The United Cultures of Bethel helps students of any ethnicity or race find their identity in their culture and learn about other cultures
Culture | Lucy Hayes for The Clarion
UCB gathers for a picture at a conference last year in Chicago. | Courtesy of Baolue Vang
The United Cultures of Bethel is a student-led branch of Bethel Student Activities that allows students to celebrate their own culture and learn how to interact with other cultures. The organization is centered around building community within distinct cultures, as well as branching out and interacting with people of other ethnicities.
UCB is made up of five subgroups, representing the five most common cultures among Bethel students.
Junior Baolue Vang, Executive Director of Intercultural Programs, said that the subgroups are an “off-space” for students where they can “just be without fear of judgement or questioning.” The groups allow the students to be rejuvenated and supported by people who can encourage them in their culture.
The five subgroups that UCB covers are Asian Christian Fellowship, Moya (African/African-American), First Nation (Native American and Indigenous Peoples), Voz Latina (Latino) and Peacemakers (Caucasian).
Each group meets weekly to discuss issues going on in their individual lives, and cultural issues outside of Bethel’s gates. The subgroups allow students to connect with others of their culture and help each other grow in their personal identities. It also will encourage them to reach out and become reconcilers on Bethel’s campus, in the Twin Cities and in the world.
The subgroups are led by directors who each represent a specific culture and have a passion for understanding other cultures. Junior Josh Phenow, the Peacemakers director, says that they strive for “living together respectfully without making the world a melting pot.”
In addition to the five subgroups, there are program-wide events for which all students in UCB, as well as any other students on campus, join together to celebrate culture and practice reconciliation. Some events include the Asian Heritage Festival, Black History Month, Day of the Dead, multi-cultural worship, simulations and storytelling events that celebrate folktales of different cultures.
The goal of these events, according to Vang, is to “bring awareness, discussion growth, and healing” to Bethel students. Often times, even students who aren’t plugged into a regular subgroup show up at the big events that UCB holds, giving a larger group new cultural understanding and experience with cultures outside of their own.