Archivist hosts discussion about early South Asian students

The origins of South Asian students at the University will be highlighted in a talk Thursday at the Spurlock Museum Third Thursday Series.

The Third Thursday Series highlights different people, places and events throughout the history at the University.

Salvatore DeSando, trained archivist and graduate student in education, has found archival information which could potentially tell the story of the first South Asian students on campus in the University Archives. Various historic campus pictures and archival research on the South Asian student history will be presented at DeSando’s talk.

DeSando believes it is important to acknowledge diversity on campus as it provides opportunities to learn and grow alongside peers who think or experience life differently.

“When considering the state, national, and international student populations, we at Illinois have had (and we still have at present) an exciting historic opportunity to learn to work together across many geographic boundaries for positive global impacts on a larger scale than ever before. I hope that we don’t waste this chance,” DeSando said in an email.

DeSando not only advocates the importance of knowing the history of a campus in regards to diversity, but he also wrote a bibliographic series, “Illini Everywhere” which emphasizes how the University community was built.

“When some campus members began to talk about the then upcoming sesquicentennial of Illinois, I thought that many people would be interested to have guides for conducting their own research into how this school has touched the lives of many different populations. This campus has a rich history of immigrants, refugees and international students,” DeSando said.

Kim Sheahan, assistant director of education, believes displays like DeSando’s provides a local voice for the community.

“What we find is that often some of the University students never get the opportunity to go off campus and to see what the rest of the Champaign-Urbana community is like, so in this exhibit we were able to bring people from the Champaign-Urbana community in to talk about what they’re experiences have been like living here,” Sheahan said.

Individuals of the Champaign-Urbana community will have the ability to discuss their culture and share personal family artifacts important to them, Sheahan said.

The Third Thursday Series, originally created by the education department of the Spurlock Museum, is expected to continue throughout 2019 yet will be evaluated to determine whether or not the series will be taking place the following year.

Sheahan hopes students will gain perspective of the various opportunities available around campus.

“Sometimes all of us get so caught up in the college that we’re in or the unions that we’re in, that we don’t realize that there are other things going on that are being done by other people,” Sheahan said.

DeSando also hopes audiences will see this event as a talk for a longer, personal and communal discussion of how inclusive education can be. 

“Our University has a large student population which includes many different cultural communities which are all very interesting,” DeSando said. “When we’re talking about student populations, it’s also important to consider the size of a local community with regards to its larger state, national or international population.”

DeSando’s talk will be at the Spurlock Museum on March 21 at 5 p.m.

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