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Cultural Awareness

Part of a student’s education at Wake Forest is exposure to new ideas and experiences.  As parents, you can help reinforce the importance of ‘stretch’ experiences that might take your student out of his or her comfort zone and help them explore and discover something new.

Encourage your students to sample a variety of cultural activities this semester and throughout the year.  Here are some suggestions:

  • The departments of Art, Music, and Theatre and Dance host events and activities in addition to providing world-class instruction in the fine and performing arts.
  • There is a series of events and activities called Intercultural Skills for Global Leadership.  This is a great way for students to intentionally develop their cross-cultural and intercultural skills.
  • The Provost’s office has an Office for Diversity and Inclusion, which also sponsors events and provides ways for students to engage with different cultures.  Students can also visit individual offices and get to know people housed within the ODI structure.
  • With the holidays approaching, students will have the opportunity to learn more about the ways various faiths might celebrate holidays.  Go to a service that is new and different.  Talk to students of that faith and learn more.
  • Most college students love to venture off campus for the occasional meal.  And while Winston-Salem can’t boast the same kind of culinary diversity as a large city, there are still opportunities to sample foods from many different cultures.  Never tried Irish food? Go to Finnegans Wake and try a Scotch Egg.  How about sampling some Southern food at Sweet Potatoes?  Or Indian cuisine at Nawab?  Smitty’s Notes is a local web site with links to restaurants by type  or your student can check out Urbanspoon (or use the Urbanspoon app for mobile phones).
  • Part of Wake Forest’s history is the participation of college students in lunch counter sit ins in downtown Winston-Salem to protest segregation.  Students can explore and learn about this part of history by visiting the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, NC.
  • Explore another part of Wake Forest’s history and make a road trip to the Wake Forest Birthplace Museum in the town of Wake Forest, NC (near Raleigh).  The newly-built museum addition hosts artifacts from Wake Forest’s past.
  • Our own Museum of Anthropology on campus has a vast array of exhibits from other cultures.

And let’s not forget, there are students on campus whose backgrounds, religions, nationalities, and experiences are different from your student’s.  Does your student know any international students?  If not, talk to one of them who live on their hall or are in one of their classes and try to get to know them better.

Does your student have questions about what it is like to live in another country/be a different religion or race/identify with the LGBTQ community?  Have an authentic, civil and open dialogue with another person.  Often when we get to know others who are different than we are, we discover the richness of their culture AND we find that we have a lot more in common than we do differences.

Your students will be entering a workforce where their colleagues, bosses, and direct reports might come from many different backgrounds and perspectives.  Our students will be better prepared to work and lead in those teams if they develop their intercultural competence now, in the safe environment of college.  This can be a major competitive advantage in the hiring process.  So encourage your students to explore  and reflect on those new experiences!