Rising star to speak, share at college

By Drew Hunt

As part of International Education Week, a worldwide initiative dedicated to celebrating the benefits of global culture, the Office of International Student Affairs will host a special speaking engagement featuring Canadian television actor Shannon Kook-Chun. He is best known for portraying the openly gay character Zane Park on the popular teen television drama “Degrassi: The Next Generation.”

Born in South Africa, Kook-Chun is of Chinese-American descent and currently lives in Toronto, where “Degrassi: The Next Generation” tapes its episodes.

The event will be held at the 1104 Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., on Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m.

According to Gigi Posejpal, director of International Student Affairs, Kook-Chun was an ideal choice for the engagement because of his multicultural background and his success in show business.

“He encapsulates what we’re trying to accomplish,” Posejpal said. “He has a story to tell, and we want him to tell it. So we are having him come here to share his experiences.”

Because of International Education Week’s message of multicultural awareness, Posejpal hopes Kook-Chun’s presence at the school will reinforce the all-encompassing ideas of the initiative while also enticing those interested in learning more about Multicultural Affairs.

“The world is getting smaller, so we cannot continue insular thinking,” Posejpal said. “To be a global citizen, you have to be aware of the world around you. All the more reason I think [Kook-Chun] is a perfect fit for Columbia.”

Senior Kevin Obomanu, primary Student Organization Council representative for the International Student Organization, initially suggested the idea of inviting Kook-Chun to the college and has been the main organizer of the event.

He said multiple reasons led him to reach out to Kook-Chun rather than another actor who might not have been suited to elaborate on certain challenges he meets while being a multicultural actor.

“[The event] has so many different parts to it,” Obomanu said. “One thing everyone said was, ‘He represents pretty much every part of Multicultural Affairs.’ But this is a great way for television majors to actually learn how it works [in the industry].”

Because of his success in the entertainment industry, Kook-Chun will discuss his career to date and provide pointers for aspiring actors.

“I think it’s really important to have his presence here, especially when we’re talking about students who engage in multicultural affairs,” said Laila Alchaar, coordinator of Asian-American Cultural Affairs.

Alchaar, whose office is cosponsoring the event, said the event is particularly important for aspiring Asian-Americans hoping to break into the entertainment field.

“I think it gives them an opportunity to really see [the benefit] of having multiple identities and not necessarily having to identify [with one aspect],” Alchaar said. “It goes beyond what stereotypically people would think is Asian-American.”

Obomanu said Kook-Chun’s character on “Degrassi” is helping break Asian-American stereotypes.

“[He] is definitely key to actually breaking down the stereotype of [the] Asian male,” Obomanu said.

Ultimately, Posejpal hopes Kook-Chun’s presence will create more interest in International Education Week.

“I hope [the students] will be inspired,” Posejpal said. “I can’t think of anything better.”