ISA presents Spring Diversity Showcase



Maucker Union Coffeehouse was abuzz with bright colors and international flags on Monday evening, April 22, as the UNI International Student Association (ISA) presented their annual Spring Diversity Showcase.

“It’s just tradition,” said Nipa Patel, a senior supply chain management major and the director of promotion and outreach for ISA. “It’s the biggest event for our organization every year, and it always happens in spring. We’re just excited to spread the diversity.”

This year’s theme was “Connecting our Worlds,” featuring performances and traditional fashion from six continents and more than ten countries. Over 50 UNI students and community members attended the event.

The evening began with food provided by local businesses. Waterloo coffeehouse and restaurant Cottonwood Canyon provided curried goat and rice, while Kubo food truck offered Filipino-American cuisine, including “pancit” (rice noodles with vegetables) and “lumpia” (a Filipino-style fried egg roll made with meat and vegetables). Beverages were provided by Pearl Tea, a local bubble tea shop that’s run by three UNI graduates and international students which opened in 2018. The restaurant offered their signature milk tea with tapioca pearls.

According to Patel, the event’s performances and activities were designed to showcase the various cultures of UNI students. One particularly popular attraction throughout the night was the henna station, as ISA members assisted attendees in creating temporary designs on their hands and arms. The nearby photobooth offered attendees a chance to don traditional attire from various countries and take their picture in front of a display of international flags.

The evening’s performances began at 6:45 p.m., following a moment of silence observed in honor of the recent earthquake in the Philippines and the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka.

First to take the stage was K.U.D. Kolo, a Waterloo Bosnian dance group which recently celebrated 16 years of traditional Bosnian dancing. Dressed in traditional “dijimas” (loose pants and blouses in bright colors), the dancers ranged from eight years old to college-age and were part of one of K.U.D. Kolo’s three dance companies. Their intricate, fast-paced footwork, including a high-energy finale with tambourines, left the crowd cheering in appreciation for their hard work.

Next, Ashita Goel, an international student from India, performed a Bollywood song, followed by Ylaine Lee of Malaysia, who presented a traditional Malay dance that included precise hand placements and flexed feet. Lee, a junior marketing management major, said she has been studying traditional dance for over 10 years.

“I wanted to perform tonight to represent Malaysia,” she said. “Some of the Americans don’t even know where Malaysia is, so I feel like it’s kind of my responsibility to show them that they should learn about our culture, too.”

After the next performance — a dance by six international students combining the styles and attire of four different countries — a fashion show was held. Those dressed in traditional apparel were invited to the stage to introduce themselves, their native country and their clothing. The audience applauded each participant as they described their garments, which included several “shalwar kameez” from Pakistan, a school uniform from Myanmar and a Vietnamese “ao dai,” traditionally worn during holidays and Vietnamese New Year.

The evening concluded with the West African Drum Ensemble, led by UNI instructor of percussion, Ryan Frost. The ensemble, which is open to all UNI students, performed a piece from the Ewe culture of Ghana, including not only drums and handheld percussion but also movement and singing. After a rousing finale, the crowd cheered its approval.

Junior health promotion major Grace Ryken said she attended the event to learn more about the different cultures represented at UNI.

“We have so many students with diverse backgrounds, but we don’t have so many opportunities to learn about their cultures and see their cultures, because when they come here, we’re all doing things the American way,” she said. “It’s cool to come and see a celebration of cultures like this.”

Megan Hanson, a senior elementary education major, agreed.

“It’s something different, something new, something you don’t see every day,” she said, proudly displaying her new henna tattoo. “It’s a new perspective on life.”