What are SMU Nursing Students Up To?

Kayla May, Staff Writer 

Here at Saint Martin’s, the nursing program is “dedicated to creating a learner-centered education grounded in the university core values of faith, reason, service and community,” as explained on the university’s website.

Their goal is to “prepare nursing graduates who are committed to evidence-based practice, social justice and lifelong learning to meet the needs of the global community in the 21st century”.

Nursing has long been an in-demand profession because of the critical role it plays in the healthcare system, which has become especially evident during the pandemic. Yet, the nursing shortage is growing due to several factors.

One of the main factors contributing to nursing shortages is burnout. Working conditions with a high workload, low staffing, and long shifts lead nurses to leave and move on to a different profession. Other factors include an aging population, an aging workforce, rising travel nursing popularity, and a lack of nursing educators.

To get a sense of what nursing students at SMU are experiencing, I talked to juniors Vanessa Smoke and Bernanidino Mariano, as well as senior Abigail Burton.

Smoke and Mariano are learning about managing chronic diseases, putting in catheters, IVs, and doing wound care as well as the appraisal of different levels of evidence.

Burton explains that seniors within the Spring ’23 cohort are taking classes discussing the transition into their nursing careers and public and community health. She describes the workload seniors are dealing with. A combination of Capstone Dissertation projects, clinical practicum (working full-time in a hospital with preceptor nurses), and studying for the national board exam for nurses. Despite all of these things on her plate, Burton describes how she’s feeling about her final semester, “I am honestly so excited to graduate- I am counting down the days!”

When asked what something they have struggled with during their time in the nursing program, they all shared a common answer: time management. Mariano describes his experience, “The nursing program is such as demanding area of study that requires a balance between a heavy course load of assignments, on top of studying, and attending clinical shifts that range from four to twelve hours every week.”

The task of time management becomes even more difficult when you add athletics in the mix explains Smoke, who is a softball player, “So far in my first year of upper division nursing, I have struggled with learning how to manage all my time between academics and sports. It is a huge learning curve being in upper divisions and very humbling when it comes to exams.”

Each of them shared some tips for others nursing students or those thinking about pursuing a career in nursing. Burton and Smoke both agreed that lots of sleep should always be a priority, regardless of how much studying you have to do. They also agreed that finding a study group and taking advantage of the tutors is very beneficial.

Mariano said to not fall behind and find fulfillment in what you’re doing, “The nursing program is easy to get tired and have low motivation to continue but to truly make it through the program I think that finding fulfillment and enjoyment in being of service to others is an important part of making it through.”

Their reasoning for pursuing a career in nursing varies from wanting to give back to their community to a fascination with the human body and healthy living. They have also been inspired to care for others by caring for sick family members.

Their passions within the field of nursing also vary. Mariano has an interest in being a travel nurse and hopes to be able to travel internationally to provide care in areas with lower access to healthcare. He also is eager to be a public health nurse that “researches systemic issues that prevent these [marginalized] groups from getting the care they need and finding solutions to combat systemic barriers and biases.”

Smoke is curious about working in the OR (operating room) and being able to watch surgeries but could also see herself working in Labor and Delivery. Burton originally wanted to work in the emergency room because of the variety of patient populations and problems, but has now fallen in love with the idea of working in Labor and Delivery and, “helping mothers bring life into this world.”

Nursing has been and will continue to be a crucial part of the medical process, especially in handling any further pandemics that are thrown our way. It is important to acknowledge the hard work nursing students put in and support them in their endeavors to join such an important profession.

Staying Fit is What You Need

Shy Yamasaki, Staff Writer

Staying fit is what you need to keep a well-balanced life. It also creates a better self mentally and physically. Many people here on campus have a personal diet, go to the gym, or even drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Personal hygiene is also important because the routine of hygiene can help set the groundwork to mentally and physically keep yourself fit. Staying fit for many people looks different. Training styles to eat healthily is something you will get to build  around social life, school, work, and much more. Most of our student-athletes here at SMU have different training programs and lifts they have to do for their specific sport. Many sports here, like Volleyball and Basketball, do a lot of Calisthenics to improve speed, strength, cardio, and jumping ability. Other sports like Track & Field, baseball, and softball do a lot of weight lifting in order for them to be explosive and be able to move quickly. It also gives them the ability to strengthen muscles we don’t typically do as casual people go to the gym. Each person has many different workout or training programs, whether an athlete or not.

Besides working out or playing a sport, a healthy diet and maintaining mental health are important to stay fit. A diet helps you keep a specific physique and to maintain the muscle you have gained through working out. There are many different ways for you to support a well-balanced diet as a person. There is a diet called the Vertical diet. A Vertical diet is a foundation for high bioavailable nutrients that help you enhance metabolism and overall digestive health. It helps support a structure that is adjusted to meet what your body is demanding specifically. This diet also teaches you about using whole foods, optimizing your gut health and hormone imbalances, and improving your energy, stamina, endurance, and recovery. It also helps to teach you about improving your health through a sustainable lifestyle and the modifications you can make with this. Furthermore, a vertical diet helps you keep on track with a weight loss goal, muscle gain, perform better in athletics, health optimization, and reduce GI distress.

Nonetheless, even if you create a well-balanced diet and work out, your mental health is also very important. Getting the right mental health resources or accessing them can create a space for you to stay on track with having a good mental health rate. Learning what affects you most during your workout can be trial and error, but mental health is not something you should experiment with. Your mental health is a foundation in one’s path to getting fit, as well as staying on top of the goals you have for yourself along the way. It needs attention and to constantly be worked on. Take the time to work on yourself; A resource here on campus you have access to is the Counseling and Wellness Center.

Marty Makeover: History, Why Now, and Next Steps

Kayla May, Staff Writer

As many of you hopefully saw in your emails, our Mascot, Marty, is getting a makeover. The Belltower was able to sit down with Nate Peters, the Vice President of the Office of Marketing and Communications, to discuss the details of this makeover.

First, it is important to know the why of it all. Why is Marty so important to Saint Martin’s community? What value does Marty bring to the campus? He answered by giving a brief history lesson and explaining the significance Marty has to our university’s culture.

The university’s namesake is Saint Martin of Tours, originally a soldier in the Roman army. A legend is told of Martin coming up upon a shivering beggar in the cold; he split his cloak in two to share his warmth with the beggar. In a dream, Martin received a vision where the beggar revealed himself as Jesus Christ. This experience is what inspired him to leave the army, pursue his faith, and become a monk, teacher, and, eventually, bishop in the Catholic Church.

He dedicated his life to helping others. A life full of actions that reflect the Benedictine values of hospitality, community living, and respect for persons, values we still uphold and practice at the university today.

Peters explained that when they were going through a rebranding for athletics in 2019, they used focus groups and surveys within the community to determine their new mascot. Ultimately, the community wanted to keep Marty as the remaining mascot.

Peters articulated that the history of having a Roman soldier as our mascot is a direct nod to our Catholic tradition and heritage of what Saint Martin’s is all about. He elaborates by stating, “that right there is big piece of why Marty is such an important piece of Saint Martin’s. Because again, it’s a nod to our history.”

Marty the Saint has significant meaning to the university, which is exactly why they are going through with this makeover. When asked why the marketing department decided to do a makeover now, Peters’ first question was, “Have you seen Marty?”, and then preceded to describe how the costume is practically falling apart at the seams.

Marty is a symbol of pride and school spirit and represents our school’s namesake and history, which is why he should look presentable and put together. “The number one reason why we’re moving forward is because this mascot costume just can’t keep up,” Peters told me.

The survey is just the first step in revamping Marty’s look. The survey was sent out to 8,600 people, including students, staff, faculty, and alumni, and has already gotten 350 responses as of this weekend. It is short, with only four questions, and its main goals are to A) get people excited about getting a new Marty costume and B) start asking people what kind of mascot “vibes” they want Marty to have.

This makeover is more than just giving Marty a facelift. “As we’re looking to energize our campus community, energize our students, get our alumni back on campus and really try to get people together and recognize and be proud of the Saint Martin’s University brand, one way to do that is through a mascot,” Peters explained.

The ultimate goal is to engage Marty and the community more and make his presence more prominent on campus. They are looking to get two different Marty costumes, one for athletic-focused events and the other for PR/media events and photo-ops.

Peters wanted to emphasize that although they want to make everyone happy and pleased with the new mascot look, “it’s hard to appeal to everybody.” He goes on to express, “our team is working hard to work with the majority and make sure that everyone has input, and everyone is heard, and then we make decisions based on what the community wants.”

Moving forward, the marketing department is planning on doing a second survey, hopefully before commencement and finals week, and hopes to have a new costume in hand by the time the ’23-’24 school year begins in late August.

Athlete Spotlight: Malia Pinder

Shy Yamasaki, Staff Writer

For this athlete spotlight, the Belltower interviewed Malia Pinder, who plays on the softball team as a Junior here at Saint Martin’s University. She started playing at a young age, being only in the second grade playing in high purple socks. Which, for her, was the start of her softball career. The inspiration behind her many years of softball is her father. He was her coach growing up and bonded through softball, amongst other things. “He taught me to compete, to be passionate, and to work hard. Over time, the values he instilled in me continued to inspire me to be a better athlete, student, and community member,” Malia states. Furthermore, Malia has very important goals to accomplish during her time here at SMU. 

One goal she has is to teach underclassmen how to compete in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, or GNAC’s. Malia states, “The conference can be tough, and I want them to succeed to elevate the program after I graduate.” She was also lucky enough to earn First Team All-Conference and All-Region honors last year. So, she is determined to strive to get those titles again this year. A core memory for her was when the softball team traveled to California and had a huge dance party on the field before their second game. Malia stated, “It was just so fun to dance with everyone and type each other up. Dance parties are my favorite.” Besides playing softball, Malia is an active community member here on campus. She is the Co-SAAC President alongside Jas Dhatt, a senior at SMU. Malia is also the Senator of Athletics on our Associated Students of Saint Martin’s University, or ASSMU for short. Additionally, she had an amazing opportunity to intern at Capitol City Law as a legal assistant and loved the overall experience. Lastly, she works for the Office of Admissions giving tours to prospective students.

You may be asking how she has time to manage all these great accomplishments. She states, “Time management is so tough! It’s all I know though. My whole life I have been a student-athlete, so you get into a routine and you understand what works for you.” Malia tries to get a lot done before practice so she can focus hard and be in the zone. Whenever she is tired after practice, she ensures she eats and goes to bed on time. “I’m a morning person though, so this works really well for me.” Malia states. A tip or trick Malia has to give to any student is to prioritize the things that make you most happy and that you can find a purpose in. “Don’t get too caught up in any one thing, find a healthy balance! Sports don’t define your worth as a person, no matter how much of your identity it is. The kind of teammate, person, and active member of society you are is so much more important,” Malia states. Even though balancing school, sports, and having a social is tough, so many people in the community here at SMU are living proof that it can be done.

Black History Month on Campus

Bri Lopez, Editor

As Black History Month comes to an end, what better way to celebrate and gain more understanding than from our fellow students here on campus? This month has been full of learning opportunities and events, such as the Black entertainment night on the 23rd of the month. With that being said, as we close off the month, a couple of people are hitting the spotlight this week, and they are none other than Quinci Flowers and Alisha (Ali) Saucedo. Both are very strong females of the black community here on campus, who have been recommended by their peers. They have played huge roles in leadership positions, Quinci being the president of BSU here on campus as well as being a part of the track team, and Ali being the Vice President of our new Women of Color Allegiance club as well as also being a part of the track team. 

An art piece depicting Barbara Johns famous quote “It seemed like reaching for the moon”

When asked about the things that she has learned about herself as a young woman of color, Quinci responded as such; “From being a 1st-year freshman to a 4th-year senior, I have noticed how much I bring to the table. To be transparent, I was initially intimidated as a freshman and struggled to figure out how to bring positive change to campus. I learned to use my voice in my 4 years at Saint Martin’s. After 2020 and the Black Lives Matter protests, I felt even more of an urge to start to bring change to SMUs campus. I learned that I am more than just Quinci. I am a voice and leader for women of color in stem majors and for young students of color whose opinions and frustration were never heard or considered. I learned that I am powerful.” Wise words from the queen herself on how she has changed and what has led her to become who she is now and who she will be in the future. 

Following behind, Ali responds with her role models and who has opened her eyes a little more to what life brings to the table by sharing, “My biggest role model has been my mom and my best friends Cher and Tory. They have demonstrated what it’s like to be self-less and empathetic and compassionate, even in the face of the biggest challenges. They have also reminded me of the importance of building memories and relationships amongst social justice and service lifestyle we’ve committed ourselves to.” A lot of times, parents are our biggest role models and so are the people we choose to surround ourselves with, there is a saying “you are what you eat” the same thing applies to friends and the people you hang around you tend to adopt the attitudes both good and bad from the people around you and Ali has chosen to adapt to the good and take with her the lessons she has learned and is still learning from those around her. 

Of course, we had to ask the BSU president what it’s like being an exec. to begin with. That is something that a lot of people want to do but don’t for various reasons. However, Quinci decided to take that leap of faith, and this is what she said about being SMU’s BSU president; “Being BSU President first of all has been such an honor. To be able to serve the black population of men and women on this campus has taught me that I am doing something bigger than just a club. I am leading a future community that will be here over the next successful years at SMU long after I am gone. Being BSU president has allowed me to make so many more cherished connections and memories with people of all backgrounds. Also being the president of an all-female-directed board has brought me so much pride and joy.”  It takes a lot to carry a torch, like being the president of a club, especially one that becomes a safe space for people to go and be their most authentic selves. 

When the two were asked about any advice that could possibly be given to any student here at SMU, this is what they said; “I would say that for one, do not be afraid to join clubs, go to events that interest you, and make connections.”(Q.F), “If you are a member of the Saint Martin’s struggling to find yourself, I encourage you to take a leap faith”(A.S), and  “Fighting against injustice still remains a crucial part of our social climate. Your voice matters and will always matter, you’d be surprised what can happen!” (Q.F). 

The Legacy of Bob Grisham

Shy Yamasaki, Staff Writer

The belltower is saddened to announce that the former athletic director of SMU, Bob Grisham, passed on Sunday, January 22nd, 2023 due to a sudden medical issue. A service will be held at Saint Martin’s University on Saturday, March 11, at 2 p.m. in the Marcus Pavilion. He has served as our athletic director for over 37 years, which he championed as a prominent person for athletics at SMU, the community, and the athletic conference (Saint Martin’s University, 2023). His loss will impact many individuals here at Saint Martin’s University, along with his friends and family. Within his 37 years serving as our athletic director, Bob Grisham also served as head coach of the men’s basketball team for 17 years and 20 years as the women’s golf coach. 

Grisham has left his impact by expanding the athletics program from only having a men’s and women’s basketball team to 15 sports overall. (Saint Martin’s University website, 2023) Between 1988-2008, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s golf, cross country, soccer, track field, baseball, and softball were added. Bob Grisham also oversaw the transition to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and now SMU’s athletic program is part of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC). (Saint Martin’s University Website, 2023)  

Under Grisham’s leadership, our athletic program has experienced many successes wherever possible on and off the playing field. 

In addition, Saint Martin’s has seen five conference championships, 14 regional appearances, and three national appearances. We saw not only the many accomplishments under Grisham but also many other program achievements, including several All-Academic championships, All-Conference selections, all-Americans, and the first-ever NCAA National Champion in 2016. (Saint Martin’s University Website, 2023)  During the 2022 Hall of Fame/Hall of Honor awards, Grisham shared, “I am proud of what our staff, coaches, and student-athletes have accomplished with their successes in winning athletic and academic awards, honors, and championships. It represents what we’ve been striving for, and that’s raising the bar.” (Saint Martin’s University Website, 2023)  

Grisham also made many outstanding changes to campus as he served as our athletic director. He expanded the campus by adding six different facilities, which included the baseball field, the construction of the first-class soccer field, and an outdoor track with jumping pits and throwing cages. (Saint Martin’s University Website, 2023). The Charneski Recreation Center opened its doors in 2009 with full-sized basketball courts, an indoor track, a dance studio, a classroom, and a full-sized weight room. Just recently, in 2017, he added the tennis courts, replacing the open-field tennis courts. (Saint Martin’s University Website, 2023) At the same time, Bob raised the bar in our community outreach with thousands of hours of our student-athletes serving in our local community.

 Grisham initiated and organized the start of SMU’s Athletics Hall of Fame and Hall of Honor. SMU’s Athletic Department has recognized over 100 players, coaches, teams, and supporters. (Saint Martin’s University Website, 2023) “I’ve been fortunate to be a part of the growth and evolution over the years of Saint Martin’s University and our athletic programs. Most people don’t stay or last with that type of longevity. I am proud of this and proud of our many accomplishments.” – Bob Grisham  

Program for Integrating Fostering Success

Gilbert Smith, Staff Writer

The Saint Martin’s University school website phrases what the Fostering Success Program does as, “Saint Martin’s University supports foster, homeless, and unaccompanied youth through our integrative Fostering Success program.” The website continues with, “We combine the resources needed to navigate your college career as an independent student and provide a network of contacts to help you with your journey.” Something to note is that this program is part of a scholarship program due to some support in the form of financial aid.  The Fostering Success Program is not central to Saint Martin’s University. In fact, the University of Arizona has a similar program. 

Until recently, Pamela J. Holsinger-Fuchs was the main overseer of the project on campus. Pamela helped students in need with issues relating to foster care, homelessness, and unaccompanied youth. Crystal Cardona, also from the Office of Campus Ministry and the College of Arts and Sciences, will now oversee the program. The Belltower interviewed Pamela J. Holsinger-Fuchs for her insight.

While she had many important things to say over Zoom, she first discussed the Washington Passport Network Program. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington Passport Network Program has been assisting people from foster care in college and now homeless youth. It also includes McKinney–Vento students in it. Specifically, the Passport Program website says, “the Washington Passport Network is a statewide collective impact initiative committed to supporting students from foster care and the adult professionals they rely on.” We empower professionals supporting students from foster care and unaccompanied homeless youth with information, knowledge, and tools to improve practices and student outcomes. If you are a professional working to support students from foster care or those experiencing unaccompanied homelessness in accessing, persisting in, or completing post-secondary education or apprenticeships in Washington state, then we consider you a member of the Washington Passport Network. The program provides a scholarship of $5,000 per year for college. They also have to do this when applying for the FAFSA as independents through various programs offered by the federal government. She also worked in a similar program in the state of Wisconsin. There are 12 students in this program currently at Saint Martins.

McKinney and Vento were senators who drafted legislation to help former foster youth. This law is known today as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. The program also made sure they were allowed to stay during breaks. They also get additional money for books and make them a birthday cake on their birthday.

There are two student peer mentors for the program. She helped in the program to support former foster care students and has a support network here. She previously worked in Wisconsin, where she did the same. Now that she is retired, she still meets former students from the program.

Saint Martin’s University’s Vision for the Future

Caleb Sharp, Student Writer

This past Fall, the newly appointed President Jennifer Bonds-Raacke went on a school-wide listening tour as part of her strategic plan to guide Saint Martin’s University for the next three years. The listening tour consisted of a series of meetings with faculty, students, and monks to assess and address various concerns related to on-campus operations, such as funding and barriers to student success, among other things. After countless meetings with these interest groups, President Bonds-Raacke and her staff carefully curated a list of common themes mentioned during the listening tour and presented her findings to a group of faculty and staff on January 18th. 

President Bonds-Raacke opened her presentation by emphasizing SMU’s unique identity as an intersectional blend of Catholic Benedictine values and liberal arts traditions. She makes the point that centering the school’s curriculum around these two ideologies benefits students and faculty alike. 

Photo Credit: Caleb Sharp

After establishing what she considers the core of SMU’s identity, President Bonds-Raacke dives head-first into transparently relaying issues and concerns raised by faculty and students during her listening tour. 

She first talks about issues related to the lack of equitable compensation, which has led to difficulties in retaining and hiring new faculty members. “We say that we’re Catholic Benedictine; that we value everyone, that we see God in everyone, that we treat everyone’s work with dignity. [In spite of this] we have employees who can’t afford the health insurance for their families that we offer. Or, up until the Spring semester, we weren’t reimbursing for travel at the federal rate of reimbursement.” President Bonds-Raacke defers to SMU’s adherence to its Catholic Benedictine values of treating everyone’s work with dignity, which involves being equitably compensated for that work. 

Another recurring theme mentioned during the listening tour was that of open communication between the faculty community and the leadership of Saint Martin’s University. While SMU leadership and faculty have generally had an open line of communication in the past, President Bonds-Raacke addressed several instances of the leadership disregarding collaborative efforts put forth by faculty. 

“The University Budget Committee was one example [of closed communication]. Another example was the State of the University addresses. The community was invited together, they were given information, but they weren’t invited to give information back or collaborate or meaningfully work together to produce whatever that decision might be.”

After addressing concerns raised by faculty, President Bonds-Raacke shifted the discussion toward concerns raised by students. 

She says, “When students talk about what’s great about Saint Martin’s and what they love, it’s you guys. It’s their personal relationship with faculty and staff. However, our retention rates are not what they should be first to second year. And when we really look at the data by different groups, our students of color, our black males in particular, do not fare well in our system.” Despite positive relationships fostered between faculty and students, President Bonds-Raacke points out that many students, especially students of color, are dropping out of Saint Martin’s at an alarming rate. In order to better serve the needs of students, President Bonds-Raacke says, “Moving forward, we need to think about what we need to do as an institution to increase opportunities for our students to be successful.”  

President Bonds-Raacke’s emphasis on transparency, communication and community building is a promising sign of Saint Martin’s University’s bright future to come.  

Athlete Spotlight: New Athletic Director

Shy Yamasaki, Staff Writer

As we started the beginning of a new academic year, we welcomed a new Athletic Director here on campus. Steve O’Brien grew up in San Jose, CA. His interests were playing soccer, baseball and running track. He spent his time at Boston College and transferred to Santa Clara University, where he majored in History and Economics. During his time at Santa Clara University, he was a member of the men’s cross-country team. During his college years, he met Julianne at an alumni function, who is a civil engineer and ran cross country at Santa Clara University. O’Brien played on the USC men’s club soccer team and even attempted to pursue competitive soccer opportunities at the next level after he graduated. In addition to his education at Boston College and Santa Clara University, O’Brien studied at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law. He practiced transactional finance and in real estate as an attorney. After his practice in transactional finance and as a real estate attorney, he was able to pursue his career in college athletic administration. O’Brien’s stops were at Santa Clara University, the University of California, Santa Barbara, the United States Naval Academy and San Jose State University before he joined us at SMU. 

O’Brien hopes to focus on making the athletic department more process-oriented. O’Brien stated, “I believe that ‘winning teams’, the measure by which most people may consider the defining benchmark of success in athletics, is a lagging indicator.  In order to get to that point, and in order for competitive success to be more sustainable and of greatest consequence, a foundation for that success must be built.  That will happen by taking a series of deliberate steps. For the purposes of this article, I think we can boil it down to 5 steps.” Within those steps, he has mentioned that relationship building and assessment are ‘key constituents inside athletics, across the campus, and throughout the community.’ Furthermore, with this step, it will help keep the trains running on time and address time-sensitive issues. The other steps include plan development, experimentation and scaling, have Saint Athletics produce across three critical areas and assess, refine and re-attempt. Another hope O’Brien has for SMU, as a whole, is to demonstrate a robust and competitively successful mission aligned intercollegiate athletic program. With that, he also wants that intercollegiate athletic program competitiveness here so it can ‘positively contribute to the overall development of student-athletes while simultaneously benefitting the entire campus community, advancing strategic institutional objectives and serving a critical relationship building function with families, alumni and local/regional community partners.”  

O’Brien is a hard worker and very dedicated to the things that are important to him. Much of his free- time centers around his family and youth sports. He has helped coach his eldest son’s soccer and baseball teams. He is looking forward to being more involved with his younger son’s team when he is able to start playing. O’Brian also enjoys running the trails here on campus. “The trails around Saint Martin’s campus are incredible!” O’Brien stated. He also is looking forward to exploring more of Washington and the PNW with his family. Currently, he is committing himself to becoming more adept at using social media.

Colored In Red: Celebrating the Lunar New Year on Campus

Caleb Sharp, Student Writer 

On January 23rd, the Asian Student Alliance, alongside the Office of Housing and Residence Life, invited students to the TUB to celebrate the beginning of the Lunar New Year. 

As students began filing into the TUB’s auditorium in preparation for the events to come, those who arrived early received lucky red envelopes, traditionally referred to as ‘hóngbāo’ in Chinese. These lucky red envelopes usually contain money or small gifts and are said to bring good luck to those who receive them. For the purposes of this event, the envelopes were filled with raffle tickets instead of money.

Once everyone was seated, the Lunar New Year event kicked off in full swing. The President of the ASA, Amaiya Rose-Nyugen, along with other members of the ASA, introduced themselves and prompted the audience to do the same with those sitting next to them. After breaking the ice, the ASA hosts began to tell the story of Nian, a four-legged beast closely associated with myriad Lunar New Year traditions. 

As the story goes, Nian was a mighty beast that feasted upon human flesh on Lunar New Year’s Day. In order to ward off Nian, people would hang red paper decorations on their doors, light paper lanterns ablaze and set off firecrackers on Lunar New Year’s Eve, as Nian feared fire and the color red. And thus, the Lunar New Year’s association with the color red, firecrackers, lantern making, and good luck was born. 

Naturally, after explaining some of the history behind the Lunar New Year, the ASA handed out supplies for the audience to make their very own red paper lanterns to scare off Nian and bring good luck into their lives. From here on, people were encouraged to mingle with their neighbors, enjoy some gyoza and discuss the celebrated traditions of the Lunar New Year.

While the lantern-making activity and brief history lesson were received well, the clear star of this event was the calligraphy station. In conjunction with the Office of International Programs and Development, the ASA was able to hire Jun, a professional calligraphist, for the Lunar New Year event. Jun instructed students on how to draw Chinese kanji symbols onto pieces of red paper, which is thought to promote good luck throughout the Lunar New Year.

The ASA’s Lunar New Year event went off without a hitch and gave students the opportunity to learn more about the Lunar New Year and its time-honored traditions. For some students of Asian descent, however, the event signified more than fun and games. To some, the event was an acknowledgment and celebration of a cultural tradition that receives very little recognition in the United States.

ASA Lunar New Year event organizers: Calligraphist Jun (pictured center), and ASA President Amaiya Rose-Nyugen (pictured center-right)
Photo Credit: Caleb Sharp

When asked what the Lunar New Year event means to her, Rose-Nyugen explained, “coming here [to Washington], I saw that it wasn’t really a big thing. Down here in Lacey, there’s not a big Asian community that does stuff in public. Celebrating the Lunar New Year is a way for me to connect to my family and my culture. It’s a good way for me to get in touch with my culture, especially growing up in America.” 

Overall, the ASA’s event was an insightful experience for students who weren’t familiar with the Lunar New Year while also giving other students the chance to reconnect to their culture. Here’s to the Lunar New Year; may it bring good luck and fortune to all!