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The “M” Requirement: Building Bridges

By Vanessa Freije
9 Dec 2014

Due to recent campus controversies, DePauw University’s administration is in the process of deciding upon an additional distribution requirement to the curriculum. If passed, they will call it the “M” credit for “multicultural”. This new addition would not affect the current students at DePauw, as it would have to be ‘grandfathered’ into the curriculum for future classes.  While there has not yet been any official word on whether or not this new credit will be passed, I believe this M credit would be beneficial for DePauw’s campus. Not only would it fit well with the liberal arts fashion of being a well-rounded, well-prepared individual, but also it never hurts to be more culturally aware of the world and those of different backgrounds.

Being a first generation Arab-American, I myself have experienced adversity that resulted from cultural prejudices.  The Middle East is very pluralistic, meaning that not all who live in the Middle East are Arabs, and not all Arabs are Muslims. While there are majorities, there are also minority groups within the Middle East. I fall into that category. I am an Arab Christian, more specially, a Lebanese Orthodox Christian.  Growing up in a Post 9/11 world was very difficult, especially when faced with those who assumed all Arabs were Muslim, and by naïve extension, a terrorist. An “M” course that focused on the Middle East would have helped solve those problems, among many others. The “M” credit will have the power to alleviate conflict before it happens simply by educating and making others more aware of different cultures.

Earlier this semester I was honored to be able to attend an event in New York City for an organization called Bridges of Understanding. One of the co-founders of this non-profit organization is DePauw Alumna, Kathy Hubbard, Class of 1974. Bridges of Understanding focuses on bridging the gap between the Arab World and the American World.  The event was an inspiring evening as the guests all arrived with open minds and hearts.  Lebanese fashion designer, Reem Acra received an award for being a role model of diversity in the fashion industry. Reem’s story solidifies the momentum of dialogue across cultures.

Despite this organization’s focus on the Middle East, I believe its mission is universal. A former student of Bridges of Understanding said it best, “Coexistence can only be achieved by understanding. Without understanding, we cannot create peace. We have the power to start promoting peace rather than resentment”.  The efforts of this organization should serve as a role model for what this new “M” credit should strive to achieve. With this “M” credit, hopefully DePauw will be able to build bridges of its own instead of further stratifying the cultural disconnects.

Vanessa graduated from DePauw University with an Economics major, and French and Political Science double minor. She worked as a Prindle Intern from 2014-2016. She is from Indianapolis, Indiana.
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