International Flavor

 

Itamar Filho (Brazil), Zafiro Papanikitas (Australia) Dr. Hussein Zeidan  Heasman (Australia), Dr. Bryan Lai (Taiwan) and Soledad Bucaram (Ecuador) are some of the  members lending the campus an international flavor. Flags in the Atrium represent the heritage faculty and students

Itamar Filho (Brazil), Zafiro Papanikitas (Australia) Dr. Hussein Zeidan Heasman (Australia), Dr. Bryan Lai (Taiwan) and Soledad Bucaram (Ecuador) are some of the members lending the campus an international flavor. Flags in the Atrium represent the heritage faculty and students

Many people might look at USC Salkehatchie and think because the campuses are located in the small towns of Allendale and Walterboro, the faculty and students would all come from right here in rural South Carolina. Instead, they would be pleasantly surprised at the truly international culture blossoming at the school, an expansion of the Salkehatchie family that results in a better understanding of global issues and experiences.  The campus has a longstanding history of hiring diverse faculty members, many of whom were born outside of the United States and are able to give their students insights into cultures to which they have never been exposed. An excellent example of this is Dr. Hussein Zeidan, an associate professor of chemistry who is originally from Lebanon and has taught on this campus since the 1980s.  “I am now teaching students who are telling me their grandparents said to tell me hello; that’s how long I have been here,” he says, laughing.  The campus has long considered globalization a key concept for improved academic performance of its students. Daily interaction with students and professors with international backgrounds is an extension of the global learning initiatives the campus has always promoted. Academic Dean Dr. Roberto Refinetti points to the International Festival hosted annually by the Opportunity Scholars Program, a course taught by Professor Sharon Folk that allows students to travel Spain, and an extracurricular trip to China organized by Professor Joe Siren and Dr. Arthur Mitchell as examples of those cultural diversity efforts in action. The increasing on-campus diversity is an added bonus.  Zeidan and Dr. Bryan Lai, a math instructor from Taiwan, met recently with a number of the campus’ international students, many of whom were joking about being the “foreign delegation” and finding their home countries on a classroom globe. A number of those students are drawn by the growing campus athletic programs. Students from Ireland, Australia, France, Trinidad, Canada, Brazil, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic are attending Salkehatchie this fall. Other students have lived in the United States for some time, but have ties to places such as Honduras and Bosnia.  “I knew in the first week that this was going to be a big experience for me,” says Mari Konate, who came from France to play basketball for the Indians. “This year I will learn how to share another culture that I already learned in France, as my parents are originally from Africa. I had never heard of Walterboro before, but when I came in the downtown, I saw that it is a great place to be. The campus is not big, but I think for me that’s good to not get lost and to help my transition.”  Soledad Bucaram came from Ecuador to play soccer and says she is enjoying the family atmosphere on campus. “I like the small town and interactions with the people,” she says. “I love to play soccer, and this is going to be a great place because classes are smaller and the people really care. You can learn more here.”  Lai, who has been teaching math at Salkehatchie for the past year, believes the increasingly diverse Salkehatchie family has a positive impact on everyone, particularly local students who may have never met someone who lives overseas. He says the diversity of the faculty and staff has not surprised him, but he has been pleasantly surprised at the level of student diversity, something he considers a “blessing” for Salkehatchie students.  “Their international classmates are just like living cultures among them,” he says. “It is a wonderful opportunity for them to learn, and to respect different cultures. … Students can learn to respect different cultures from a student body, or a faculty with international perspective. Many of our teachers have traveled to many places, and some of them even have international people in their family. … Hopefully, we can increase students’ field of vision.”