Emory’s Office of Multicultural Programs and Services (OMPS) kicked off their cultural celebration, Unity Month, at Wonderful Wednesday, Nov. 7.

The month-long cultural awareness campaign will host multiple events open to all students throughout the next two weeks. These events will seek to familiarize students with different cultures found in the Emory community, according to Hajar Al-Zerma, a College sophomore and Unity Month organizer.

Unity Month, which originated on Emory’s campus as Unity Week in 1991, was created by OMPS to celebrate the diversity of Emory’s student body. The event became popular amongst members of the Emory community that the event expanded into Unity Month in 2003.

Unity Month organizers gathered on Asbury Circle Wednesday to promote cultural exchange as well as future events being held throughout Unity Month. The organizers asked their peers to write down a word that represented unity and had it translated into a different language.

Although the kick-off was cut short due to rain, students expressed satisfaction with the event.

“Students really got involved,” Al-Zerma said. “It was a learning experience for me. Being an international student, I like that our school took the time to incorporate [other cultures].”

Many of the month’s events have been planned by students in coordination with OMPS. One of the many events that make up Unity Month is “Multicultural Mondays.”

The event represents a joint effort by students, Emory Dining and Sodexo to bring cultural dishes to Dobbs University Center, according to M. DeLa Sweeney, assistant program coordinator of OMPS. Given the idea’s promising reception, Sodexo and Emory Dining agreed to host three Multicultural Mondays a semester.

During the course of the next month, the planned events aim to start a dialogue centered around the cultural differences among students at Emory, according to Al-Zerma.

“It’s an outside-of-the-classroom learning experience. There are so many things you can take away from different cultures. One of the things that make Emory stand out is our diversity,” he said. “[Students] definitely need to take advantage of that.”

Unity Month is an event that allows students to get out of their comfort zone and explore new cultures, noted Jenny Fernandez, College senior and Unity Month organizer.

Fernandez said that Unity Month is a way for students to truly experience new ideas they have not experienced before.

“We want Unity Month to be more than just the existence of diversity on campus but accessing the true richness that can come from it,” said Sweeney. “[Students] can cross those cultural boundaries and get the benefits of being at such a diverse university.”

– By Dustin Slade