Fourth-year adjunct professor, Judy Feinstein, has been teaching the Foundations of Multicultural Education class for a few years now. Every year, she focuses on different “-isms” such as racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism and ableism.
A quarter through the semester, Feinstein always asks her students how she can really help them succeed in the class. Each year, the students give fairly standard answers, but this year, her Foundations of Multicultural Education class asked if they could learn about different cultures more thoroughly.
Feinstein thought that was fair, and the class started coming up with different ideas on how to actively learn about different cultures.
“A couple of people said they wanted to do a multicultural fair. We voted, and that got the most votes,” Feinstein explained.
With that, this past Thursday, Dec. 6 in the Union, the Cultural Connections Extravaganza was held by Feinstein and her class.
After Feinstein cleared the multicultural fair idea and made it 35 percent of her students’ grades, the planning for the extravagant event began.
“[For the fair] I wanted to look outside the norm of Western European culture,” said Feinstein. “I [decided] to look at the predominate cultures here in Springfield, which are the African American, the Puerto Rican, [the] new wave of Russian immigrants, and the Vietnamese.”
The group also chose to focus on the Nigerian and Chinese cultures, because certain students in the class are of that ethnicity. Outside of different ethnicities, the students also focused the fair on different religions and poverty within the local area.
Before the class started preparing for their fair, Feinstein made sure the students properly immersed themselves in different cultural activities and events to get them ready.
“I invited some of them to my home, depending on what area they were working on. I had my electrician, who is a Russian immigrant, come over and we had Russian food. Then, I’m friendly with the woman who is the director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, and she came over and we had Puerto Rican food,” Feinstein said. “Then, my neighbor is Vietnamese, so he came over and we had Vietnamese food. [I] tried to immerse them a bit.”
Once she thought her students were more prepared, each student had to pick one “-ism” to focus on, and then they had to participate in two other groups as well. Each group had to make different displays with tri-folds on their topic, but they also had to help partake in putting the entire event together.
“In addition to the displays, there was a marketing group, there was a group that did the fair banner, [and] we did special invitations,” Feinstein said.
While the students made tri-folds and set up different food stations from the ethnicities they chose to cover, Feinstein worked her magic and got several different guests to partake in the fair.
Feinstein got Pastor J.P. Morgan to come in and sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is the African American national anthem. She also got Billy Arnold, a drummer from the Community Music School in Springfield, to give a history lesson on drumming and teach students how to scat sing, which is a form of vocal improvisation. Lastly, Feinstein had the local theater group, Jelupa, a predominantly African American group, come in and preview the show they will be putting on this upcoming March.
Looking back on it now, Feinstein is very happy with the outcome of the event.
“I was trying to think about what the core really was going on here, and for me, the core of what was going on was that many students who come to Springfield College come from a monoculture environment, and really through no fault of their own haven’t been exposed to a lot of diversity. This was a way to have them dig a little into an area of diversity,” Feinstein stated.
Due to recent cuts in the Education department, Feinstein unfortunately will not be coming back to SC next fall, but she is very happy that the Cultural Connections Extravaganza was such a success the one time it was held.
“I really feel that we really need to continue an effort that showcases the Springfield community inside Springfield College, and that was really what we were trying to do. I think we succeeded in that.”