Diversifying For Opportunities – Claudia Fernández

Interview with Chrisa Marie Sampanes, United States.

“The cultural values of the United States promote an educational system that entails more than just traditional education; reading, writing, and arithmetic are not the only subjects that are taught in the United States.  The educational system ensures the physical as well as mental well being of the students.” University of Michigan

As we all know that Education is the main pilar for the future of a country, we sometimes forget how important extra activities could be. Diversifying our skills in order to enriched our lives and mentalities is such as important as pass a maths exam. 

Chrisa Sampanes, who is in charge of social compromise and culture in the UEM, has conceded me this interview which is focussed on the cultural skills that students acquire in their training. She is from the United States of America and her whole professional life have been always related to culture. “After almost five years working in the “Círculo de Bellas Artes” here in Madrid, I thought I was always doing more or less the same activities so I wanted to get involved in the University atmosphere”, she said.

I was interested in Chrisa’s opinion about the projects that contribute to develop those skills. She almost didn’t think about it to answer: “As we are working on exhibitions about photograph or painting, we are in charge of the student clubs. This year we are trying to make the clubs more independent, so they could be leaded by the students themselves, like in the United States.”, she said.

That’s why is so important to make accessible for students to participate: leading the activities teach them not only the cultural values but also the organization systems, how to work in group, connect people… the main point is offering possibilities. “Thereby, if you are a Medicine student while you’re interested in Communication you can develop those skills that will be useful in your career and in your life”.

In the U.S, some students are more than used to this kind of programs. It’s in the spring, often in March or April, that students receive their acceptance letters. And what things are relevant in those applications? A high-school student who wants to be accepted in a good University includes in her or his record a complete list of activities and events they have been involved in. That’s the reason why by the time they are coursing superior studies they are completely used to take part in extra disciplines that may not be related with what they are studying.

“My own experience in University is that, when you’re there you have to be involved in something because its proves initiative, group work., leadership… For example I had a mate who was a dancer and we always went to her performances, not only we supported her but also we got involved in that atmosphere”, said Chrisa, who is more than used to organize this kind of activities in her daily life.

“Any student has to take the initiative to develop him or herself, not only on their speciality but also as person, as a society member… You expand yourself involving in culture”. Chrisa Sampanes. 

When asking her if economical crisis has a component of moral and cultural crisis she answered affirmatively and said: “In a situation of economical crisis, the first thing governments cut the budget back is culture. […]In the U.S. the situation is different, government doesn’t fund cultural organizations. They auto finance themselves with philanthropy, donors, private enterprises…”

Culture is not only a personal enrichment issue, but also an economical one. “When people go to the theatre for example, they take a drink before or after, they go dinner, they spent money on public transport or gasoline…” Chrisa said.

Moreover, some voices in the U.S. claimed that nowadays young students care less than ever about this kind of activities. In 1982, 82 percent of college graduates read novels or poems for pleasure; two decades later, only 67 percent did. And more than 40 percent of Americans under 44 did not read a single book — fiction or nonfiction — over the course of a year.

It seems that now is more important than ever to encourage young people to care about their personal development in order to grow as open-minded members of the society. Why don’t strengthen this abilities? One kid or teenager with cultural, scientific, tech, music or sports interests is an adult with different points of view to offer.

 P.D: After this interview, Chrisa asked me if I would be interested on participate in the Cultural Passport, a multicultural activity that the UEM offers which consists on reduced prizes in museums, theaters… What would be better than leading by example? Of course, I happily accepted. 

Claudia Fernández García


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