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VIU Diversity Luncheon Series

The purpose of the Diversity Luncheon Series is to help faculty, staff, and students learn about different cultures. Specifically, the diversity luncheon series seeks to educate people about the customs, foods, religions, languages, music and traditions. Make sure to check out VIU calendar for upcoming luncheons!

Summer 2017

June: Ramadan Iftar Dinner

On June 13, 2017, the Student Affairs Department hosted the 3rd Annual Ramadan Iftar Dinner. Students, faculty and staff attended the event along with VIU board members and community guests. There were guest speakers representing Islam, Christianity and Judaism. These speakers discussed the significance and role of fasting in their perspective faiths. In addition to those speakers, Asmaa Elmeniawy, a VIU School of Business student, shared with the attendees how Muslims traditionally break their fast.

After the speakers shared, the attendees shared a traditional Iftar dinner together. The event was focused on highlighting the Muslim holiday, Ramadan, while also bringing together members of different faiths.

Spring 2017

April: Easter Celebration

On April 17, 2017, The Student Affairs Department with the assistance of the Drama Club and the International Mission Christian Fellowship held the Diversity Luncheon Series: Easter Celebration. The objective of the event was to highlight the both the religious and cultural traditions that are a part of Easter not only here in the United States but also in other parts of the world.

The event began by the Drama Club reenacting the Biblical story of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. The story began with Palm Sunday and ended with Jesus’s ascension into Heaven. The drama included several well-known figures from the Bible such as Peter, Thomas, and Judas. The play helped attendees to understand why Easter is celebrated in the Christian faith.

During the event, a video was played that highlighted the different Easter traditions amongst VIU students, staff and faculty members. Traditions ranged from Eastern European to African. The origins of popular Easter symbols such as the Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs were also explained to the attendees. This helped to showcase connections between Easter and celebrations similar to it celebrated by different religions and cultures.

March: Nowruz Celebration

On March 21, 2017, the Student Affairs Department held the Diversity Luncheon: Nowruz Celebration. The MC for this event was Iskander Riskulov, a VIU student from Uzbekistan. At this event we were honored to have one of VIU’s newest board members, Mr. Harry Le Grande, with us. We were also able to honor the recipients of VIU’s Leadership and Mentorship Scholarship for Fall 2016. At the event, there were also residents from the Gardens at Fair Oaks who came to help us celebrate Nowruz.

For our Nowruz Celebration, we had two faculty members, Mr. Koorosh Azhandeh and Ms. Farah Morshali, share with the audience some of the customs and traditions of the Nowruz Celebration in Iran. We also had a guest from Uzbekistan, Mr. Dilshod Goziyev, who performed a traditional Uzbeki song, the Boychechak Song...

Our guests were able to enjoy a lunch that was comprised of staples from the different countries that celebrate Nowruz. We had samosa, dolma, rice, manti and chicken kabob.

To end the celebration, we had a special dance performance by the Abdullaev Family. Their two daughters performed a traditional Uzbeki dance. It was a wonderful way to end the celebration of Nowruz here at VIU.

February: African Heritage Celebration

On February 28, 2017 the Student Affairs Department and the African Pride Club held the Diversity Luncheon: African Heritage Celebration. Mr. Tomiwa Omoniyi and Asmaa Elmeniawy were the MCs for the event. At this event, we were honored to have Ms. Sarah Marie-Chantal Andely and Intern Mr. Mack Dieudonne VOUMBO from the Embassy of Republic of Congo, Oliva Kavishe and Nassra Missana from the Embassy of the United Republic of Tanzania, and Sarah Leclercq, Director of Activities from the Gardens at Fair Oaks brought Ms. Tutu who was from Egypt was also in attendance.

After the guests were introduced, the attendees were dismissed for lunch. The attendees enjoyed: Foul M’Damas from Egypt; Falafel from Egypt; Grape Leaves from Egypt; Injera from Ethiopia, traditional Ethiopian Check, Ethiopian Vegetables, Jollof Rice with Halal Chicken from Ghana and Nigerian Salad...

After Lunch attendees enjoyed watching Ethiopian Dance performances by two outside dancers. This was followed by presentation by Dr. Zelalem Chala about Ethiopia. Next, Olaotan Fade gave a presentation about Nigeria. He shared about the different celebrations in Nigeria. Following his presentation, Mr. Fade sang and original song. The crowd was really into his performance. Mr. Fade also did a dance to one of his original songs. The event ended with an Egyptian Folklore performance.

February: Asian New Year Celebration

On February 9, 2017 the Student Affairs Department and the Oriental Club held the Diversity Luncheon: Asian New Year Celebration. Ms. Tram Nguyen, a VIU student from Vietnam was the MC for the event. Ms. Tram explained that according to the Chinese calendar, 2017 was the year of the rooster.

The audience enjoyed watching Yee Fung Toy Association of Washington DC perform a traditional Lion Dance. This was followed by lunch. For lunch attendees enjoyed: Kraw-Pow and Panang Curry and Jasmine Rice from Thailand, Buuz and Khusshuur from Mongolia, and veggie egg rolls and noodles from Vietnam. During lunch attendees enjoyed a variety of Asian music.....

After Lunch, Ms. Ha Tram gave a presentation discussing the Lunar Calendar and how Tet is celebrated in Vietnam. Next, Mr. Buyandelger Batsuren, a 16-year-old Mongolian Musician played the song Jonan Khar Morin Yavdal. This was followed by a VIU student, Uyanga Ganbold who shared how the Lunar New Year is called “Tsagaan Sar” in Mongolia. Next, Mr. Buyandelger played while Magnaijargal Baatar (a VIU, Mongolian student) sang Durvun Nastai Khaliun. Mr. Piyawut Kidmungtangdee was the last presentation and he shared how the New Year is celebrated in Thailand. We closed the event by hearing another song from Mr. Buyandelger called Eghigt Nutag Mine.

Fall 2016

November: Thanksgiving Celebration
Thanksgiving Celebration

On November 16th, the Student Affairs Department held a Thanksgiving Celebration for students and faculty.

It is generally believed that the first Thanksgiving occurred in 1621 when the Puritan pilgrims, who were the first to settle in the 'New World' to escape persecution in Europe, arrived on the Mayflower. Thanksgiving was not declared an official holiday until November 26, 1789, by President George Washington. On December 26, 1941, the official date of Thanksgiving was moved from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday of the November...

Laura Wooldridge was the Master of Ceremonies for the event. After welcoming everyone to the event, Courtney Hill, the Director of Strategic Planning & Business Development gave an interesting and informative presentation about why we celebrate Thanksgiving in the U.S. Following Courtney, the drama club did a brief play highlighting important parts of the Thanksgiving celebration.

Students and faculty enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving celebration by having Hala turkey, green beans, corn, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, potatoes, relish, cornbread, and pie (pumpkin, pecan, and apple).
As the event wrapped up faculty and students had the opportunity to say what they are thankful for this year.

November: Diwali Celebration
Diwali Celebration

On November 9th, the Student Affairs Department and the Indian Spirit Club held the second annual Diwali celebration. Diwali is a festival of lights celebrated in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. It is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs. The word 'Diwali' actually refers to a row of clay lamps.

It is celebrated in the happiness of Lord Ram who was a king and how good wins over evil; all the people in his kingdom were happy for the king returning home after winning the war. So, from that day on, as a vote of thanks to Lord Ram and the happiness of winning, people celebrated the day by decorating their houses with lights and lamps and burning crackers...

Haritha Velpula and Adil Mohammed were the Master of Ceremonies for the event. After welcoming everyone to the event, the Drama club told the story of Diwali (Lord Rama) followed by a traditional Nepal dance courtesy of the Nepali Club.

For dinner, we enjoyed traditional Indian food including Bhel Puri, Vegetable Pakora, Biryani, Chicken Biryani, and Vegetable Manchuria.

After dinner, we enjoyed hearing from two VIU students about how Diwali is celebrated in Nepal and in India. The Rhythmic Squad followed with a dance performance. The event ended on a high note with an open dance floor for students, faculty, and staff.

Highlight Video:

October: Rosh Hashanah Celebration
Rosh Hashanah Celebration

On October 4, 2015, VIU's Student Affairs held a Rosh Hashanah Celebration Diversity Luncheon. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, which means “Head of the Year” and marks the beginning of a 10-day period that includes prayer, self-examination, and repentance. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the first day of the Hebrew month and the customs associated with the holiday are sounding the shofar, eating challah, and tasting apples and honey because they represent “A Sweet New Year.”...

VIU Student, Bakhtiyor Rahimov volunteered as the Master of Ceremonies for the event. The event began with a brief video about Rosh Hashanah and our guest speaker, Rabbi Isserow, shared the significance of Rosh Hashanah in the Jewish faith....

Rabbi Isserow also did a blessing over the bread (Challah) and attendees ate Challah and apples with honey which represented “a sweet new year.” After the blessing, lunch was served including roasted chicken, challah, vegetables, kugel, and honey cake. While eating, everyone enjoyed traditional Jewish music. The VIU Dance Club performed a traditional Rosh Hashanah dance and towards the end of the event, the audience were asked questions about the presentation to see what they learned.

September: Latin and Hispanic Heritage Celebration
Latin and Hispanic Heritage Celebration

Student Affairs held its first Diversity Luncheon of the 2016-2017 academic year on September 27, 2016; it was a Latin and Hispanic Heritage Celebration. Each year, National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 to celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of Latin and Hispanic individuals.

Ana Serrano, who is from Guatemala, was the Master of Ceremonies for the event. The ceremony started with a collaboration signing between Liliana Robeson, the Founder of the Etnika Foundation and Dr. Suleyman Bahceci...

To help the attendees know more about Latin America, a short video was shown. Ms. Robeson was on hand to talk about Colombia and her foundation, Etnika. This was followed by a presentation by Jorge Serrano about Guatemala. Victoria from the Etnika Foundation performed a Cumbia Dance. After the dance performance, lunch was served and included tacos, rice, beans, yucca, and pupusas alongside traditional Latin and Hispanic music. Following lunch, Jorge Serrano gave a brief presentation on Mexico. Afterward, a VIU student, Shirley from Colombia had attendees play several Latin games. The event closed with Ms. Robeson, Victoria, and Shirley showing the audience different Latin and Hispanic dance moves.

Highlight Video:

Summer 2016

June: Signature Iftar Dinner
Signature Iftar Dinner

Student Affairs held a Diversity Dinner, Celebrating the Month of Ramadan on June 22, 2016. Ramadan is a month of intense prayer which involves dawn to dusk fasting and nightly feasts after the sun has gone down with family and friends. By fasting, Muslims believe it brings them closer to God and reminds them of those who are suffering and are less fortunate. Ramadan is also a time for believers to detach from worldly pleasures and to spend time focusing on one’s inner self.The purpose of our event was to educate faculty, staff, and students about Ramadan. ..

Nihal Balci gave a presentation about Ramadan and what the month symbolizes to Muslims. She also explained when Muslims break the fast each day. Her presentation was followed by everyone enjoying dinner together.

Watch the video about the event:

Spring 2016

March: Central Asia Nowruz New Year
Central Asia Nowruz New Year

Student Affairs held our sixth VIU Diversity Luncheon Series, Central Asia Nowruz New Year on March 24, 2016. Nowruz, which means “New Day,” is the Persian New Year. During Nowruz, there is a table (Haft Sin) setting with 7 different items which are essential items that start with the letter 's' (Sin-Seen) which are symbols of regeneration, fertility, abundance, and wealth. These items include an apple, grass, sea-buckthorn, vinegar, Samanu, Sumac, and garlic. Other items that can be included on the table are a mirror, a goldfish, the Quran, and candlesticks.The purpose of the event was to educate faculty, staff, and students about how different countries in Asia celebrate Nowruz. Mr. Koorosh Azhandeh spoke about what it was like living in Iran and to celebrate Nowruz...

Raza Razai showed a video about Nowruz and shared what it was like for him growing up celebrating Nowruz. Azamat Imanaliev, a VIU student, sang a Kyrgyzstan song. Everyone then enjoyed traditional food from Central Asia. VIU students also shared how Nowruz is celebrated in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Following this, Anastasia Lapikhina sang a song in Kazakhstan. The event closed with a Nowruz song and presentation of flags.

February: African American Heritage
African American Heritage

Student Affairs held its fifth VIU Diversity Luncheon Series, Celebrating African American Heritage on February 24, 2016. Each year in the U.S. the month of February is Black History Month. During this month, the contributions of people of African descent are recognized.The purpose of the event was to educate faculty, staff, and students about Africa and why we celebrate African Heritage month in the US. Dr. Johnson gave a presentation on diversity and multiculturalism. Then five VIU students shared a little about their countries. We learned about Ghana, Tanzania, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Egypt...

Dr. Onu gave a presentation on a century of black life history and culture. Everyone enjoyed a traditional African American, soul food meal. Dr. Powell gave a presentation on culture ranging from the Civil Rights movement to President Barack Obama. This was followed by a fashion show of traditional African attire and a student performance by Rolake Olajubu.

February: Asian New Year Celebration
 American Heritage

Student Affairs held its fourth VIU Diversity Luncheon Series, Asian New Year Celebration on February 11, 2016. Tam Emanuel gave a presentation on Asia and also talked about the meaning of the Asian New Year Celebration. A Mongolian student talked about how he celebrates the New Year when he is at home as well as in the US...

Another student sang a traditional Mongolian song. Following the performances, the students enjoyed traditional Asian food.

Fall 2015

November: Celebrating Diwali-The Festival of Lights
 American Heritage

Student Affairs held its third VIU Diversity Luncheon Series 3, Celebrating Diwali-The Festival of Light on November 12, 2015. The purpose of the event was to educate students about why people celebrate Diwali. To open the event, Dr. Ramesh Ravella talked about Diwali and the significance of the event. Attendees enjoyed listening to the song Kamal Kucha which was sung by Krishnaveni.The students participated in a traditional Ramp Walk where men and women dressed in beautiful outfits...

Traditional Indian food was served while watching Arun and Akshitha perform dances and Praneeth, Hasan, Nishat, and Sam sing traditional Hindi songs.

September: Hispanic Heritage Month
African American Heritage

Student Affairs held its second VIU Diversity Luncheon Series 2, Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month on September 24, 2015. The purpose of the event was to educate students about the Hispanic culture. We had a guest speaker, Michel Zajur, Founder and CEO of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce talked about his family immigrating from Mexico City, Mexico to Richmond, VA. He also shared how his family established a local restaurant called La Siesta. Lastly, he talked about his journey to founding the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce...

After Mr. Zajur spoke, we enjoyed some traditional food and music. Two VIU students, Maria Del Mar Gares Rendon and Shirley Cabrera, spoke about Colombia to close the event.

Summer 2015

July: Muslims Ramadan Festival
African American Heritage

We held our first VIU Diversity Luncheon Series, Muslim Ramadan Festival on July 20, 2015. The purpose of the event was to educate students about the Muslim faith and the significance of Raman in the Muslim culture. Dr. Bilgin opened the event by talking about diversity and why it is important. Guest speaker, Jena Luedtke, the Director of Interfaith and Intercultural affairs spoke about Ramadan...

She also asked students, faculty, and staff to share why Ramadan is an important time for them.
Highlight video:
Lecture video: