Chemical Engineering Grad Student Connects Cultures Through Food

Chemical Engineering doctoral candidate Humeyra Ulusoy-Erol organized the department's first Heritage Potluck to showcase the variety of cultures represented among students and staff, while also encouraging conversations about diversity and inclusion.
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Chemical Engineering doctoral candidate Humeyra Ulusoy-Erol organized the department's first Heritage Potluck to showcase the variety of cultures represented among students and staff, while also encouraging conversations about diversity and inclusion.

Humeyra Ulusoy-Erol may not be a civil engineering student, but she's certainly interested in building bridges within the Ralph E. Martin Department of Chemical Engineering.

That's why in early April, Ulusoy-Erol, arranged the department's first Heritage Potluck, a one-day event designed to showcase the diverse student body within Chemical Engineering, while also encouraging conversation between students of different backgrounds.

Ulusoy-Erol said she chose a potluck format because it provided something everyone can appreciate: food.

"I believe it is important to start a conversation and help people to understand other cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and their experiences," she said. "Food is a common ground that helps bring people together and share their values.

Ulusoy-Erol estimates 50 people attended the event. Attendees praised the program as a valuable connection point within the Ralph E. Martin Department of Chemical Engineering and beyond.

Freddie Bowles, associate professor of foreign language education, said she appreciated the outreach.

"What a delightful opportunity offered by the College of Engineering to meet their students and share cultures and foods," she said. "I appreciated the invitation to join my colleagues in engineering as they continue to make all students feel included in their programs."

Chemical Engineering graduate student John Moore II, said the event was "an amazing lunch and brought together a variety of different cultures, as well as gave people the opportunity to express themselves, ask questions both easy and uncomfortable in a friendly, safe environment."

That, Ulusoy-Erol said, was the goal.

"If even one person learned something about another culture, I count that event as a success," Ulusoy-Erol said. "Luckily, this event turned out great and there were a lot of 'aha' moments."

Offerings included food from Bolivia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Department Head Dave Ford called the event a success and said he hoped to see it grow next year.

"Our department has been exploring ways to increase inclusion among our students, and this potluck was a great idea from Humeyra," Ford said. " Plus, the food was delicious. I would like to do it again next year, with a chance to involve more students from engineering and perhaps beyond."

Contacts

Nick DeMoss, director of communications
College of Engineering
479-575-5697, ndemoss@uark.edu

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