Multicultural/Diversity & Inclusion Engineering Program

My international group this semester was also the Multicultural/Diversity & Inclusion Engineering Program. It has been bittersweet being involved with the group, as it has been an amazing resource, support group, and way to meet people of diverse backgrounds. The organization has been very helpful, as engineering can not only be overwhelming, but can also make it difficult to have time to meet people besides others in my specific engineering program. Looking back on the importance of the D&I Program, it is evident how important this resource is for people from diverse backgrounds. In comparison to the typically ultra competitive engineering programs, the D&I Program provided guidance from the mentors along with support from other students. Many people from less privileged backgrounds often have to work through college or deal with issues that others may not have to worry about, which made the D&I Program extremely valuable for everyone involved. Since this was my last semester, it was a weird experience leaving an organization that I have been involved with for so long and moving to alumni status. We had a banquet that honored the graduating seniors, and it was very nice having my parents and sister there while I walked on stage. It was amazing to feel such a strong sense of belonging and support because of the D&I Program, and I cannot wait to give back to the organization in the future, as it has given so much to me.

ICDG

This past semester, I had the honor to be a co-moderator for the Informed Citizens Discussion Group (ICDG) with my fellow Global Engagement Fellow, Noah Coen. It was wonderful to see returning members from our previous group in the fall semester as well as many new faces.  We had many interesting and unique discussions from gun laws to hypothetical situations such as: would you rather be a strawberry with a human brain or a human with a strawberry brain. At first, it was obvious that Noah and I were the co-moderator and we had to start every conversation and the other members would occasionally give an opinion. By the end of the semester, everyone was so comfortable with each to the point where I felt like Noah and I were no longer leading the group and everyone became an equally contributing member of the discussion. This semester we had members from various majors and it was great hearing about their different opinions as well as the wide variety of news topics they found important during the past week. Unfortunately, both Noah and I are studying abroad next year so we are no longer moderating next year, but we fully plan on doing it the year after we come back. Since I met some of the most amazing seniors through ICDG and tomorrow is graduation, I felt the need to say that being a member of ICDG was one of the best decision I made as a freshmen. I got to meet some very thoughtful and intelligent people, participated in interesting late night discussions, and made some amazing friends. I wish all the best of luck to everyone graduating this year and I can’t wait to see where life takes them in the future.

International Group: Arabic Film Club

This semester I co-founded the Arabic Film Club with another Arabic Flagship student. We both wanted to revive this club, which had disbanded when the faculty advisor had left the school. We revamped what ArabicFilmClubpreviously was the Arabic Drama Club into the current Arabic Film Club. We met every two weeks throughout the semester to watch and discuss a movie in Arabic. Our discussions focused on aspects of language, culture, point of view, etc. We selected movies that were produced from across the Arab world in order to present a diverse understanding of the film scene.

The movies we watched included Where Do We Go Now?, a Lebanese film; Barakah Meets Barakah, Saudi Arabia’s first rom-com; Mother of the Bride, an old-school Egyptian classic; Traitors, a Moroccan film, and From A to B, an Emirati dramedy.  I recommend all of the movies listed — most of which are available through the Language Lab in Kaufman Hall — although the first three are among my favorites. I enjoyed each film we watched for different reasons since each brought something different to the discussion than the movie from the week before.

Throughout the semester, we did some collaborative events with other groups on campus. For example, we hosted  a joint screening with the Moroccan Darija Club the week that we watched a Moroccan film. We also supported our faculty advisor, Dr. Mahdi, when he brought Egyptian director Hexham Issawi to campus for a special event.

I look forward to growing the Arabic Film Club even more in the future. We already had a great turnout of students from all levels of Arabic, and we became a registered student organization which means that we are recognized by the Student Government Association and can apply for funding to host bigger and greater events in the future.

Manos Juntas – International Group

This semester, I decided to continue with the international group of Manos Juntas where I am able to volunteer at a medical clinic in Oklahoma City on Saturday’s.

The “Manos Juntas” Foundation is an organization that helps low-income people get free medical care. Throughout the semester, I have volunteered at Manos Juntas many times and have learned many valuable lessons. By volunteering at this clinic, I was able to obtain a large number of individual interactions with patients, take their medical history and review their basic vital signs. All the volunteers were trained and helped the foundation as much as possible. As I am already fluent in Spanish, I was able to practice my translation skills and new medical terms that I had to learn through my “Medical Spanish” and “Spanish for Social Work” course. Through this experience I was able to meet new people and interact with many different cultures. During the time I was helping in “Manos Juntas,” I was able to develop new skills and gain a new vision in the medical field. Although I will not work directly in the field of medicine when I graduate, the experience I had will be beneficial in my life and in my career. I am planning to enter the medical field of law that contains Medical Malpractice and Health Care. “Manos Juntas” is a great tool for me, especially because although I am not certified, I was able to see patients one-on-one, as well as help at the pharmacy.

Community service is an essential part of every student’s life, and should be practiced. Providing help to those in need is a great opportunity to interact with different communities, as well as learn about yourself. Specifically, if we are talking about “Manos Juntas” it is a great opportunity for college students who are in need of medical volunteer hours or just want to help.

Manos Juntas: http://www.manosjuntas.com/Volunteer.html

Ale Acosta

Diplomacy Lab – Fall 2017

This fall, I was part of the Diplomacy Lab project through the Department of Entrepreneurship. The Diplomacy Lab is a public-private partnership through the U.S. State Department to utilize university students and courses to increase innovation in solving foreign policy challenges. The State Department will post the project proposal, and university professors can apply to host the project.

Two professors from Entrepreneurship applied and were selected to supervise a project this semester, and it immediately piqued my interest when I learned of the topic. The objective was investigating how the State Department can increase employment in Pakistan’s Punjab region through entrepreneurship. I applied and became one of seven students working on the project.

We began the research by splitting into two teams and building entrepreneurial ecosystem canvases of the U.S. and of Pakistan to see if there were resources we had here that we could export. From there, we began benchmarking and forming our recommendations, and we spent the last two weeks typing a large document and building a website that shared our findings.

Entrepreneurship is not seen as a career option for many in Pakistan, as they want the prestige and security that comes from having a job with a regular paycheck and more stability. This is true of many in the U.S. as well, although our history of successful entrepreneurs does inspire many young people to follow that track.

The group of researchers were a blast to work with, and I tremendously enjoyed getting to know a couple more professors in my department at the same time! I learned a lot about entrepreneurship and consulting throughout this project, and I know it will benefit me as I go on to be a consultant in my future.

ICDG

After being a member of Informed Citizens Discussion Group (ICDG) during my freshman year, I was excited to learn that I was chosen to be an ICDG moderator this semester with my fellow Global Engagement Fellow, Noah. Every Friday, we would meet to discuss any relevant new topics that occurred that week from domestic politics to the newest medical breakthrough to weekly updates about a baby elephant.  At first it was slightly forced to get the discussions going with the other members but over time and as we got to know each other, conversation flowed smoothly. What I love about this club is that as college students, we are very busy people trying to balance academics, health, and a social life, leaving very little time to read news nevertheless international news. We always seem to care more about events that happen close to home since it has the potential to impact us or people that we know, making the news relevant to us and thus important. Often times we forgot that other very important events are occurring elsewhere in the world. While it may not affect our lives directly, it still affects thousands of other people’s and we should still care and pay attention to them. We can always learn from other countries’s actions and events in order to not make the same mistakes as them. The best part about ICDG is that many people with various news interests come together to share about them. It is a great way to learn about what is happening in the world even if we don’t have the time to read the articles ourselves. I still remember learning about the Myanmar genocide from one of the members who has a huge interest in social rights. At the time, I have never even heard of the country Myanmar nevertheless about this tragic event occurring that was being overshadowed by America’s domestic drama. This club allows students to keep a worldly perspective and reminds them that there are more important events happening in the world than in college life.

On Being a Rio Ambassador

This semester, like last semester, my international group was being a study abroad ambassador for the OU’s sister program in Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, also much like last semester, this group did significantly less than I had hoped for.

As I have written so much about, I loved every second of my time in Rio de Janeiro and would shout it to the whole world from the top of Mount Everest if I could. Because of this, two semesters ago I was thrilled to apply-for and become a part of the ambassador program. I have been more than ready to stand in front of classes, armed with dozens of the several hundred photos I took from my time in Rio, and explain how they would all be missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime (which I genuinely believe it is) if they didn’t drop what they were doing to sign up for the next trip out. But even after several offers from me, this still hasn’t come to fruition. Additionally, we don’t have consistent meetings to discuss ideas or the like either.

What we do do, however, is band together when it is important, like during a big event to promote Rio, and show off our own enthusiasm about our experience. For example, we make a lot of appearances during Brazil week each semester, spend time at booths when we can, and some even act as liaisons in the CIS office, but other than this, unfortunately, we don’t get to do too terribly much. Now don’t get me wrong, this approach is important, but I think there is more we as ambassadors can do to spread the word about how Rio should be more of a contender in OU’s sister programs.

With this, I have an announcement! In order to attempt to bridge the gaps and try to get more people involved, I have volunteered to be the Rio Ambassador Chair for the next spring semester! Whoohoo! I am thrilled. After this semester, I learned that we simply need, as ambassadors, to be more connected to one another and more involved with the ambassador program in general. I have high hopes and already a few plans for myself in this position, and I can’t wait to keep y’all updated!

International Group: Egyptian Club pt. 2

Like last semester, my international group this semester was the Egyptian Club, which met every Friday from 1:30 to 2:30. Once again, the Egyptian Club was led by two Egyptian students and their close American friend who taught us about Egyptian culture, including underground music, children’s television programs, the Coptic religion, and the LGBTQ community. The Egyptian Club was always a great way to end my week on Fridays because the moderators are so knowledgeable and friendly and funny. Even though I was in the club last year, I continued to learn even more this semester.

My favorite presentation was on the LGBTQ community in Egypt. During the presentation, we learned important vocabulary for describing the LGBTQ community as well as organizations that support LGBTQ rights in Egypt. We discussed important figures who identify as LGBTQ in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, as well as some common perceptions of the LGBTQ community in society at large. I really like this club because of the way it supplements my Arabic learning outside of the classroom. This presentation gave me tons of information that I later used in my own presentation on gender that I gave in my Arabic language class.

The Egyptian Club partnered with the Moroccan Darija Club to produce a video for the end-of-year Arabic Talent Show sponsored by the Arabic Flagship Program. The video played off the pretend rivalry that exists between the two clubs by humorously highlighting the differences in the two cultures in terms of hand gestures, language, and musical tastes. I think it was a fun way to conclude the talent show, and I would like to do a collaboration with the Darija Club again next semester.

In what is becoming something of a trend, I will be joining the Egyptian Club once again next semester. I look forward to covering new and different topics and revisiting old favorites like the important slang that I need in my attempt to talk like an Egyptian.