Spring semester this year is filled with many traditions such as Charter Day – the celebration of the university’s 166th birthday, Easter Pageant – the 72nd annual reenactment of Jesus’ resurrection, Stunt Night – a big dance-off competition between each class, and the one tradition that crowns the alpha male to represent UMHB – Crusader Knights.
Eighteen contestants will be competing for the title Mr. Crusader Knight Feb. 18-19.
One of those is senior computer science major Sheshan Ratnam, who is representing Gamma Beta Phi.
Ratnam grew up in Kandy, Sri Lanka, which is about 1/4 the size of Austin. He attended Trinity College, a Christian private school and was active in playing rugby and cricket.
Growing up in such a diverse culture, Ratnam knows many people with different religious backgrounds.
“My friends include mostly Buddhists, Catholics, Muslims and Hindus,” he said.
He and his family moved to Texas in the fall of 2009.
“The weather is very much different, as Sri Lanka is a tropical island, but I guess I’m getting used to the weird Texas weather,” he said.
Ratnam’s story differs from some of the contestants since he did not grow up in the States.
“My dad is a pastor, and my parents have been missionaries with Hope for the Hungry,” he said. “He connected with an organization called WEGO (Worldwide Evangelical Outreach) when he was studying in Dallas a long time ago …. That’s how he (joined) with Hope.”
Over the past 25 years, the Ratnams’ ministry has grown from a small pioneer church in Gampola, a suburb of Kandy, to eight campuses around the area.
“My dad still travels around back and forth because we have several churches back home,” he said. “It has grown significantly because God has blessed it among much oppression.”
With two years of college completed back in Sri Lanka, Ratnam said transferring to UMHB has been “quite an experience” for him.
“I love it …. meeting new people and adjusting to college life.”
Until recently, Ratnam didn’t know he was going to participate as a contestant in Crusader Knights.
Like Miss MHB, the event has practices three times a week from 6 to 9 p.m. and sometimes even later. But Ratnam has been able to dedicate his time to the event, and it has been worth it.
“It’s been pretty fun,” he said. “I’m not much of a dancer, and it’s my first time doing something like this.”
Ratnam already has created memories and new, hopefully, long-lasting relationships.
“I’ve made a lot of good friends and have learned how to work with a team and learn from each other …. It’s all fellowship and fun times,” he said.
Two group dances have been choreographed, and each of the contestants is required to perform them on Friday and Saturday night.
One of the co-directors of Cru Knights, senior psychology major Erica Jenkins, enjoys each practice.
“Watching the guys’ personalities come through in their dancing and being on stage” is one of her favorite aspects.
She said, “There is always time to sit back and laugh because they’re all awesome and hilarious.”
The other co-director, graphic design major Coley Taylor, is impressed by the group of participants as a whole.
He said, “It’s great seeing the brotherhood that has developed because of the hard work and dedication each guy puts into this event.”