International Food Fest Recognized for Inspiring Cultural Competence

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by Dash Phillips

Rutherford University received top honors at the annual meeting of the Housing Officers Association Knowledge and Education Exchange (HOAKEE) for its innovative residence hall programming. Colleges and universities around the United States are invited to compete for the “Most Innovative Residence Hall Program” by submitting elaborate documentation demonstrating outstanding efforts.

Rutherford received this major recognition for its “International Food Festival.” Upon hearing the announcement, director of residence life Harland Donohue said, “We really deserve this award. We’ve brought our model, the wellness wheel, to life at Rutherford.”

The selection committee agreed.

“We are so pleased to recognize Rutherford University’s innovative programming,” said Marjorie Whitcomb, chair of HOAKEE’s awards committee. “Rutherford took diversity programming to a new level and engaged more residents per building than most of the other competitors combined,” she added.

Haley Kibbets-Flourson, residence hall director, accepted the award on behalf of Rutherford at the closing RA/staff banquet at HOAKEE’s Convention.

“In all of my 2 years in the field, I’ve never received such a prestigious honor. After counseling students all night, chairing the Ice Cream Social Committee, and developing a year-round RA training program, it’s not easy to develop additional top notch programs,” Kibbets-Flourson said in her acceptance speech.

When asked to explain how the winning program was designed, Kibbets-Flourson said, “The idea is simple, yet it encompasses a spectrum of developmental, cultural, and nutritional milieus. First, the RA gathers the residents in the lounge. Then, she passes out menus from the ethnic restaurants around town. Finally, the students are allowed to order one entrée of their choice for free from any of the restaurants. Voila! The International Food Festival is underway.”

The students were thrilled with the program.

“International food night is way cool. I’m an international student from Canada, so to me International is local. I ordered the Hamburger and Fries. What a great way to celebrate America!” said, Sorice Gordon, a resident of Smithson Hall at Rutherford.

Other students were more daring.

“I ordered the Pizza, because I really wanted to experience the culture of Italy,” junior International Business major Roger Waide said. “It’s so awesome to experience another culture by eating their traditional dishes.”

Some students took more innovative approaches in program participation.

Tish Barnes said, “I ordered the Shrimp Lo Mein from Fung’s and my roommate Barb ordered the Taco Plate from Guadalajara’s and then we shared our selections. Why experience only one culture when you can experience two?”

Student engagement and participation helped Rutherford secure the award.

“We take great pains for our students to be culturally competent. Thanks to International Food Festival our students have their eyes – and stomachs – focused globally,” exclaimed Laureen Satherly, Ed.D., Vice President for Student Affairs Programs, Services and Development. She added, “This kind of programming makes Rutherford students ready to compete fiercely in an ever-globalizing world.”