Graduate and undergraduate students at St. John’s are working toward developing an Arab Students Organization on campus. These student leaders have been writing a constitution and planning community service actions, events, and collaborations for the 2019-2020 academic year. Plans are currently underway to submit a proposal to Student Government, Inc.
Writing Across Communities Faculty-in-Residence, Dr. Tamara Issak, along with Undergraduate Writing Coordinator Justin Melendez, has been working with this group to support their efforts in the development and growth of this new student organization. This collaborative work grew out of a recognition that St. John’s University’s Arab/Arab-American students need a space to connect with others who share similar cultural experiences and linguistic backgrounds. A central goal of Writing Across Communities is to sustain diverse academic and cultural communities across SJU and beyond. Dr. Isaak’s efforts certainly model this core principle and illustrate new ways of fostering rich cultural connections necessary to an engaged and culturally responsive campus community.
Every April, events are held across the country to celebrate Arab culture and history and to recognize the rich contributions of Arabs and Arab Americans. Students at St. John’s University organized an event in April 2019 entitled, “Celebration of Arab American Heritage Month.” With the support of Writing Across Communities, students held the event which featured a poetry reading, Arabic trivia games, group discussions, food, and conversation. This successful event laid some groundwork for and garnered interest in formalizing the organization through SGI recognition.
According to the Arab American Institute, there are approximately 3.5 million Arab Americans in the United States. The rich linguistic and cultural diversity of Queens and St. John’s University students makes it the ideal place to cultivate connections across difference. The Arab Students Organization hopes to share diverse perspectives and voices with St. John’s University communities and to promote cross cultural understanding.