On the first day of the fall semester, the Resilience Room in the Cross-Cultural Center (CCC) was opened to students. It has been given a new identity to represent Middle Eastern culture at Chapman.
“I feel so empowered as a Middle Eastern woman and as somebody who identifies as Iranian and part of the Middle Eastern community,” said Melieka Fathi, a junior strategic and corporate communication major. “I’m incredibly grateful that I am part of a university that appreciates our identity.”
Fathi is the co-founder and co-president of the Iranian Student Cultural Organization (ISCO), alongside Sahar Emtiaz, a junior business administration major. The club was created in spring 2018 to provide a community for Persians to foster relationships akin to their families back home.
“We wanted to create that space where Persians can gather and anybody who wants to learn about our culture can come too,” Emtiaz said.
The room was originally created by the Student Advisory Group in 2016 with a Latinx theme. Chapman’s advisory groups administer services, policies and programs for diversity and inclusion and are comprised of students, staff, faculty, administrators and trustees. The advisory group wanted identities in this room to be constantly evolving to represent Chapman’s community.
The CCC’s Program Director, Tim Topper, led the Student Advisory Group during the rebranding of the Resilience Room this summer.
“When they go there, they’re inadvertently getting cultured themselves,” said Summer Khatib, the Muslim Student Association president and senior philosophy and sociology double major. “I think that’s what we need more of.”
The room features several items and artifacts that represent various Middle Eastern countries and identities, including a samovar tea kettle with Persian teas, a Persian rug with an assortment of pillows, a soccer jersey from famous Iranian athlete Alireza Jahanbakhsh and a traditional Afghani robe. The room also features the word “resilience” written in a variety of Middle Eastern languages on the walls.
“The adviser group wanted to make sure that this room represented their current identity and they wanted their story to be shared,” said Victoria Gomez, a graduate assistant of student engagement in the CCC.
Topper said that the rooms are constantly evolving, whether it is through new exhibits, new featured items or new identities.
Despite the room being scheduled to change its theme every few years, the goal remains to support and affirm student backgrounds on campus, Topper said. He added that the advisory group wanted a variety of representation to reflect the diversity at Chapman.
“Middle Eastern identities can find the place and find a community they can call home,” Topper said. “The room can also serve as an educational opportunity so other folks can learn more about Middle Eastern identities.”
Though Chapman now represents Middle Eastern culture through this room, Fathi believes there is still more to be addressed, such as the lack of an Iranian flag in the Global Citizens Plaza on campus. Fathi said that although there is yet to be her country’s flag blowing in the winds alongside dozens of others, she said that the addition of a Middle Eastern-themed room shows Chapman’s willingness to accept change.
“I’m grateful we have a space in the Cross-Cultural Center that values us and that is an incredible accomplishment,” Fathi said.
Khatib added that Chapman still has “a long way to go” in increasing efforts to reach out to diverse groups on campus, but appreciates the outreach.
“Any time I walk into that room, I feel comfortable and at home.”