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UW-River Falls hosts Summit on International Education and Engagement

November 20, 2019

UW-River Falls hosted a week-long Summit on International Education and Engagement. It was a week packed with events and activities focused around goal two of UWRF’s strategic plan: global education and engagement. The main idea of the Summit is to celebrate accomplishments related to that goal, and to make a statement that the campus is committed to maintaining the successes it’s had thanks to international students and study abroad opportunities.

Events of the Summit included faculty- and student-led presentations, speakers from around the world, performances, food and meals, and plenty of opportunities to get involved with hands-on experiences. Kelsey McLean, program manager in the Office of International Education, summed it up best by stating, “Every day has something really unique and fun to offer.” At the end of the week, there was also a raffle drawing to give away international swag bags.

Among the presenters were notable speakers Amer F. Ahmed and Ann Bancroft. Ahmed is an internationally renowned speaker encouraging inclusivity and diversity. Bancroft, from Minnesota, is a U.S. National Women’s Hall of Fame inductee who has traveled to the ends of the Earth; she is the first known woman to reach both the north and south poles.

Two faculty-led presentations introduced many students to PechaKucha. Meaning “chitchat” in Japanese, PechaKucha is a type of presentation that encourages more showing and less telling. Presenters prepare 20 slides, and get 20 seconds of commentary per slide. Professors spoke about their experiences abroad and opportunities that students can get involved in with their studies.

One of the most anticipated performances of the week was a one-woman show on the opening night of the Summit. Qurrat Ann Kadwani performed 13 different characters, depicting the experience of immigrants. She showed the struggle of finding her identity while balancing her ethnic heritage with American culture.

Other performances of the week revolved around dance and music. Ceilidh dancing, a form of traditional Scottish dancing, was performed with instructions being called out so anyone could easily join in. It was international karaoke night on Wednesday, where anyone could sing their favorite song of any language. Friday featured a Somali music and dance workshop, allowing students to learn about musical traditions, history, and current practices in Somalia. Later in the evening, Somali guest artists performed traditional music and dance forms.

Two dinners were featured over the week. Tuesday was an etiquette dinner, which featured a Somali dish and taught students standard business dinner etiquette. Thursday was a Thanksgiving dinner, allowing international students to experience a traditional U.S. Thanksgiving meal. There was also an event on Wednesday, called “teaching kitchen,” that allowed some students and staff to get involved with preparing international dishes. Food and recipes from Somalia were featured, and some participants were able to sample the dishes created.

Not all events were held on campus; a celebration of international successes wouldn’t be complete if it all happened in one area. Various presentations about global manufacturing policies, higher education in the Netherlands, and international business partnerships were held in different places around River Falls. 

There was a field trip opportunity to visit Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. The market has food stalls and shops to learn about and eat different foods from around the world. Student agricultural clubs allowed students to learn about the heritage of the animals at Mann Valley Farm. McLean said, “They’re putting this really fun international global twist on learning about the animals we have here on campus.”

The Summit displayed the importance of international students and study abroad programs for our campus and our community. McLean stated that she would like if every student were able to study abroad, but “if you can’t study abroad, you can still have an international experience here on campus by the other things that are available.”