Cultural and religious clubs on campus do not get the acknowledgement they deserve, and their importance should be recognized. They not only promote diversity on campus and add a sense of home and community, but have many other contributions that benefit campus life. Jarod Glou, a Hillel Ambassador, said, “Cultural clubs are important because students spend their entire life being told what to believe by their parents. The abundance of these clubs at our school allow kids to look into all they were taught as children, but at the same time, learn and experience other cultures as well.”
The plethora of cultural and religious organizations on campus represents the many different cultures and religions within the UConn student body. This campus diversity is beneficial to both the student body and the university.
For students, “Diversity enhances self-awareness” and “promotes creative thinking,” according to US News and World Report. Since college is often where students meet people from many different cultures for the first time, they can learn about and encounter the life experiences of people from different backgrounds. Comparing and contrasting your culture, religion and experiences with those of others who come from different backgrounds enriches your self-insight and worldly knowledge. In order to prepare for life after college, this enrichment is necessary because it improves interpersonal and communication skills that are helpful in job interviews and any work environment.
For many students, cultural and religious clubs serve as a home away from home. Students meet people from the same cultural background as them, who have been raised celebrating the same holidays or practicing the same faith. Megan Seferian, a fifth-semester student who is part of the Armenian Students Association at UConn, said, “I like that the Armenian Club exists because it’s a nice reminder that there are other people like me at this school, people from the Middle East.. It makes me proud to be Armenian too.”
Being a member of Chabad on Campus has helped me stay connected to my Jewish identity and celebrate Jewish holidays while living away from home. Being part of this Jewish organization has given me a sense of family away from home. It is run by
Rabbi Shlomo Hecht and his wife Shaindel, who host Shabbat dinners and holidays for students in their home. The celebration of Jewish holidays can vary by the stream of Judaism and even by family or region, but Chabad practices Judaism very similarly to my family, so being part of this organization makes me feel at home. I have grown very connected to Chabad and the Hecht family through the holidays and Shabbats I have celebrated with them.
In my time at UConn, I have participated in events and learned about many cultural organizations, and I see their value to college students and the university. An institution whose central goal is to send successful students into the workforce and promote its prestigious reputation should want diversity among its students, as this enhances diversity in the national workforce. This “fosters innovation and competitiveness in business” and ultimately elevates an institution’s reputation.
Participating in cultural organizations can enrich students on an individual level, and I encourage everyone to learn about the different cultures that are represented here at UConn.
Keren Blaunstein is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.