February 27, 2013

Get Your Group On

by Anjulie Rao (MA 2014) 

An SAIC education is a transformative one. And with a student population in which 32% identify as being of a diverse background, and 22% identify as international students, transformational opportunities abound—particularly, through the exhibitions, events, lectures, and various other junctures that are offered by diverse Student Groups. Through the Campus Life office, students are creating unique student groups that enhance the school community’s experience of diversity and deepen its understanding and knowledge of global culture.

Udit Toshniwal (BFA 2015) is the founding member of Namaste, a student group that serves South Asian (Indian) students and the campus as a whole. According to the group’s mission, "Namaste SAIC is more than just SPICE—a Social Platform for Indian Cultural Exchange. As the South Asian student community grows and thrives at SAIC, it is an opportunity for anyone interested in diversity of beliefs, of religion, of creativity, and of food.”

Toshniwal started the group in 2012 after he found out that there were 30 students in the incoming class (2016) coming from India. He decided that a unique student group could help connect those students to each other and with their home country.

From there, the group blossomed. "I wanted the group to be as diverse as possible. India is such a secular country: it has all the different religions, and so much diversity. I wanted to use that model on campus," he says.

In addition to organizing campus-wide events such as a Diwali (the festival of lights) celebration last fall, or their upcoming visit to the SMART Museum’s Art and Activism in Indiaand Gigi Scaria: City Unclaimed exhibitions, they also offer the often-overlooked details for students, such as where to buy Indian groceries.

Namaste also embodies the collaborative spirit that SAIC values. In addition to their own programming, they collaborate with groups such as vegSAIC, the vegetarian student group to prepare vegetarian Indian cuisine; and they have worked with the yoga student group to present Ayurvedic healing practices. Toshniwal says, "We want to show support for other groups in hopes of bringing in new members of varying interests.”

Other campus groups that serve the needs and interests of SAIC’s diverse student body include: Black At SAIC, Q&A (Queers and Allies), Korean Student Association, Korean Graduate Student Community (KGSC), Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and the Chinese Artist Association. Groups meet regularly to plan their events and receive assistance and mentorship from the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Campus Life. Allie Markland, Assistant Director of Campus Life, notes, "It is really important for our groups to represent the SAIC campus community, and for students to feel connected at SAIC. Each and every group we have is a reflection of our students recognizing a need on our campus, and taking an active role in meeting it. They are all an extension of the many people who make up our community, and they provide an opportunity for our students to share with each other, and to learn more about the amazing and unique perspectives of their peers.”

These groups, along with Namaste, demonstrate a necessary dedication to providing resources and connections to the diverse students on campus. Their sense of collaboration and willingness to share in cultural involvement also creates the unique social and educational opportunities for the entire campus, with the goal that all students are celebrated—and transformed—through their time, experiences, and activities at SAIC.

Learn more about SAIC’s diverse student groups here.