Our DNA Melting Pot - MCC style
The Mott Community College Cultural and Language Exchange Partnership (CLEP) hosted
“Our DNA Melting Pot,” an event to explore commonalities of genealogical heritage,
Thursday, Jan. 30 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Center for Teaching and Learning in MCC
“CLEP is focused on building bridges of communication to increase global awareness and understanding of the diverse cultures, nationalities, religions, gender and races that make up our community,” said Debra Gibes, Faculty Director of Experiential Learning at MCC.
“I developed the DNA Melting Pot project as a way to dig deeper into our pasts and reveal the unexpected connections we share,” she said. “We hope that through this experience participants would see the unity in our diversity and build bridges for intercultural communication,” she added.
Participants in the DNA Melting Pot project voluntarily donated a DNA sample and agreed not to review the results until the Event Jan. 30, which was structured as a DNA reveal party. The three volunteers were Hope Wilkins, of Flint, Marie Haywood, of Swartz Creek and Kylee Petersen, of Davison.
The three women, and other CLEP members, shared not only their DNA results, but also elements of their personal cultures through food. The event was a potluck dinner and many attendees brought dishes from their cultural backgrounds.
All three volunteers were surprised on some level by their results, Petersen more so than the other two. “The results were not what I was expecting,” she admitted. “Being adopted, my parents were told different information about my potential DNA, that I was of German and Indigenous backgrounds. The results didn’t match what they were told.”
Petersen found out she is primarily of European descent (including Ashkenazi Jewish), almost 30 percent West African and almost seven percent West Asian. “It was cool at first to finally know my DNA, and after a day or two I was intrigued to continue to find out more. I’m hoping in the next year to do another test to compare results,” she said.
“The most valuable part of the experience was finally having some truth about myself revealed to me. I knew nothing about my DNA, and now I have a starting point to continue searching to further discover some I know truths about myself,” Petersen added.
Wilkins, was a little surprised at her results. “I thought there would be West African and maybe East African, but other than that I didn’t have any clue. I was most surprised that the biggest percentage of my DNA was Scandinavian,” she said. Wilkins is also adopted and knows her birth family on her mother’s side, but did not know anything about her biological father.
Learning her genetic heritage has not made a huge impact on Wilkins’ sense of self she said. “Knowing more about my genetic heritage doesn’t change the way I see myself that much because it is not that large a part of my self-identity. It is interesting to know, however,” she admitted.
Haywood, who immigrated to the USA from Haiti, said her results were not what she expected. “I knew about the possibilities of Africans heritage. I did not know I had such a high percentage of Greek and Italian,” she said. “I don’t see myself differently, however, it makes me realize that being from Haiti my family genes have traveled a far distance. Also, I always knew I was unique, and looking at my family and the variations of our skin tones, hair and the way we carry ourselves, the test results confirm we were not just Haitian.”
All three DNA volunteers expressed an interest in learning more about the genetic heritage reveled in the results.
CLEP is a program of MCC’s International Institute, part of the Business and International Studies Division at MCC.
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