Whether they were looking to quench their wanderlust or simply in the mood for a night of entertainment and cuisine, the people of Fort Smith found what they were looking for at the International Festival 2010 on Tuesday, March 30 in the Stubblefield Center.
Thirty-two countries were represented this year, including, but not limited to, Brazil, Ireland, Kenya, Germany, Vietnam, Haiti, the Hmong people, and Canada. Each country had a cultural display with one or more attendants on hand to answer questions. Some countries also provided traditional foods, such as scones or curry. These dishes could be sampled in exchange for a food token which festival goers could buy at different tables throughout the center. All proceeds went to supporting the International Program.
Performances included Vietnamese singing and dancers, The Polkateers, an Aikido demonstration, Karen Jeder's string group, a saxophone quintet, the Children's Choir from the Children's Academy, and more.
While the university has hosted an International Festival in the form of a dinner for some time, this was the third year it has been presented in this format. The change came about with the introduction of the International Program, roughly four years ago.
A new addition this year was the March of Flags, an idea of UA Fort Smith first lady Janice Beran. At 6:30, one representative from each of the thirty-two countries proceeded through the Stubblefield Center carrying their country's flag as part of an honorary march. Each representative and his or her country was introduced as they crossed the stage.
When asked about the purpose of the International Festival, Janice Beran cited the need to, "Increase awareness and appreciation for multiculturalism."
"We want to present the diversity on campus," added Takeo Suzuki, Executive Director for International Relations. "Most people aren't aware of how diverse we are. Our minority population has increased greatly over the last few years." UA Fort Smith itself has professors from over 30 countries.
Raising global awareness in the student body has pragmatic benefits as well. Janice Beran pointed out that students going into business and working in companies such as Baldor, will find themselves part of an international marketplace.
Students interested in the university's international programs should contact Takeo Suzuki. He can be reached at by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is also available at the Office of International Relations website at http://www.uafortsmith.edu/International.