Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Student Experience
Diversity Digest Volume 9, Number 2

Diversity Digest
Volume 9,
Number 2

Download our print issue (PDF)
Campus-Community Connections
Intercultural Learning for Inclusive Excellence
Why Allen and Joan Bildner and the Bildner Family Foundation Funded a Statewide Diversity Initiative
Learning to Listen as We Lead
Institutional Models That Cultivate Comprehensive Change
Curricular Transformation
Where Worlds Converge
Curricular Transformation through Collaborative Teaching
Intercultural Learning in First-Year Seminars
Designing Intercultural and Cross-cultural Spaces
Enhancing Collaborative Leadership of Faculty and Staff
Faculty-Driven Curricular Change
Diversity as Shared Practice
Dialogue Groups at Princeton University Library
Faculty Involvement
Epistles, Posters, and Pizza
Forging Campus-Community Connections
"Beyond Food"
Cross-cultural by Design
Student Experience
Something to Declare
Putting Student Voices in Public Spaces
Café Bergen
Institutional Leadership and Committment
Assessing Diversity Attitudes in First-Year Students
Infusing Cultural Competency into Health Professions Education

Café Bergen

By Andy Krikun, professor of music, Bergen Community College

Bloomfield College

Café Bergen

For two Friday evenings every semester, the student center at Bergen Community College (BCC) undergoes a transformation. This usually busy intersection of campus morphs into an intimate bohemian coffeehouse of the sort more commonly found in places like New York’s Greenwich Village or San Francisco’s North Beach. The lights are dimmed, refreshments are served, and patrons are seated at small tables set with red tablecloths and battery-powered candles. Looking around, one is struck by the cultural diversity of the audience of students, faculty, staff, administrators, friends, family, and members of the local community. On a small makeshift stage, the performers—talented students, faculty, administrators, and staff, as well as the occasional guest artist—contribute to a program highlighting the dazzling diversity of global performance traditions found in contemporary American society.

In the spring of 2004, I was approached by two colleagues (and fellow performers), Professors April Adams and Susanna Lansangan of the American Language Program, who were interested in starting a coffeehouse performance arts series at the college. In addition to creating a venue for talented members of the BCC community, Adams and Lansangan believed that this event could offer the international students a welcome opportunity to mix with their American counterparts. Cosponsored by the Center for the Study of Intercultural Understanding (CSIU) and the Office of Student Life, Café Bergen premiered on October 29, 2004.

During the first season, the café featured a performance of traditional Moroccan music on authentic instruments (oud and ney) by a student and his father, a performance by a contemporary jazz trio composed of Korean students, a student’s performance of songs in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, several spoken word and theatrical performances, and performances of classical Viennese piano, instrumental music of Puerto Rico and Cuba, and original compositions for classical guitar, as well as a hearty sampling of American jazz, pop, and blues. The featured guest artists included a professional jazz singer, Mamiko Taira with her trio, and Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys, featuring the sounds of clarinet, guitar, and fiddle.

The response to the Café Bergen series has been overwhelmingly positive. The café has provided an entertaining way to promote and publicize CSIU’s mission to foster intercultural understanding on campus and in the community. In informal surveys received during the final performance of the 2004–5 season, students commented on how much they enjoyed learning about performing traditions that were previously unfamiliar to them.

For the kickoff performance of the 2005–6 season, the artistic directors collaborated with the Office of Student Life and the members of the Native American Heritage Committee to include Café Bergen as the finale of an exciting week of events bringing Native American artists, speakers, and musicians to the college. This special edition of Café Bergen featured Native American performers, including Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter Bill Miller and the Red Storm Drum and Dance Troupe. CSIU also worked closely with the administration to bring these Native American musicians into classrooms for educational workshops where the students had direct contact with the artists.

As the excitement about Café Bergen continues to spread, we are working to create post-event surveys to assess our progress and garner suggestions for future performances. It is most gratifying to watch the enlivened faces of the students witness the power of the arts to bridge cultures and transcend imaginary boundaries.

Questions, comments, and suggested resources should be directed to campbell@aacu.org.
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