The Merrimack College community tackled thought-provoking questions on identity and inclusion over a culturally diverse dinner on Friday, April 14.
The goal of the student-organized Breaking Bread event, held in the Collegiate Church of Christ the Teacher, was to give Merrimack community members an opportunity to reflect on how to make the campus more diverse, equitable and inclusive for all walks of life.
“It is a credit to the students that Breaking Bread came to fruition, and will become a new tradition at Merrimack College for years to come,” Merrimack College President Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D., said of the event. “I was honored to participate and engage in the discussions that led to deeper understandings of the ways our unique personal journeys enrich our diverse and welcoming campus community.”
Each dinner table comprised of students, faculty and staff, as well as a mediator to guide guests through discussion prompts such as, “How do we reconcile both our past and present values to enact change in our community?” and “In your relationships, what are your expectations of another person, and what standards do you hold yourself to?”
“What I really liked about it was we did assigned seating on purpose,” said Julissa Bejar ’23, a Unity House student coordinator who helped organize the event. “The point was to have conversations with people on campus and in our community that we normally wouldn’t talk to…It depended on the mediator at the table but for me, I would read the questions for the courses and if nobody felt comfortable talking immediately, I would go first and answer. We would go around, bounce off each other — everyone had an answer for everything.”
With each round of discussion prompts came a new food course. Each dish aimed to celebrate a different culture, whether it was sweet potato sushi from Japan, ham croquettes from Portugal or oxtail empanadas from Cuba.
“As the courses came out and as the different questions were asked, you could tell they were more deeper and intimate questions,” Jandeliz Hernandez ’25, another Unity House student coordinator who served on the planning board for the event. “We let attendees know that if they felt comfortable enough to go deep they definitely could have, but if they didn’t feel comfortable they didn’t have to. As a mediator, we wanted to set the standard on how we wanted these conversations to go.”
“A lot of different students from different organizations said so many good things about the event and came to us with so many ideas that we can utilize next year and beyond,” explained Hernandez. “We heard nothing but good things about the event and I think that’s what made us the most proud of it. ”
“You walked out with something, for sure,” Bejar added.