Student Murals Celebrate Diversity

By Steve Harmic, Penn State DuBois

This is one of six student murals on display in the Swift Building depicting America’s diverse culture. (Provided photo)

DUBOIS – Murals, drawn and painted by hand, now line a hallway near the Language Lab in Penn State DuBois’ Swift Building. They feature flags from various countries, instantly recognizable landmarks, famous historical figures and more. Created by students in the Spanish 083S course as a class project, the six new murals showcase the diverse foundations of culture in the U.S.

“Instead of focusing only on the Hispanic culture, I allowed the students to use diversity in its entirety. The theme, which they were to portray was, ‘Diversity United, Building America’s Future Today,’” explained Associate Professor of Spanish Deborah Gill.

“Each small group decided on what that meant to the group and how they were going to portray it.”

Spanish 083S is a course that focuses not just on language, but also exposes students to Hispanic culture and other cultures from around the globe. The understanding of the culture helps students to better appreciate the language they’re studying and offers a well-rounded educational experience. Gill thought the murals would afford students a unique vehicle for expressing what they’ve learned.

“Creating the murals is interdisciplinary, where students take a cultural aspect of something and portray it through art work. Students learn to take an idea and visually represent and share that with the community through the murals that they create,” said Gill.

“In our mural, we decided to have the shape of America split up into different puzzle pieces, with each puzzle piece depicting another country’s flag; then we put all of the pieces together, showing that America is made up of many different people and cultures,” said freshman Kendall Neal.

“We also had silhouettes of people with a colorful glow around them, showing that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, we all share the same hopes and dreams for this country.”

Freshman Rachel Stetler of Clearfield explained the learning experience the project provided.

“Our mural shows what we’ve learned in class about the art of murals, about the diverse Hispanic population in America, and about what parts of America have a large Hispanic population,” she said. “From this project, I learned about where different Hispanic groups live in America, the different careers many have chosen, and about the strong increase in the Hispanic population in America.”

The increase in the Hispanic population that Stetler speaks of is similar to the increase in populations of people from many different backgrounds, nation-wide. That’s why Gill finds lessons like this are such a vital part of a complete education today.

“It is so important in our community today because the community is becoming more diverse and, as our students finish their degrees and move on, it is important that they understand that they live in a diverse world which needs to be nurtured now, and built into the future,” Gill said.

“I try to instill the idea of diversity into all of my courses because we do not live in a bubble. Students need to understand that the world is diverse, that we are not all the same and that is an integral part of what makes America great; the diversity in all senses of the word that there is here. If students leave my courses with that idea, then I believe that I have met one of the major objectives of my courses.”

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