Denver Garcia, Staff Writer
Last November students from Micronesia founded the Micronesian Student Union. Their debut activity was having a booth at the Multicultural Carnival, where they had pictures and artifacts from the many Micronesian cultures. Micronesia is one of the three cultural groupings in the Pacific, the other two being Polynesia and Melanesia. The largest Micronesian island is Guam. While Saint Martin’s has always had a small presence of Chamorro students (the native culture of Guam and the Northern Marianas), last year a number of students from across Micronesia started school here and there was a pressing need for a club.
“I really love how diverse it is here at SMU, but its difficult being away from home in Guam and not having many other Chamorro students. When I first got here I saw that there are so many different cultural clubs: BSU, LSA, Hui o Hawai’i, Filipino Heritage, pretty much everyone except Micronesians. So, I decided to start a Micronesian club. Our goal is to build a sense of community for Micronesian students and provide opportunities for everyone else to learn about our cultures,” says first year student Thomas Quichocho, president and founder of the Micronesian Student Union.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Micronesian societies were the first to settle in what is now Southeast Asia. It is believed they built a number of cities in the region, but around 1000 B.C. they fled to the Pacific after the arrival of the Viet, Lao, and Khmer peoples. Most of the islands were conquered by Spain in the 1600s and remained under Spanish control until the Spanish-American War in 1898. After WWII the United States liberated Micronesia from Japan, establishing a close relationship that continues to this day. Most people are probably unfamiliar with Micronesia, so the Micronesian Student Union (MSU) will provide SMU with many opportunities to learn about their many traditions.
The twelve current students from Micronesia consist of two from Guam, two from Yap, three from Chuuk, one from Pohnpei, two from Palau, one from the Marshal Islands, and two from Saipan. Both Guam and Saipan are Chamorro but all of the others have their own languages and customs.
“I am so happy we finally have a Micronesian club. During my first year I could have really benefitted from one, but we never had enough students to make it a reality until last semester. Even though I was born and raised in Saipan and both my parents are Chamorro, there is still a lot I don’t know about my people. This club will help me get more in touch with my heritage as well learning about others,” said ASSMU Senator of Clubs Deveney Delacruz.
Higher education is severely limited in Micronesia, and the nearest college for most is Guam University. Some of SMU’s Micronesian students are engineering majors, and Guam University’s engineering program is in its infancy. Many islands are underdeveloped and have limited access to electricity and running water, so there is a large demand for engineering. Others decided to come here because they wanted a chance to see the American mainland and were attracted to SMU’s values.
Though the number of Micronesian students is still very small, there is hope MSU will help attract more in the future. Currently there are discussions amongst the officers for what activities the club will have next, but there is a plan for a meeting in February, so look out for flyers. Our campus is very fortunate to have a growing Micronesian community that not many schools have. MSU will be a great addition to SMU’s dedication to multiculturalism.