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Celebrating diversity and multiculturalism on the St. John’s campus

National Geographic explorer-in-residence Wade Davis.

By Moira Finn
Special to the Gazette

A visiting National Geographic explorer-in-residence is just one of the highlights of International Education Week (IEW) 2011 taking place next month.
Memorial is celebrating the value diversity brings to education and our society with a host of events Nov. 15-17.

Memorial's International Centre, Aboriginal Resource Office, Career Development and Experiential Learning and International Student Advising Office have all contributed to the week's events, themed Preserving our Diverse Cultures. The goal is to provide a host of opportunities for students, staff, faculty and the local community to learn about different cultures and to better understand the many ways multiculturalism and ethnic diversity benefit our communities.

Harvard University ethnobotanist, photographer, author and National Geographic explorer-in-residence Wade Davis will deliver the keynote presentation on the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 16. He will relate his experiences living amongst various cultures to demonstrate how cultural diversity is not only desirable but necessary for societies to adapt, survive and flourish.

Through his work in the Amazon, Haiti, Australia and other lands, Mr. Davis has witnessed the impacts of vanishing culture and likens the loss of culture and language to species extinction in natural environments – with equally detrimental outcomes.

Mr. Davis' appearance is part of an exhibition showcasing diversity in our community. All People in All Gardens: An Intercultural Exhibit and Presentation on Multiculturalism in the 21st Century is the centerpiece of Memorial's IEW festivities. It will be an opportunity for student groups and cultural organizations in the community to interactively demonstrate unique aspects of their culture.

In addition to cultures new to Newfoundland and Labrador, this year IEW coincides with Aboriginal Diversity Day on Thursday, Nov. 17, which highlights the valuable and lasting contributions of Aboriginal cultures.

"It is sometimes easier to see how new cultures enhance our communities because they are novel," said Sonja Knutson, acting director of the International Centre and manager of the International Student Advising Office. "Our intention, through the Wade Davis event and the other activities of the week, is not only to highlight new cultural contributions but also to showcase the unique and valuable contributions to society made by cultures indigenous to Newfoundland and Labrador, and all of Canada."

Underscoring the importance of Aboriginal culture to our society, Aboriginal Diversity Day will feature a number of activities designed to enhance a deeper understanding of these rich cultures and their traditions.

And while all IEW events help foster an appreciation of different cultures in our midst, the perennially popular Go Abroad Fair on Wednesday, Nov. 16, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., at The Landing, UC-3018, introduces students to programs that enable them to study, work and volunteer abroad and provides information on how they can get more involved in the international community here on campus.
For a full IEW schedule of events and to get tickets to the All People in All Gardens/Wade Davis event, please visit