Bridging the Cultural Gap

As part of an ongoing effort to "build bridges between cultures," the Global Education Committee at Genesee Community College is presenting "Encounters with the Muslim World" in April featuring several different events for the general public and the college community, as well as two student competitions.

"We want to create understanding and awareness. The committee's mission is to build bridges between cultures," said Karin Kovach-Allen, Ph.D., dean of Human Communications & Behavior at Genesee and chairperson of the Global Education Committee.

The GEC, funded by the Student Government Association, will coordinate three events next month that focus on Muslim life. It also will sponsor an art and an essay contest for Genesee students.

?On April 6, from 12:30-2 p.m., Genesee adjunct faculty member Sue Chiddy will lead a book discussion of The Bookseller of Kabul.

? On April 12, from 6-8 p.m., Genesee faculty Cheyenne Adams, Marie Rose Credi and Jim Simon will take part in a panel discussion, "Understanding the Muslim World - Three Perspectives." A question-and-answer period will be included.

?On April 20, from 12:30-2 p.m., Dr. B. G. Flickinger of Buffalo will give a lecture and slide presentation on The Kite Runner. All three events will take place in Room T-102 in the Conable Technology Building at the Batavia Campus. They are open to the public at no charge and include refreshments and Middle Eastern pastries.

The "Encounters" program sets the stage for an October appearance at Genesee by Dr. Iyad Barghouti, a Fulbright Specialist from the West Bank. Plans to have Dr. Barghouti visit the college during the spring semester had to be postponed, Dr. Kovach-Allen said.

"We were unable to make the connection for this particular time, but he will be coming in during the fall term for three weeks," she said.

Dr. Kovach-Allen said Genesee is one of several colleges - and just one of six community colleges nationwide - chosen to participate in a U.S. Department of State initiative to foster a better understanding of different cultures. She noted that Genesee's President's Innovation Award and Student Activities will fund Dr. Barghouti's stay and related events.

Speaking about the book discussions and panel debate, Kovach-Allen said, "Being that we're an educational institution, it is our responsibility to give students and the public the opportunity to delve deeper into these issues."A closer look at these events follows:

The Bookseller of KabulWritten by Asne Seierstad, a Norwegian journalist, The Bookseller of Kabul is a startling depiction of the plight of Afghan women and a look at daily living in modern Afghanistan from the perspective of a 33-year-old Scandinavian woman.

The New York Times Book Review hails the book as "the most intimate description of an Afghan household ever produced by a Western journalist … Seierstad is a sharp and often lyrical observer."

"Understanding the Muslim World"Adams, a full-time English instructor, will talk about his experiences in Morocco and Tunisia while serving in the Peace Corps. Credi, a part-time French instructor, will speak about the trials of living as a Christian in a Muslim country. Simon, who is completing his second semester at Genesee as a history professor and who served during the first Gulf War as an Air Force officer will focus on the history of Islam, its encounter with the West and will include personal experiences.

At the conclusion of the presentations, the audience will have the opportunity to ask questions.

The Kite RunnerFlickinger, an expert on the Islamic world, will lead a discussion about author Khaled Hosseini's novel, which was the third most popular book on college campuses last year. Flickinger teaches a 10-hour course on the book.

A Western New York native, she became interested in Islam as a graduate student in the Middle East in the late 1970's. She attended Vassar College and has four degrees from the University of Buffalo. A writer of several articles on Islam, she has worked as a tour guide in Egypt, Morocco, England, France and Israel.

Genesee Community College Student Art ContestGenesee Community College students have until March 24th to submit art worked based on either (or both) books, (The Bookseller of Kabul or The Kite Runner) using one of three themes: (1) A work depicting an interpretation of interpersonal relationships between two or more of the characters in the novel; (2) a work reflecting the nature of Islamic art and the effect of Islamic theology on the character of Islamic art; (3) and a persuasive piece that encourages others, especially Western New Yorkers, to read one of these books.

Genesee Community College Student Essay ContestStudents can also submit essay(s) of 400 to 600 words based on either (or both) of the books using one of three themes: (1) a persuasive essay explaining why people from Western New York should read this book; (2) a diary entry from the point of view of one of the main characters that reflects on, explains or elaborates on a crucial moment in the story (written in the first person); (3) an explanation on how the ever-changing politics of Afghanistan affect the characters or the plot of the novel. Essay deadline is also Friday, March 24, 2006.

Each contest will have its own set of prizes awarded in the following denominations: $50 for first place, $30 for second place and $20 for third place.

For more information, call 343-0055, ext. 6270.