautiful to see.”
“It’s also really cool to see how brilliant and creative some of the students are with the ideas that they come up with,” Kim added. “And also their dedication and passion, and putting in so much volunteer hours. You know, they are not paid for any of this. They are doing this because they want to serve the community. So that for me is always very moving.”  
Finally, the day of the event came. Music poured out of the Gavle room doors as students filed in, each receiving a glow stick bracelet. Henna, a type of temporary body art, and rangoli, one of the traditional types of art for this event, lined one side of the room in stations, beckoning the students to partake. A photo booth stood to the side where students ran over, pulling out their phones for pictures. Students and faculty leaned against tables with detailed marigold centerpieces, chatting with each other. After getting called for food by the color of their glow stick, students huddled around the tables and on the ground, around the marigold framed performance areas, watching videos and performances.

Students participate in Diwali on October 19. Photo by Ian Murrin.

Enjoying the sight, first-year Syd Ohrtmann said, “My friends asked me to come with them and I really just wanted to expand my horizons and get out of my comfort zone. I got to try some really good food. I think it’s beautifully decorated and I peeked through the door and was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I wasn’t expecting this.’ And the singers that they had were super good-it’s so interesting to get to listen to them.”
The night finished off with the Brew patio lighting up with sparklers.
Looking at all the hard work unfolding, Smith said, “The best part of the event is seeing everybody laughing, smiling, enjoying time with friends. You know, we make these new friends on campus and it’s kind of saying, ‘Oh, you were talking about this part of your culture and now I actually see part of it.’ If people walk out of it having had a good time, having learned something new, bridging the gap between the domestic and international students, I’ll feel like we accomplished our goals.”
Photo Above: Students participate in Diwali on October 19. Photo by Ian Murrin.

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The Global Engagement Team hosts Diwali for its fourth year