MU
Oak Leaves

October 13, 2017

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David Good and several international students used tree-trimmings to construct this set of Peace Poles last spring.

Photo by Isaac Paris 

 

Peace Poles Mark Location of New Intercultural Center


Teresa Masteller 


Manchester University pays tribute to international studies with hand-crafted painted peace poles that sit on the future site of the projected $1.1 million dollar Jeans Childs Young Intercultural Center.

The painted peace pole project started as an idea that came to David Good, grounds coordinator at Manchester University, last spring during the time that President Trump first introduced his travel ban. “As I listened to the heated rhetoric and the protests surrounding that action, I thought that I needed to do something that might positively counteract the negative vibe of the travel ban,” Good said. “I wanted to do something that would make the statement that people of all backgrounds are welcome here, and I especially wanted to send that message to the international student population on the Manchester campus.”

Good settled on the idea of putting every primary language spoken by Manchester University students on a peace pole on the Manchester campus. “It seemed like a good idea to me with Manchester’s tradition in peace studies and the fact that we already have several other peace poles on campus,” Good said.

Good first had to find out how many primary languages Manchester University had on campus. He was specifically targeting the languages that different students would speak in their homes. Good connected with the 63 international students that were on campus at the time and identified 28 different primary languages.

Next, Good had to figure out how he was going to construct the peace poles. “With that many languages, there was no way that we could have paid for traditional peace poles,” Good said. He took limbs from the campus’ pile of tree-trimmings and got to work. The bark had to be stripped of the poles, and then they were primed and ready for painting.

Good sent out a request to all international students and invited them to help with the painting of the peace poles. “We made the decision to paint the poles in the colors of the various country flags and then add the phrase “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in the primary language of the students from all of these countries,” Good said. “For the languages that have script writing of some form, we had to get those students to write the phrase themselves. To the best of our knowledge, we think all languages spoken by students on campus last spring are represented on the peace poles.”

Good and the students had designated times in April and the beginning of May to paint the peace poles. They completed the poles the weekend before finals of spring semester last year. Some of the students who were most involved in the painting of the peace poles were Arpan Paul (India), Kwaku Archer (Ghana), Naomi Yilma (Ethiopia), Henock Molla (Ethiopia), and Complete Chijioke (Nigeria).

On the Sunday before finals started, Good’s church, Manchester Church of the Brethren, hosted a potluck meal for the international students on the mall outside of the Winger building. This celebration included music, a lot of drumming and a brief dedication ceremony to the peace poles. “We wanted to express our appreciation for the international students here at Manchester University and thank them for the unique ways that they all contribute to the life of our campus community and the North Manchester community,” Good said. “This was a celebration of diversity and beautiful people from all over the world. We are fortunate to have these students as part of the Manchester University student body.”

The temporary home for the peace poles is in the open lot across from Oakwood Hall on College Avenue, on the site of the new Intercultural Center. “My hope is that when that building is finished that we can find a way to incorporate them into the landscaping of the new facility,” Good said.

Michael Dixon, Director of Intercultural Studies, has a similar hope in what will happen to the peace poles. “I would envision we would add them to the memorial garden that will be present behind the new Intercultural Center in memory of former international students, particularly the three students who were killed by a high and drunk driver on I-69 in February 2016,” Dixon said. The peace poles are currently surrounding the peace pole that was installed in the memory of those three students, Nerad Mangai, Brook “BK” Dagnew and Kirubel Hailu.

“The purpose of the Intercultural Center is to provide a location for students to gather, relax, interact and facilitate cross-cultural interaction,” Dixon said. “Anyone associated with Manchester University should feel welcome to utilize the space. It is difficult to facilitate cross-cultural dialogue without individuals of difference present in the space. There are also historical resources available for those who want to learn more about minoritized individuals at Manchester and around the world.”

The Jeans Childs Young Intercultural Center is a $1.1 million project. $250,000 prevents construction from starting now; if the goal is met this semester, they could break ground late winter or early spring and complete in an estimated 9-month timeframe.

Manchester is looking to build a new Intercultural Center because the community has outgrown the current center for many years now. The current Intercultural Center was converted in 2002 from the international headquarters for Brethren Colleges Abroad (BCA). Some funds were invested, but little resources have been invested in the renovation and upkeep of the building. 

The Jeans Childs Young Intercultural Center has a current blueprint of about 5,000 square feet. It will have an industrial kitchen, large dining room table, computer lab/library, several staff offices, living room and a rotunda that will be open to others on campus for meetings, classes and gatherings plus the public for rentals.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Intercultural Center is encouraged to visit the website http://www.manchester.edu/multicultural. “These are great ways for students to interact with the Intercultural Center,” Dixon said. “The student organizations host weekly gatherings and the office also holds events called ‘Power Hours’ to have an hour-long discussion on a controversial topic.”