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Diversity On Display At WNMU

Sep 20, 2017

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To make international and Native American students feel more at home and to celebrate the diversity of the college, Western New Mexico University hung eight more flags alongside the 36 already hanging in Miller Library on Monday. The flags represent the many different countries that students and faculty are from.

The eight new flags are for the countries of Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the Czech Republic, American Samoa, Western Samoa, Taiwan and Barbados.

At the beginning of the event, nine college football players from American Samoa showed up to represent their country. One of those was Curtis Soliai.

“I feel pride when I walk in here [Miller Library],” said Soliai, who is part American Samoan and Western Samoan. “I was homesick when I didn’t see my flags here. This is a good moment and I am happy.”

Soliai was born in Pago Pago, American Samoa, which is east of Australia. However, he is part Western Samoan because his grandmother was from there. Soliai, a sophomore, plays offensive and defensive line on the football team and is majoring in sports medicine.

“Silver City is a nice little city,” he said. “I like to see the different culture. It is good that this shows the multiculturalism of students. I feel ecstatic seeing my flags. Some schools don’t show culture. It is a nice presence.”

Students are not the only reason the flags are hung in the library. There are several faculty and staff members who are not from the United States. Takahiro Sato, a native of Japan, is an assistant professor of kinesiology.

“After five years of being here, I get to see my nationality on campus,” he said.

Sato was born in Japan and came to the United States in 2003. He graduated from the University of Tennessee with a PhD in sports psychology. He is teaching four classes at WNMU this spring.

“Western is a small community,” he said. “You get to know people on a deeper level.”

Abe Villarreal, WNMU director of communications, brought the idea of hanging the national flags to the university about five years ago. Since then, 44 national flags have been added to the Miller Library ceiling. Last semester, a Native American flag, representing all the native tribes, and an Italian flag were hung.

“It is a magnificent sense of welcoming,” said Gilda Ortego, WNMU library director. “It makes you realize a whole ’nother world is out there.”