University celebrates International Festival

Global issues dominated the University Center this past weekend as the International Festival was celebrated by faculty, staff, Pittsburgh residents, families, and students alike.

The festival held during the past Family Weekend was a chance for “students, parents, staff, faculty, and community members to look at a global issue from many different perspectives,” said Jessica Wille, a junior social and decision sciences major and International Programming intern. The festival has been celebrated for 18 years, with this year’s theme being “Education without Borders: Global Learning in the 21st Century.”

Events included lectures, workshops, and sessions like Friday’s keynote lecture: “Muppet Diplomacy: How Sesame Street is Changing Our World” by Gary Knell, president and CEO of the Sesame Workshop. Sesame Street programs are known for being the “largest informal educator of young children,” and manage to tie in themes of education with global issues. Knell lectured and took questions from the audience in the University Center.

Wille commented on the audience she expects to come to the festival.

“There is something for everyone at the festival — all of the events should be fantastic!” she said.

Wille became interested in working with the festival out of its importance as an event.

“It really is a unique and important event on campus. It’s critical to realize that almost any issue we’re talking about in our classes and in our society can be framed in a global context,” which is part of the goal of the festival, she said.

As rooms were being decorated and set up for the festival, posters were displayed in Wean Commons from students’ study abroad trips during the past summer. Pictures from Italy, Spain, Japan, Australia, and other countries made up the side array of culture and surroundings that the students experienced abroad. The Study Abroad Fair followed Friday evening with booths and representatives from more than 40 programs, both external and Carnegie Mellon-sponsored.

“As cliched as it is to say, there’s no getting around the fact that we’re living in a global society and need to think about this larger framework,” Wille said.

In 2002, this became part of the vision of the festival: to “reflect the state of our inter-connected world and globally minded views of issues,” said Emily Half, coordinator for Study Abroad and International Programming.

With a packed schedule, there were certainly plenty of events to keep families busy and interested.

Oretha Manu, a sophomore global environmental public policy self-major, enjoyed the International Festival, even though her family did not attend.

“As part of the African Student Organization (ASO), I am glad for opportunities such as the International Festival to share our culture with others,” Manu said.
Although ASO has held events in the past, this was the first festival in which they held a Late Night event.

“Since it is both Family Weekend and the International Festival, we get more of a chance to really talk to different people about the educational issues of Africa and just have meaningful discussions with everyone who stops by,” Manu said.

The event featured food from the many regions of Africa.

The International Festival ended Saturday with a performance from the band Etran Finatawa in Rangos. Closing with this performance is a fitting example of the “inter-connected” world, Half said.