‘Sharing Experience’ helps promote diversity, inclusion at MSU

Renée Matich serves a rice dish to students during a “Sharing Experience: Heritage, Home and History” workshop recently held at Mississippi State University. She was an organizer of the multi-cultural, interdisciplinary project that included meals featuring rice, maize and wheat dishes. (Photo by Megan Bean)

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Organizers of a special spring-semester workshop at Mississippi State are deeming successful the multi-part cultural experience that brought together a diverse group of university students.

“Sharing Experience: Heritage, Home and History” was the title of the research project made possible by an interdisciplinary grant from MSU’s Office of Research and Economic Development. Co-principal investigators were School of Architecture assistant professors Emily McGlohn and Andreea Mihalache. Mihalache now teaches at Clemson University.

Other co-principal investigators included two faculty members in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ food science, nutrition and health promotion department—Renée Matich, who coordinates the expanded food and nutrition education program, and assistant professor Terezie Mosby, who directs dietetic internships. Also participating was assistant professor Muey Saeteurn of the College of Arts and Sciences’ history department.

To launch examinations of culture and diversity, the nearly two dozen students brought along personal recipes from their respective homes. With them, each began researching the origins and foodways—the cultural, social and economic practices of production and consumption—of their recipes’ various ingredients.

Each of the workshop’s three sessions involved a “focus food”; in this case, rice, maize and wheat. At each session, an informational lecture by a workshop’s organizer was followed by a multi-course meal of cultural dishes featuring the “focus food” of the day.

Marion Sansing of Starkville, an authority on international culinary traditions, prepared all rice, maize and wheat dishes served during the “Shared Experience: Heritage, Home and History” spring workshop at Mississippi State. (Photo by Megan Bean)

All meals were organized and prepared by Marion Sansing of Starkville, a recognized authority on international culinary traditions.

Bringing together students from diverse backgrounds to share personal memories, recipes and a meal in the context of their unique cultural backgrounds proved a fun and enriching way to build empathy and promote cultural and global awareness, McGlohn said.

“Sharing a meal is a sensitive, respectful way to understand, learn and start a conversation about our heritage, home and history,” she explained. “We gained a better understanding of each other’s heritage through our culinary traditions, and we also learned about each other’s history and background through stories shared around the table.”

Using the “wheat” session as an example, McGlohn said the main dish was lamb tagine with couscous. For dessert, students enjoyed topfenpalatschinken, a sweet, filled pancake of Austrian heritage that is similar to a French crèpe. Workshop participants also were served mote con huesillo, the national drink of Chile made from a blending of wheat berries and dried peaches in water flavored with cinnamon and lemon rind.

Assistant history professor Muey Saeteurn discusses the global history of rice during “Sharing Experience: Heritage, Home and History,” a recent workshop for students at Mississippi State. (Photo by Megan Bean)

The nationally accredited School of Architecture in MSU’s College of Architecture, Art and Design offers the only curriculum in the state leading to a professional degree in architecture. For more, visit www.caad.msstate.edu.

Learn more about MSU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and its food science, nutrition and health promotion department at www.cals.msstate.edu; the College of Arts and Sciences and its history department at www.cas.msstate.edu.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.