By Steffanie Lindgren '10
Issue 19 | Spring/Summer 2010
Bethel University is home to a variety of multicultural student groups. Together they work to serve students from different cultures and walks of life and create an environment where all students can thrive and share their voices. The multicultural student groups create a community where students can seek and know God, while gaining a greater understanding of their fellow Bethel students.
United Cultures of Bethel (UCB) desires to unify the Bethel community as the body of Christ. Ahmed Odushola, executive director of intercultural programs for the Bethel Student Association and student leader of UCB, explained, “UCB caters to the needs of students of color and students who are not of the majority culture.” Odushola, an international student from the projects of London, described his transition to Bethel: “When I first came, everything was difficult for me, because it was different from my own culture.” UCB can ease the transition for students who are not of the majority culture. “UCB acts as a support system for students who may find it difficult,” said Odushola. “It is a vehicle for equality not just concerning racial barriers, but across all barriers. UCB empowers students to have a voice.”
UCB is divided into five subsidiary student resource groups, which target the five largest race populations on campus. The groups include Asian Christian Fellowship, Moya, the Peacekeeper Project, First Nation, and Voz Latina. The subgroups meet separately, but also come together to meet as a whole.
Asian Christian Fellowship (ACF) seeks to be an outlet to Asian students at Bethel and serves as a voice for them. One of the issues addressed by ACF is how to find a connection with white students without losing one’s Asian culture. “I want to embrace my own culture, the Hmong culture,” said Jenny Lee, a student leader for ACF. “Growing up in a Hmong church really gave me an avenue to connect to my roots. I want to be an avenue for [other Bethel students] to connect as well.” Another ACF student leader, David Kim, said, “My passion is reconciliation and advocating for students of color … [In ACF] I connect with my Asian peers. I feel like that is a gift.” The group holds movie nights, Bible studies, and dinners with the goal of creating a safe place to talk about what is going on in the lives of students. ACF also sponsors an annual Asian heritage dinner where students can learn about different Asian cultures.
Another branch of UCB is the Peacekeeper Project. The chief goal of the project is to find ways to understand different cultures in order to effectively know students from different backgrounds. “It works at helping white students or European Americans to understand some of the frustrations of students of color,” said Odushola.
Moya is the African and African-American Christian fellowship. Moya, translated “spirit” in the South African Bantu language, means to embrace one’s identity first as being made in the image of God, and second as being African or African American. Moya sponsors events for Black History Month in addition to small group events. Lelia Ellison, student leader for Moya, said the purpose of Moya is to establish community. “It can get extremely lonely here…it is much easier to talk to someone who understands where you are coming from.”
Voz Latina, translated “Latin Voice,” is the Hispanic Christian fellowship. Voz Latina is a network of support and resources open to Latino/Latina students and those interested in Latino culture. Their mission is to help students form a strong sense of their ethnic identity as they prepare themselves to become effective professionals. Voz Latina strives to make the Latino voice and culture heard and seen in the Bethel community through the exploration, participation, and celebration of culture and issues relevant to the Latino community.
First Nation is the Native-American Christian fellowship. Last year, the fellowship sponsored Native American Heritage Month events; attended a Native American film at the Walker Art Museum; traveled to hear Lakota activist Winona Laduke speak; and visited the Wild Rice Festival in Roseville, Minn.
The name Mukappa, Bethel’s club for MKs, is derived from the Greek letters for M and K; MKs, of course, is short for missionary kids or kids who grew up on the mission field. Mukappa helps MKs adjust to college life at Bethel. “Third culture kids are good at adjusting, but it gets exhausting,” said Katie Chalmers, a Mukappa student leader. “There’s a comfort factor being with other MKs, and you don’t have to modify who you are or what you say,” agreed fellow Mukappa student leader Peter Ellison. “MKs fit in appearance-wise, but they have missed out on 19 years of culture,” explained Ellison.
At the beginning of each year, Mukappa provides a welcome basket for freshman MKs as well as the opportunity to work with an upperclassman mentor. The club also supplies winter clothing to MKs from warmer climates. In addition, Mukappa members ensure that MKs have a place to go on breaks such as Thanksgiving. “Adjusting to a different culture is a whole different situation when you come alone, not having your parents around,” said Chalmers.
Throughout the year, Mukappa sponsors events, including movie nights, sports nights, and an outing to a Twins game. In January, Mukappa participates in a retreat with regional Mukappa groups where members can enjoy sledding and other winter sports, a favorite for MKs from warmer climates!
Catalyst members seek to be instruments of positive change at Bethel on issues of disabilities. “We want to bring awareness about disabilities to Bethel and educate people, because I feel if people are educated they are more likely to interact with someone who has a disability and be more comfortable to bring Christ’s love,” said Andrea Olson, Catalyst vice president. According to Catalyst President Amalia Canepa-Green, “Our club is not just for people with disabilities, but for everyone.”
Last year, Catalyst hosted a speaker who discussed ways to interact with people who are autistic. In addition, Catalyst hosts an annual event featuring a panel of Bethel students who have disabilities. “People within the Bethel community talk about what it is like to be a Bethel student with a disability,” explained Olson. “It’s a forum for them to tell their stories,” said Canepa-Green. Catalyst has also sponsored movie nights showing films such as A Beautiful Mind. Catalyst focuses on four types of disabilities: physical, mental, emotional, and learning. “We really just try to connect students with students,” said Canepa-Green. “Our main focus this year is open communication and an open community, creating a place where people feel free to communicate.”
For more information visit the Office of Inter-Cultural and International Programs and Services that supports these clubs.