Being the Change

Choosing to understand

by Jan Gillis ('07)

Group from JMU poses at museum focused on Arabic culture

JMU professors and students inspire each other and local residents through mentorship and community building

In an article for Madison magazine, Giuliana Fazzion, head of JMU's Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures, explained the various programs initiated by the department.The Harrisonburg-Rockingham community, JMU's neighborhood, has become home to students, immigrants and refugees from other parts of the world, and as their numbers grow, professors and students from JMU's Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures are active in outreach efforts.

Whether community-building, communicating across cultures or developing global perspective, their efforts are going a long way toward replacing distrust with understanding.

Consider the efforts of the department's Arabic division.

Instructor Israa Alhassani teaches Arabic at the Islamic Association of the Shenandoah Valley.

"She volunteers with the planning committee for the Interfaith Peace Camp at Eastern Mennonite University. The camp is for children 6 to 12 years old, and they visit a local church, the temple and the mosque. Then they discuss their faith experiences," says Fazzion. "She also takes JMU students to the nation's capital to visit museums and organizations focusing on Arabic culture."

Fazzion also describes the work of Arabic professor Nasser Alsaadun, who founded the local American Refugee Association to support the area's growing Iraqi population.

"His group welcomes refugees at the airport, offers hot meals, organizes orientation to the community, supplies transportation, assists with shopping, registers children in schools and provides furniture," she says.

It's all about inspiring each other and local residents through mentorship and community building.

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Published: Sunday, April 1, 2012

Last Updated: Tuesday, February 27, 2018

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