The Student Movement


Head in the Clouds: The AUnited Cultural Gala

Alannah Tjhatra

Photo by Alannah Tjhatra

On March 12, 2023, at 7:30 pm, the Andrews University Student Association (AUSA) and the Andrews University Graduate Student Association (AUGSA) hosted a cultural gala at the Gillespie Conference Center in South Bend, Indiana. This gala was the last in a series of collaborative events that took place over Andrews University's second annual AUnited Weekend (March 10 - 12), which celebrates the university’s cultural diversity. Students had attended a moving vespers on Friday evening, in which they were called to be “United in Christ;” and a dazzling Cultural Showcase on Saturday night, where various cultural clubs shared a look into their traditions, pop culture, fashion, and history. Now, they were ready to end off the weekend with a lively social event.

The venue was filled with round sitting and standing tables, centerpieces composed of candles, baby’s breath, and fluff that looked like clouds. In the middle of the room was a shiny dance floor that faced an elevated stage; and in the back corner was a pretty arched photo booth made of pink tulle, fairy lights, and fluff for clouds. At the center of the room, too, hung softly-glowing clouds.

Students mingled in the lobby and main area, taking pictures and catching up over drinks and hors d'oeuvres passed out by uniformed servers. Each new wave of food and drink was from a different culture: there were vegetarian egg rolls from Southern Africa, Indonesian-style es teler, Venezuelan arepas, among others. Drinks included mango lassi and hibiscus ginger tea, while dessert dishes consisted of cassava cake, brigadeiros, and baklava.

Throughout the night, guests were also treated to a variety of cultural performances. Nicole Boddetti (senior, public health), Kimberly Agosto (freshman, elementary education), Nathan Gulzar (sophomore, aviation), and Nathan Boddetti (sophomore, computer science) from the Southern Asia Student Association (SASA) took the floor with a dynamic Bhangra dance routine, and Cielo Sandoval captured her audience with a beautiful Mexican Mariachi song. Franky Paypa (senior, physical therapy), who performed a crowd-winning Pinoy dance medley, commented, “As a performer, it was heartwarming to see the support and the hype for modern OPM (original Pinoy music). My hope for this weekend is to help catapult interest in more types of music around the globe, as well as to continue advocating for diversity.”

As a finale, members of the Andrews University Latino Association (AULA) performed a dynamic merengue dance. They were soon joined by various members of the audience, who formed a conga line and joined in the fun. And as the night wore on, students flocked to the dance floor to participate in guided steps like the Cupid Shuffle and the Macarena.

Overall, students seemed to enjoy themselves at this mid-semester event. Anna Pak (sophomore, psychology), said this: “My favorite part [of the gala] was probably getting to see everyone dressed up and socializing with people I haven't seen in a while. I thought all the cultural foods were really good as well, but I wished they had made it more of a sit-down meal rather than finger foods. All in all though, I enjoyed the performances and the event in general!”

Meanwhile, Hailey Prestes (junior, architecture), AUSA’s Social VP, provided some insight about the planning of the event: “Planning the gala was a months-long process that took a lot of time and effort, but I think it paid off! I tried something new with the ‘tastes from around the world’ and with moving away from a traditional sit-down banquet to a socializing walk around gala. There are some quirks I would have been able to avoid had I known exactly what a gala like this entails, but now we have something to go off of for future reference! Overall, I’m so glad we had a fun night where people got to enjoy themselves and celebrate each other's cultures in an entertaining way with some yummy food and cultural dancing. Just remember, there’s no point in being the number one most diverse school if we’re not also the number one most inclusive! Everyone looked fabulous and I hope everyone had an amazing time.”

Amidst delicious food, lovely performances, and a chance to have a good time with friends, it’s safe to say that this year’s AUnited cultural gala was a success.

The Student Movement is the official student newspaper of Andrews University. Opinions expressed in the Student Movement are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors, Andrews University or the Seventh-day Adventist church.