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Culture Kick-off welcomes students to campus with food, music, dancing

Stationed at dining halls across all four campuses, the event provided a sense of community and was a celebration of the diverse student population


ASU biology senior Brielle Ruscitti (left) and Changemaker Central senior coordinator Jasmine Smalls pose for a photo at the Culture@ASU table at ASU's Culture Kick-off at the Memorial Union in Tempe on Aug. 17, 2021.

As ASU eases into a different look on campus after over a year of most attending virtually, Culture@ASU hosted one of its first large events — Culture Kick-off — to provide a sense of community for new students and to celebrate the University's diverse population on Tuesday. 

With the largest incoming first-year, on-campus class, this year’s event, previously known as CultureFest, allowed a variety of student clubs to engage with new students looking to find a place to belong. 

The event took place a week after ASU announced face coverings would be required in certain indoor spaces where social distancing isn't possible due to rising concerns of the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Nakita Saxon, assistant director of Student Connection and Communication and faculty advisor for Culture@ASU, said in previous years, the event was held at one central location where larger crowds of students could participate. 

In an effort to ensure COVID-19 safety, this year's events were spread throughout the dining halls of the various ASU campuses, with different clubs stationed at each hall. The Culture Kick-off ran from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Polytechnic campus, 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the West campus, and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Downtown Phoenix and Tempe campuses. 

Carlos Aguilar-Negrete, a senior studying electrical engineering and president of the Coalition of International Students said it’s important to promote visibility for all cultures.

“We have large populations of students that are international that come here to get an education, and they have a lot of culture to bring, and I think that’s really important to show (them),” he said.

Suzy Stone, campus Rabbi, and Jake Shulman, engagement associate, from Hillel ASU, said despite being an organization for Jewish students, they aim to provide a welcoming space to anyone who needs it. 

"If anyone needs a place to study, to chill, needs a group, a community, we provide that," Shulman said.

Student organizations like the Hispanic Business Students Association, the Philippine American Student Association and the Southeast Asian American Student Association had posters displaying the events they hold throughout the semester in addition to stickers and other memorabilia on their tables.  

Other groups, like the Arabic Language & Culture Club, were representing their culture and club by playing music and dancing.

READ MORE: Students eager to learn in person as they move into a new 'normal'

This event coincided with the University's move-in dates, intending to get students situated and comfortable with their new homes on campus.

At the Tempe campus, the event was spread throughout the Barrett, Manzanita, Hassayampa, Tooker House and Pitchforks dining halls. Each hall had various cultural clubs coming together to share their backgrounds and promote diversity.

Stationed in front of the Hassayampa Dining Hall, Sara Conklin, a sophomore studying business law and American Indian studies as well as the facilitator of membership for the Alliance of Indigenous People, emphasized that the organization strives to create a home away from home.

This philosophy was sustained throughout the event, as it emphasized the importance of ASU not only providing a home to students who may feel isolated after moving away for the first time, but also allowing them to share and celebrate their differences, she said. 

“There’s a lot of students here that are not aware of what they identify with,” she said. “Being more open to all the different cultures here (will help students) be more in touch with their culture.” 

Correction: A previous photo caption misstated where the photo was taken. It was updated Aug. 18, 2021, at 10:45 p.m. to reflect the change.

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