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Exploring Cultures: Inside UIC’s Arab American Cultural Center

Students participate in a discussion led by the UIC Arab American Culture Center.

The UIC Arab American Cultural Center (ArabAmCC) is an essential forum for fostering intercultural understanding and unity. The center was founded in 2016 by faculty and staff, springing from the Arab and Muslim American Community Network (AMAC), which was founded three years prior. The ArabAmCC is the nation’s first Arab American cultural center located on a college campus.

According to Sara Hattab (‘24), the primary goal of the center is “to bring awareness to students who are not representative of the Arab Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) category and provide a safe space for everyone in between.” The center wants to educate all people whether they’re from the MENA region or not while fostering an environment that is welcoming to people from all backgrounds.

The ArabAmCC works to promote the range of identities in the Arab world and its diasporas by providing the UIC community with educational materials regarding Arabs, Muslims and Arab and Muslim Americans. Another significant priority is assisting international students from the Arab world and nearby nations in overcoming language challenges and integrating into campus life through various workshops and events meant for fostering community for Arab students who may otherwise feel that they don’t have somewhere to turn to.

Hattab noted: “We host many events to educate people who are within and outside of the MENA category to raise awareness of the difference, whether it be through topics that are floating in the news or just to inform about different countries’ cultures to educate all and provide a safe space.”

A notable recent event that emphasized these goals was the “Show and Tell for Egypt” where students from diverse backgrounds shared personal stories and experiences from Egypt. ArabAmCC also co-hosted a movie night with the National Arab American Medical Association (NAAMA) NextGen where students could enjoy a movie, refreshments and lively conversations with their peers. These kinds of gatherings provide effective venues for celebrating and exchanging cultures while encouraging connections based on shared experiences.

ArabAmCC’s impact is further enhanced through collaborations with other departments and cultural associations. The center can reach a wider audience and interact with a variety of communities by forming partnerships with academic institutions, cultural organizations and graduate student clubs such as the Indian Graduate Student Association.

All in all, the UIC Arab American Cultural Center is an important hub that promotes understanding, diversity in all its forms and a sense of community by bridging cultural gaps. It remains a beacon of togetherness and cultural diversity on campus through outreach, education and dedication to inclusivity.