UFV’s Global Lounge is a place where students of all orientations and backgrounds can visit to study, or catch up with friends. The room features work spaces, cozy spots, and their most recent addition, the “Reflections on Multiculturalism” exhibition by this semester’s Political Science 322: Introduction to American Politics class (POS 322).
The exhibit is a series of photo-essay combinations curated by Dr. Fiona MacDonald. Students within the class were asked to select an image associated with a topic or issue they identify with, and present it with a written portion about their idea of how the specific themes of culture and diversity manifest in their everyday lives.
An opening reception took place from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 7. The projects will be on display for at least two weeks from that date, which overlaps with International Education Week. International Education Week celebrates international education and its effects on social, economic, and cultural well-being on a global scale. Canada and an estimated one hundred other countries have come together to celebrate International Education Week under the theme “Learn and Love Diversity.” There is no specific end date for the exhibition at this time.
Student speakers Cameron Schmitke and Michelle Murray-Schlitt from Amnesty International opened the show by speaking about promoting student engagement in issues regarding human rights and multiculturalism. The overall message was that multiculturalism and diversity strengthen a community, and how important it is to take concerns from around the world, and make them ours.
The main themes of the exhibition describe how multiculturalism and diversity impact our daily lives. Many of the pieces were inspired by examples of diversity here on the UFV campuses. However, the list of topics was not limited to UFV specific issues. Projects took inspiration from community events, family affairs, political figures and turmoil, or cultural traditions and symbols for particular cultures or religions. The final products varied greatly, speaking about gender, refugees, immigration, and more. The work connects micro politics to the broader themes being discussed in Dr. Fiona MacDonald’s POS 322 class. MacDonald stated in an interview that “[The exhibition] is very open for the students to be creative, and discuss their personal experiences with these themes.”
Most of the images are original works by the students, but some have elected to source images that speak to them. MacDonald explained, “Some students have a hard time coming up with an image that reflects what they want to say.”
MacDonald first assigned this project to her class a few years ago. At that time, the end goal was not to show the work in an exhibit, as the projects were simply submitted for marks. This did not sit well with MacDonald, which led her to create the event. “I started planning on moving the assignment to be a more collective experience for the students, and other members of the UFV community, because I thought they were too good for me to just keep all to myself.”
“There’s a lot of questions that we all have, especially young people about the future,” said MacDonald. “Abbotsford is a very multicultural city, a growing city. But it’s also unclear what our future is.” This exhibit is a successful attempt in encouraging students to ask questions about our future, and to learn about our community in a positive atmosphere.
Speakers at the opening wished to make students aware of the resources available to them at UFV International. The centre is open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. They are currently encouraging classes and student groups to utilize the space. Students are able to book the room during this time, but if you wish to have exclusive use, you are able to book between 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday.
While the pieces shown in “Reflections on Multiculturalism” are part of an assignment for the POS 322 class, they are no less meaningful, and have the capability of inspiring the desire to take action on issues of multiculturalism and diversity.