Expanding the focus

The International Institute Focus Series features Southeast Asia

By Casey Samyn
Campus Life Editor

The International Institute has been putting on the Focus Series since January of 2004. Each Focus Series consists of films, presentations and displays where students can learn about different cultures in a unique way. The Focus Series began with the Middle East and more recently focused on the Caribbean in 2014. Other areas of interest were spread out on each of the continents.

On Feb. 24, the first installment of the newest Focus Series, which is concentrating on Southeast Asia, will begin with a presentation by Lisa A. Lark.

Lark grew up in Dearborn and is a teacher and a writer who spends much of her time telling the stories of people who fought and died during in the Vietnam War. She has authored two books, “All They Left Behind: The Men and Women of the Wall”, which was published in 2012, and “There and Back: The Vietnam War Through the Eyes of Those Who Lived It” which was published this year.

“My goal for the Southeast Asia cycle is to support quality programming that highlights both historical events and contemporary issues related to the region,” said Helen Ditouras, the Co-Chair of the International Institute, Coordinator of the Focus Series and an English Teacher at Schoolcraft. “I hope that students, faculty, and community can have an opportunity to engage with the program and expand their knowledge in relation to the region.”

Living styles and culture in Southeast Asia is much different compared to the life of a college student in Michigan. Specifically, Vietnam has a diverse culture with the highest amount of students enrolled in school and a wide variety of religious beliefs spread throughout the country.

“The Focus Series are always really interesting to see. I try to attend one of the events each time around,” said Schoolcraft student Tommie Walker. “It is amazing how much you can learn about other cultures.”

The Focus Series invites faculty from other colleges, experts and community leaders who speak on many topics about the region of emphasis. The Schoolcraft College Foundation sponsors the Focus Series and the presentations are videotaped and made available to students and professors in the Bradner Library.

Later on in the semester, James Beni Wilson will present his personal story, “Binitay: Journey of a Filipino Adoptee,” the documentary will follow with a question and answer session. Ditouras will also be presenting “Sign O the Times: Trauma and Reconciliation in Southeast Asia’s Global Cinema.” This event will consist of analyzing films that Southeast Asians have come to terms and represented issues such as war, poverty, genocide and natural disasters. Each event that is part of the Focus Series is free of charge and open to the public. For more information contact Helen Ditouras at 734-462-5647 or at hditoura@schoolcraft.edu.