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Campus News / News

First Year Seminar: Food Impacting Change

05/01/2020 2:03 pm

This past fall Semester, Maria Diemer, First Year Seminar instructor and Assistant Director of Global Affairs taught her First Year Seminar (FYS) with the topic “you are what you eat.” This topic explored when one eats, who one eats with, and how one eats, examining how each difference contributes to one’s culture.

With the FYS classes rooted in a Community Based Learning (CBL) project, Diemer immediately designed a connection between the topic of food and refugees. Partnering with the Catholic Charities in Rockford, Professor Diemer and her students talked one-on-one with refugees from various countries and asked them to find a meaningful recipe from their culture. Their recipe from their home country served as the base of a cultural discussion.

“The refugees talked about the significance of the recipe, their typical day eating that food at home, how that recipe has changed since moving to America, and how they adapt to finding ingredients for that recipe,” said Diemer.  

After, Diemer’s students went on to compile a cookbook full of these traditional ethnic recipes. Their goal was to create a cookbook of cultural memories.

According to Diemer, this experience united her Freshman class. “It was such a lovely experience because a lot of the kids this year have never met an immigrant or refugee…this was an opportunity to expand their horizons beyond Rockford, IL.”

Celia Rothermel, an incoming Sophomore, reflects on her First Year Seminar class. “This experience made me realize that refugees are people just like me, people who love their family and home but were forced to leave everything they knew behind to escape the violence of their country,” Rothermel said.

Ultimately, this FYS class experience is just one example of the power community outreach has on students’ learning. Diemer concludes that “one-hour meeting with the refugees was more powerful than any video could have watched, any book they could have read. Seeing kids from an inner-city with tears in their eyes, you know you’ve touched them.”

For more information on Community Based Learning or CBL, contact Mary Weaks-Baxter and The Jane Addams Center for Civic Engagement.