RSO Uses Shared Experiences To Build Cultural Unity

Centennial Student Union RSO of the Month: Bridges International

“It always fills me with joy when student refer to us as ‘Bridges family’.” – Kailee Steen, Bridges International president.

The mingling of cultures found at Minnesota State University, Mankato stretches from reserved curiosity to blatant stereotypes. One Registered Student Organization helps level the playing field through shared experiences.

Recognized as the Centennial Student Union’s March RSO of the Month, Bridges International lives up to its name by seeking opportunities for bridging the cultural gap among students of all nationalities, races and religions.

“We have found that sometimes there is a disconnect once international students arrive at the university,” said Kailee Steen, president of Bridges International. “Our organization’s mission is to bridge the gap between international students and American students. We desire to foster connections, engage in conversations, help students practice their English, serve the internationals, and create social and cultural events.”

Among BI’s ongoing programs is Bridges Café, a Tuesday gathering offering cross-cultural dialogue ranging from fun to significant while enjoying tea, coffee, hot chocolate and treats.

“This helps facilitate relationships and increases cultural competency among all who attend,” she said.

Other social activities involve potlucks featuring foods from members’ countries. Events for experiencing American and Midwestern culture include pumpkin carving, trips to Mall of America and winter break trips to Florida and Washington, D.C. As Spring Break 2018 nears, BI members plan for a service project to Texas to assist hurricane relief.

Steen said the goal is unity.

“It always fills me with joy when student refer to us as ‘Bridges family’,” she said.

More about Bridges International:

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What are your goals of your organization and how to you attain them? Our goal is to bridge the gap between international and American students and help internationals feel welcomed. We desire to foster connections, engage in conversations, help students practice their English, and serve the internationals. We attain these goals through the weekly discussions during our Bridges Cafe, meeting one-on-one with students, and creating social and cultural events and trips. These help promote opportunities for students to engage with one another facilitate lasting friendships, and experience the American culture. Through discussion, we also learn from one another.

Why should someone join your organization? People should join our organization to learn about other cultures, grow in their cultural competency, gain friendships and a welcoming family, and have fun!

When did your organization start at Minnesota State University, Mankato? Our organization started in 2012.

How many members do you currently have? We have about 20 members who regularly attend, and about 50 members who we are in contact with regularly.

How often do you meet?  We meet weekly, but we also have other events periodically each month. What leadership positions can someone hold within your chapter? Leadership positions include president, vice president, scheduler, and being a member of the leadership team.

What is the greatest achievement your organization has received? The greatest achievement is when students highly recommend our organization and consider us their “Bridges family.”  How do you join? Anyone can join! One can start by simply attending our weekly Bridges café (meeting). Please share any other information/comment that spotlights your student organization. Our organization continues to grow each year. We started out with a minimal number of people, and we now have about 30 people regularly attending our meetings.

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