Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi Hawaii’s
Back yard

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi

HPU diversity on display
at annual event

Author Jules Verne took you "Around the World in Eighty Days." The students of Hawaii Pacific University can do that in just a few hours.

Friday marks the 20th anniversary of the university's Intercultural Day, a colorful spring celebration that spotlights the ethnic diversity of its 9,000 students who hail from more than 100 countries. In fact, HPU boasts one of the most diverse student bodies of any American university.

Wide world

What: Hawaii Pacific University's 20th annual Intercultural Day

Place: Downtown Honolulu, fronting HPU's campus on the Beretania Street side of Fort Street Mall

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday

Admission: Free

Call: 544-0230


Web site:

The mauka (mountain) end of Fort Street Mall, near the school's downtown Honolulu campus, will come alive with two dozen exhibits showcasing artifacts, photographs, videos and other educational materials from the students' homelands of Africa, Bulgaria, Malaysia, Norway, Singapore and Israel, to name a few. A parade of students dressed in traditional attire also will delight attendees, as will performances of music and dances from around the world.

All HPU students are encouraged to get involved in the festivities. One year, members of the Botswana Club contacted their consulate and, much to their surprise, received information for their exhibit along with several native costumes. Participating student clubs are judged by community leaders and HPU faculty, staff and alumni, and cash prizes are awarded to the winning organizations in four categories (Exhibit, Parade, Performance and Overall) to support their activities.

But Intercultural Day is more about learning than winning. "Through Intercultural Day, students can broaden their horizons outside of the classroom environment," notes Nancy Ellis, HPU's vice president of Student Support Services. "This event really embodies the multicultural atmosphere at HPU. It is a day for sharing and celebrating the many customs, values and traditions of the student community."

Graduate student Katja Silvera describes Intercultural Day as "the best thing that happens during the year.

"Being from Sweden, I didn't know too much about the cultures from Asia or the Pacific islands, but I was able to learn more about their traditions at Intercultural Day through cultural performances and exhibits," she said. "It's really neat!"

Liana Hall is an HPU alumna from Montreal who coordinated the event for two years while she was attending the university. "I was an international studies major, so I saw my involvement in Intercultural Day as a wonderful opportunity to get practical educational experience in this area," she says. "One of my favorite memories involved the president of the Japan Student Association, who gave me a lei to thank me for my work with the event. He said his participation in Intercultural Day truly enhanced his HPU experience. It really touched my heart."

A parade through downtown Honolulu is among the highlights of Hawaii Pacific University's 20th annual Intercultural Day.

THIS YEAR'S celebration will feature two special additions. In the afternoon, HPU's Co-ed Cheerleaders and Dance Team will be recognized. Both placed tops at the National Cheer and Dance Collegiate Championship held in Daytona Beach, Fla., April 1 and 2. The Co-ed Cheerleaders captured the national title for the second year in a row, and the Dance Team made history by being the first collegiate dance team from Hawaii to garner a national title. HPU President Chatt Wright will be on hand to receive their trophies on behalf of the university.

Also scheduled is a performance by the choral group Na Keiki O Manana, comprising 50 third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders from Manana Elementary School in Pearl City. The students just returned from a 10-day mainland tour and will be kicking off the performance segment of Intercultural Day. In keeping with the event's theme, they will be dressed in authentic international costumes and will present songs from different countries.

Intercultural Day traces its origins to a series of meetings in the early 1980s between Howard Markowitz, then HPU's international student adviser, and a group of students from Southeast Asia, Europe and the United States.

The students wanted to come up with a way they and their peers from other parts of the world could share different aspects of their cultures, including dress, dance, music, arts and crafts. Thus, Intercultural Day was born.

About 50 students participated in the first event in 1984. Since then, Intercultural Day has evolved into one of the largest cultural celebrations in Hawaii, pooling the time, talents and resources of more than 200 students, faculty and other volunteers.

"Over the years, HPU has become a meeting place for the international student community, attracting students from across the globe," says Markowitz, an assistant professor of psychology at the university. "Intercultural Day creates a venue for these students to share their traditions and customs, thus promoting newfound pride and understanding among everyone involved."

Ellis agrees. "HPU's diversity creates a very unique learning environment," she says. "The exposure to other cultures and ways of living provides students with insights they might never have the opportunity to receive at other universities. From these insights come knowledge. From knowledge comes understanding. From understanding comes acceptance. From acceptance comes harmony. This might be the model that's needed to gain world peace."

Event highlights

9 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Educational exhibits of art, textiles, clothing, jewelry, floral arrangements, decorations and more from countries represented by the students of HPU.

11:15 a.m.: A parade through downtown Honolulu will start in front of HPU's campus at Fort Street Mall near Beretania Street and continue down the mall to King Street. The procession will then turn left on King Street, left at Bishop Street and left again on Beretania Street, where it will end at HPU's campus.

12:45 to 1:15 p.m.: Na Keiki O Manana performs.

1:15 p.m.: Recognition of HPU's Co-ed Cheerleaders and Dance Team and presentation of trophies to President Chatt Wright.

1:30 p.m.: Welcome by HPU President Wright and presentation of a city proclamation.

1:45 to 4 p.m.: Entertainment by various student groups, including HPU's Hawaiian Club, Latino Club, Samoan Club, Thailand Student Association and International Chorale.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based free-lance writer and Society of American Travel Writers award winner.


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