Diversity Week encourages multicultural appreciation

By Marleigh Whetstone


“Within the fundamental unity of the faith, there is room for a plurality of cultural differences, forms of expression and theological views."

Published by the Roman Catholic Church, these words convey an important message as the Madonna University community prepares itself for its second annual Diversity Week, taking place Feb. 22-26.

“It’s a week of inclusion,” said Glen Brooks, Adviser of Student Success for Madonna’s Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. “Each one we’ve had, Sr. Rose Marie performs a dialog to the students to get things started. We’re very happy to have her back again to do the same this year.”

Sr. Rose Marie Kujawa, Ph.D., president of Madonna University will kick off the week’s festivities for all Madonna students from noon-1 p.m. on Feb. 22 in Room 1312.

“I’m usually not into campus community events, just based on my prior experiences at different schools,” said Eric Field, a history major entering his second semester at Madonna. “I’m excited to attend Diversity Week, though, and to see what Madonna can do.”

The day will conclude with “Kan Ya Makan: Celebrating Culture through Sign and Music.” This event, in collaboration with the MU Sign Language Studies department and the Broadcast and Cinema Arts program, will feature performances by Arabic singer-songwriter Ridha Ibrahim.

“My main focus is to be a world musician,” Ibrahim said. “I write my songs in Italian, French, English and Arabic, drawing on influences from all over the globe.”

A native of Tunis, Tunisia, Ibrahim is currently working on a CD of original world music pieces, written and performed in many languages.

“The most important language to me is music,” Ibrahim said. “It’s the most important thing in my life and I want the ability to share it with so many people.”

Taking place from 7:30-9 p.m. in Kresge Hall, this event will be free of charge and open to the MU community as well as the general public.

“Music and signing have always been very interesting to me,” Field said, “and I’m very eager to see it in action. The whole thing sounds so interesting to experience.”

The multicultural celebration will continue from noon-1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23 in Room 1310 with a session entitled “How Catholicism Encourages Respect for Diversity,” presented to faculty and staff members by Msgr. John Zenz.

Ordained July 1, 1978, Msgr. Zenz serves as Pastor of Holy Name Parish in Birmingham, Mich., and Episcopal Vicar for the Northwest Region of the Archdiocese (Vicariates of Birmingham-Bloomfield-Troy, Farmington-Southfield, Lakes and Oakland). 

“We’re very pleased to have Monsignor Zenz as a part or our programming this year,” Brooks said. “His presence, along with our other special guests, will put this year’s event above and beyond last year.”
Monsignor Zenz received a doctorate in spiritual theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1984 and has served on the faculty of Sacred Heart Major Seminary continuously since 1979. He became Pastor of Holy Name Parish in 2008.

“Most religions don’t seem very open to other cultures,” said Field, a practicing Roman Catholic. “When I heard the theme listed for the faculty and staff, I was so eager about the whole thing. What an amazing and important message our peers have the opportunity to hear.”

The event will conclude with a featured performer, acclaimed pianist and professor Angelin Chang, from the Cleveland State University department of music.

Recognized for her sense of poetry and technical expertise, Chang won a Grammy Award in 2007 for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra. As the first Artist-in-Residence at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Chang has also participated in the development and launching of the Arts for Everyone initiative.

“We’re all very excited about Dr. Chang’s performance,” Brooks said. “She’s a Grammy-winning artist and we’re thrilled to have her here.”

Tuesday will come to a close with “Diversity in Classical Music,” In collaboration with MU’s music department, from 7-8:30 p.m. at Kresge Hall. The event will be open to the Madonna Community and the general public at no cost.

“We want students to gain an appreciation for things they might not have otherwise taken the time to do,” Brooks said. “Through each of the outlets we can provide this year, we want students to expand on their insight of the arts from other cultures.”

Continuing on Thursday, the second half of Diversity Week will commence with “Diversity Movie Night,” in collaboration with the Office of First Year Experience. Taking place from 7:30-10 p.m. in Room 1303, the event will feature a showing of “Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness for Change,” a one-hour documentary chronicling a group of nuns who risked their own safety to walk side-by-side with African-American protesters during the turbulent times of the 1960s. Interview clips are interwoven through the film with religious figures as well as contemporary residents of Selma, speaking about the bravery and selflessness of these unsung heroes. 

Thursday’s event is free of charge and open to the MU community and the general public.

“I think this is a great idea,” Field said. “What a great way to bring people together and share such a wonderful story.”

Kujawa will address MU’s faculty and staff members as the week comes to a close on Friday, February 26. The final event, in collaboration with the MU’s President’s Office, will take place from noon-1:00 p.m. in Room 1000.

“Our goal for putting on this event is to encourage students and faculty to share their thoughts,” Brooks said. “We want to widen our scope and definition of the word ‘diversity.’”