Indiana State University Newsroom

Student Teaching: Indiana State groups educate Union Hospital employees, public during diversity fair

April 18, 2011

When the health administrator from the United Arab Emirates visited Union Hospital in Terre Haute last year, local hospital officials were prepared.

They had learned some information about some customs and traditions of the Middle Eastern country from information they received at a fair - which was right in their very own hospital.

"So having some of that information, knowing some of their ways and what is appropriate and what is not in addressing somebody of that stature in that country was real helpful to us," said James Twitchell, community liaison in Union Hospital marketing and public relations.

He had another opportunity to learn more on April 6, when Indiana State University students taught hospital employees and others about cultural traditions in nations around the world during the fourth annual Diversity Fair at the hospital. Members of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association, Saudi Club and Indian, Moroccan and Hispanic student associations were among those to teach people about cultures of different countries around the world. Union Hospital also included some information from the chaplain's office and about disability awareness at the event.

"We have a diverse workplace with people from all kinds of different backgrounds," Twitchell said. "It's a good opportunity to introduce people to different cultures."

People attending the fair sampled different kinds of food, such as sushi and flan, from countries spanning the globe. They also had the opportunity to talk with the Indiana State students about the different countries they represented, as well as their culture.

Amine Bouya, an ISU student interning at Union Hospital this semester, organized the event. He also conducted surveys from participants to provide information for future fairs. He is writing a manual to help future event organizers.

"I do believe that people got a little bit of a taste from every culture," Bouya said, "and even if it was for just minutes, I believe that people who came in gained by communication with others" from different cultures.

ISU graduate students Shyam Sammidi and Sravya Sarvareddy represented the Indian Student Association at the event. They answered questions people asked them and explained some information about India. Some visitors tried gulab jamun, an Indian desert. Sarvareddy also created henna tattoos, a kind of temporary tattoo from India, for some people attending the event.

Sammidi and Sarvareddy attended the fair to showcase their culture. Though the Indian Student Association had been involved with previous fairs, it was the first time Sammidi and Sarvareddy participated in the fair.

"It's wonderful," Sammidi said of the fair. "It's more than what we expected."

Union Hospital also had displays of its own. Karen Rusk, resource generalist for Union Hospital, attended the event to inform people on disability awareness. She had fair attendees visiting her table wear a pair of glasses that demonstrated how some people with impaired vision could have poor peripheral vision.

Brendan Kearns, director of occupational health at Union Hospital, was among those who visited the fair. He talked with students representing ISU groups from India, Saudi Arabia and China. He learned more about the health care system in Saudi Arabia.

"The diversity in Terre Haute is something that we take for granted," Kearns said, "and seeing that these students are so engaged in promoting their ethnicity kind of brings an awareness to how cultured we actually are."

Photo: (ISU/Tony Campbell)
Indiana State University graduate students Shyam Sammidi and Sravya Sarvareddy watch as Brendan Kearns, director of occupational health at Union Hospital, tries gulab jamun, an Indian desert. Sammidi and Sarvareddy represented the Indian Student Association at the fourth annual Diversity Fair at Union Hospital on April 6.

Photo: (ISU/Tony Campbell)
Close-up of a henna tattoo, a kind of temporary tattoo from India

Contact: Amine Bouya, graduate student, Indiana State University,

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or