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Ohio Valley International Council beginning 30th year

Outreach program seeks cultural consultants

The Center for International Studies is kicking off the 30th year of one of its outreach initiatives, the Ohio Valley International Council (OVIC), and is seeking cultural consultant applicants.

Since its beginning, OVIC has strived to promote global and international sensitivity and also hopes to impact the classrooms of Southeastern Ohio, Ohio University and the greater community. In addition, the Center for International Studies believes that OVIC is a way in which international students can experience the local culture and is a means in which stereotypes can be contested as well.

With the goal of increasing the international and global understanding of school children in Southeastern Ohio, Mary Anne Flournoy, a former associate director of the center, developed the outreach program while teaching Modern World History to sixth-graders in New Marshfield. Wanting to expose her students to diversity, Flournoy invited several international students to her classroom to give presentations about their culture.

The experience was successful, prompting Flournoy to want to spread the program to other classrooms in the region. Using her connections at Ohio University, she approached Edward Baum, who at the time was director of the Center for International Studies, and proposed the idea of establishing OVIC. Although excited about this outreach opportunity, Baum acknowledged a lack of funding to implement the program. He decided that if Flournoy was able to acquire a grant to fund OVIC, the Center for International Studies would supply her with a graduate assistant, an office to work out of and a $1 contract for the year to operate the program.

Flournoy succeeded in attaining a grant, and two years later, in 1983, then-President Charles J. Ping mandated the establishment of the OVIC as the international outreach arm of Ohio University.

Initially starting with cultural presentations in grades 4-6, OVIC has expanded to include presentations for all grades, workshops for public school teachers, Kids on Campus afterschool programs, ARTS/West presentations, home-school presentations, international fairs, and class presentations at Ohio University's Athens and regional campuses. Most recently, OVIC is striving to provide more opportunities for undergraduates to be involved and has also tailored the structure of its presentations to meet the needs of teachers in attaining the Ohio Global Education Standards as part of their curriculum.

"I think that every time a person gets exposed to something different you learn a lot of things; every interaction with something that is outside the norm is an educational and transformative opportunity," said Bose Maposa, assistant director of African Studies and supervisor of the OVIC program. "OVIC imparts exposure that brings learning."

The bulk of OVIC is run by cultural consultants, comprised primarily of international students and students with international experience, who provide cultural presentations and programs to a number of classrooms and audiences in Southeastern Ohio. Tailoring their presentation to fit the audiences they serve, the cultural consultants bring a wealth of information in the form of, amongst other things, personal experiences, music, artifacts, language, stories and games. At one point, the OVIC was sending three or four cultural consultants to at least three different presentations a week.

One of those cultural consultants, Kevin Hales, a graduate student in the School of Communication Studies, said he enjoys interacting with the young people at the schools. He values their energy and openness and appreciates the opportunity to give back to the community, reach out to young people, and be part of transforming lives in a meaningful way.

Kevin Corea, the OVIC program assistant in 2012-13, noted that students who serve as cultural consultants benefit from it because it is a "good opportunity to become more familiar with the community and share a little piece of home with local children who are, in most cases, not as exposed to culture as we were fortunate to have been."

OVIC welcomes new cultural consultant applicants and is always interested in expanding its outreach opportunities. To find out more about OVIC, learn how to become a cultural consultant or request an OVIC outreach presentation, please visit http://www.internationalstudies.ohio.edu/activities-outreach/ovic.html. For more information, you may also contact Bose Maposa at maposa@ohio.edu.