The Whole World in Your Backyard: Night of the Open Door

By Lauren Herber, Editor-in-Chief

Last Friday, Donald Trump issued an executive order that suspends new-refugee admissions for 120 days and bans travelers from seven countries (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia), all of which are Muslim-majority, for 90 days (with the exception Syrian refugees, who are banned indefinitely). The immigration ban has earned the nickname the “Muslim ban” due to a provision in the order that allows the White House to “prioritize refugee claims on the basis of religious persecution, so long as the applicant belongs to a religion that is a minority in their country of origin.”

The news of this ban simultaneously enraged me, broke my heart, and terrified me. I never imagined that the country I call home could so callously turn its back on those most in need of help and refuge. I am appalled that one of its founding principles—freedom of religion—has been twisted into a way to discriminate against others. And I’m not the only one: people all over the U.S. (and even the U.K.) have been peacefully protesting Trump’s ban on immigration and showing their support for immigrants and refugees.

Thunderbird has given me many priceless experiences, one of which is exposure to people who are from different countries and backgrounds than I, who speak different languages, eat different foods, and believe in different religions than I do. This exposure to others who are different promotes understanding and, more importantly, empathy. Here at Thunderbird, we have the amazing opportunity—duty, even—to not only embrace differences, but to spread our understanding and empathy to the community, on both a local and a global level. And right here on campus we’ll have an opportunity to do just that—and to support our international friends by helping them educate the community on their background and culture—at the Night of the Open Door event.

What is the Night of the Open Door?

Tbirds show off their moves at last year's NOOD Courtesy of ASU
Tbirds show off their moves at last year’s NOOD
Courtesy of ASU

Thunderbird’s Night of the Open Door (NOOD) event is part of an ASU initiative to showcase all 5 ASU campuses during the month of February. The purpose is, as the name suggests, to show what’s going on behind Thunderbird’s doors. “Our unique position is that we are so fortunate to have the global angle,” said Erin Schneiderman, Director of Special Events and main mastermind behind Thunderbird’s NOOD event. There will be 67 interactive stations spread throughout campus offering different activities that guests can participate in. The goal is to completely immerse guests in culture, not to simply pass out pamphlets. Guests will have the opportunity to experience a myriad of activities that demonstrate Thunderbird’s uniqueness—such as taking a campus tour, learning to play rugby, building trucks out of recycled materials, sampling global cuisines, visiting a Taiwanese Night Market, getting henna tattoo, making buttons, playing glow-in-the-dark minigolf, and much, much more. The majority of Thunderbird’s student clubs will have a booth with an activity at the event, but there will also be community partners (such as the Phoenix Sister Cities) there to join in on the fun. Additionally, Alumni Relations will be hosting a reunion in the Pub.

Last year, this event was a tremendous success. Erin and her team only planned for about 500 participants—and ended up drawing a crowd of 1500. “I had this horrible fear that there wasn’t going to be much going on and that no one would show up,” admitted Kellie Kreiser, Executive Director of Thunderbird for Good. But she was wrong: “I was completely amazed when people actually showed up—a lot of people! And they all seemed to be having a good time…my favorite memory was standing in the plaza by the Pavilion just seeing all the activity going on, all the people, and all the enjoyment of people discovering Thunderbird.”

Brad Hoffa enjoying some Double Dutch. Courtesy of Thunderbird
Brad Hoffa enjoying some Double Dutch. Courtesy of Thunderbird

Everyone that I interviewed for this article gushed about their memories from last year’s event. Several people fondly reminisced about meeting the Peruvian teachers (who will be back this year!). “They were so thrilled to be there, and I could tell they were just absorbing as much as they possibly could during their time in the U.S., and Arizona,” said MaryAnne Riodique, Assistant Director, Admissions and Recruiting. Gabby Gueye (MAGAM ’17), who will be co-emceeing this year’s event, still keeps a trinket that the Peruvian teachers gave her on her desk. Brad Hoffa (MGM ’17), who dressed up as Uncle Sam and represented the U.S. at last year’s event, had the most fun with all the kids who came to experience Thunderbird for the first time. “We had two little girls running the Double Dutch jump ropes and I was trying to play. I almost got my head chopped off. But they loved it,” said Brad. Faduma-Dhool Mohamed (MAGAM ’17) especially loved being able to share her culture and her hijab with the community. “I was overwhelmed with the amount of interest shown by the people who passed by, who were intrigued with the cultural attire I was wearing,” said Faduma, “but at the same time, I was immensely happy and proud to have had this chance to share my culture with other people. It was wonderful.”

Courtesy of Thunderbird
Courtesy of Thunderbird

Shane Hunt, Operations Supervisor, perfectly encapsulated what last year’s event was all about, and what the attitude is this year as well. “Being able to reinforce and reassert our campus’ individual identity, highlight our unique departments and programs, and shine a light on the enthusiastic and exceptionally astute students attending Thunderbird presently really puts a positive foot forward for our future relations with the community and our alumni,” said Shane. Last year was Thunderbird’s first experience hosting the event, and the planning team was overwhelmed by the unexpected level of enthusiasm shown by the community. But this year, they’re ready and excited. “We have no capacity limit,” said Erin. “We would love to fill this campus with thousands of people who are interested in Thunderbird.” Brad agreed. “I’m now more invested in the community’s perception of Thunderbird and the rest of the world. I think it’s a really interesting way to showcase who we are and why we’re here, especially in light of recent political events,” said Brad. Everyone agreed: the goal of this year’s event is to get as many people involved as possible, to show them that Thunderbird is here and what it’s all about, and to create a welcoming space for everyone—regardless of age, ethnicity, religion, or background.

Highlights from last year were collected in this video:

What can I look forward to at the Night of the Open Door event this year?

It’s free. This interactive event is totally free. Taste food from around the world, have your hands painted with henna, view the Arizona debut of the Ukrainian film “Once Upon a Mine”—all for free.

Fun for the whole family! Courtesy of Thunderbird
Fun for the whole family! Courtesy of Thunderbird

It’s fun for the whole family. Bring your spouses, kids, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends—whoever! There is something for everyone at Night of the Open Door. There are games, films, lectures, physical activities, you name it. This goes for alumni, too: if you’re planning on attending the Alumni Reunion at the Pub, bring your family! “It’s fun a great way to soak in some culture. Definitely bring children and the elderly,” said Gabby. This is an excellent opportunity for people of all ages to learn something about different peoples and cultures.

It’s the whole world in your backyard. “Travel 5 miles to see the world,” said Cheri Roberts, Program Manager for the Bachelor of Global Management. “At Night of the Open Door you can travel around the world and experience different regions, right in your backyard. Where else do you get to do that?” From Peruvian food to Ukrainian films to Indian henna to Taiwanese markets to Japanese art to Colombian music to Mexican bingo to Vietnamese dances to Arab journeys—the list goes on and on—you can truly experience the world at this event. “The diversity is simply breathtaking,” said Faduma. “It’s like Regional Night but on a larger scale. It’s an interactive event, where guests not only get to spectate, but also experience first-hand the diversity here at Thunderbird.”

T-birds at last year's NOOD. Courtesy of Thunderbird
T-birds at last year’s NOOD. Courtesy of Thunderbird

It’s your chance to represent Thunderbird and what we stand for on a local level, but also on a global level. “This year’s Night of the Open Door is extremely important to me, because we have a lot of representing to do. We are in desperate need for ambassadorship, not only for Thunderbird in the community but for the U.S. in the community,” said Brad. The world needs Thunderbirds, and what they stand for, now more than ever. The NOOD event is our chance to show who we are and that we’re proud of what we stand for as an institution. “It’s important to emphasize that the university is a proving ground for the forward-thinking, malleable minds that hope to shape the future of our society. As such, this event, from my perspective, is about inclusion, and offering our community a glimpse into how the soup is made,” said Shane. “We do not operate in a vacuum—and this is one of our major touchstones for establishing a mutually supportive partnership with our community…We all find ourselves speaking extemporaneously to individuals that we may not have otherwise encountered, so it is a wonderful opportunity to begin dialogues. This, in turn, presents opportunities to not only explore and express one’s own mindset in new and exciting ways, but to become better acquainted with the views, passions, and priorities of your colleagues and classmates as well.” And we can do that in a number of ways at the NOOD event. One way is simply by being there, embracing other cultures, engaging with people who are different, and spreading that love and understanding. Another opportunity will be through the activities offered by Thunderbird for Good. “Perhaps the coolest booth will be our radio station booth,” said Kellie. “We are going to let people record a short message to the Afghan people. We’ll have some common phrases in Dari, but we will also be able to translate English messages. Afterwards, we’ll take all the messages and give them to our radio station owner for her to run on the air in Afghanistan. With so much fear and divisiveness happening in the U.S. around Muslims, we hope that these can be messages of hope and friendship.”

How can I get involved?

First and foremost: show up! Uncle Sam (alias Brad Hoffa) wants YOU to come to Night of the Open Door! Be present, engage with the community, and represent Thunderbird to the best of your ability. “Mingle with the crowds, introduce yourselves, and answer questions. In this way you will demonstrate the Thunderbird spirit,” said Shannon Walker, Archive Specialist. “If nothing else, just show up so it looks like we are poppin’! Marketing the event and telling your friends and family is also another stellar way to contribute leading up to the event,” said Gabby. Shane agreed: “The more smiling, helpful faces readily apparent at the event, coupled with their respective energies, ideas, voices, and perspectives, are the assets that best assist us with making this event truly successful. So be there!” This is truly an event that you don’t want to miss.

Don't miss your chance to be a part of this incredible event. Courtesy of Thunderbird
Don’t miss your chance to be a part of this incredible event. Courtesy of Thunderbird

If you want to engage on a more active level, volunteers are always welcome. You can help with registration, watch kids in the bounce house, help the City of Glendale Public Works Department with their activity (making trucks out of recycled milk containers), assist the Global Mindset Institute with their game, help Degree Programs put on their mini carnival, and more. This is a no-capacity event, so the more help, the better. If you’re interested in volunteering, you can sign up here.

Share this event with friends, family, colleagues, strangers, everyone! Use social media to promote this event that shines love, hope, and inclusion in the midst of uncertain, fear-ridden times. Here is the link to the Facebook event, a complete list of all available activities (plus schedule and maps—you’ll want to plan ahead so you know what times all the different events start), and the link to get (FREE) tickets.

Thunderbirds, this is our chance to show the community—and, in turn, the world—what we’re about. This is our chance to show love and acceptance to those that might be feeling unsafe in the United States. This is our chance to promote understanding and inclusion, driving out fear and exclusion. This is our chance. Don’t miss it.

This year's event invitation. Courtesy of Thunderbird
This year’s event invitation. Courtesy of Thunderbird

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