A Sneak Peek at Soup and Substance
Sarah McQueen
smcqu643@uwsp.edu

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Once a month a group of about 25 or so students gather in the DUC to share a hot meal and spend an hour learning about and discussing a new topic.

Topics this semester have covered renewable energy, Native American culture in modern America, and, most recently, Hmong culture and identity. The next and last topic that will be covered this semester is the Humane Society. The students who attend Soup and Substance help pick the topics by filling out a survey where they list things they might be interested in learning about. This not only helps SIEO to know what topics to pick but also encourages students to come back again.

“I think we have had a lot of new faces,” said Caitlin Bauman, the leadership and marketing coordinator for SIEO. “We have been mixing up topics quite a bit, so, like today, there were a lot of new faces. Last month, we didn’t see the people that are here today. But we also definitely have people coming back every single time that I have noticed.”

The hour is structured to have a 30-minute talk from someone who knows about the selected topic, followed by 30 minutes of open discussion. This month the discussion was focused on Hmong culture and identity. Several people who come from Hmong families came in to share things about their family life, what it was like being Hmong while growing up in America, religious issues and cultural differences.

“I’ve been trying to get to Soup and Substance for a while, but this was just kind of the first one I could make it to. It wasn’t my first choice of topic, but it ended up being really interesting, and I’m glad I came for this topic,” said Abigail Hencheck, a religious studies and international studies major at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

However, Soup and Substance is more than just a chance for students to have a free meal and learn about an interesting new topic. It is also an opportunity for some students to share things that are important to them. Whitney Yang, a student at UWSP, shared a great deal about her life and enjoyed having the chance to do so.

“It was definitely fun because I like talking about my culture. It’s something that I rarely get to talk about, since I’m usually just with Hmong people anyway. So being able to share with other people was really fun,” Yang said.

After hearing from Yang, her husband and several other people of Hmong decent, the table was opened up to questions. Several students ventured to ask follow up questions, querying how some of the Hmong traditions or life styles might make them feel today. One person asked how many Hmong traditions they planned to pass down to their children. Yang and her husband indicated that while they would like to keep the language and the culture alive in their family, they might loosen up on some of the rules they were expected to live by.

Soup and Substance will meet again on December 4th to discuss the Humane Society. They meet at 5:00pm in the DUC in room 235. It is free to attend, but, as there are limited seats, pre-registration is required.