University Community

Global Education Fair aims to increase awareness of diverse cultural groups in the community

Aligning with the Ohio Department of Education’s recognized need to prepare students to participate in the interconnected global economy of the 21st century, two schools within the Athens City School District hosted Global Education Fairs recently with the purpose of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the community. The fairs aimed to increase P-12 students’ and their families’ knowledge of diverse cultures and create a culturally responsive environment in Athens schools and in the community.

The first Global Education Fair, with participants ranging from kindergarten through sixth grade was held on March 1, 2023, at The Plains Intermediate School. The second fair, attended by students in grades 7-12, was held at Athens High School on March 6, 2023. Total attendance for both events was estimated to be 200 participants.

The events were a collaboration between several sponsors, including the Ohio University AAPI-LEAD Organization, Patton College of Education, Center for International Studies, Ohio Valley International Council, Russ College of Engineering and Technology, OHIO’s World Languages Program, the Patton College’s Stevens Literacy Center, International Student Union and the Athens City School District.

“Generally speaking, it's about increasing awareness about diverse cultures, diverse experiences, diverse languages, diverse geography, diverse people, and doing so in a way that is affirming the uniqueness of the different cultures and presenting it to a population that, in some cases, maybe is not going to be exposed to international people from an international context. In other cases, it’s reaffirming some of the beauty that the world brings to Athens,” said Dr. Michael Kopish, associate professor in the Patton College of Education.

Countries and cultures represented were: China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Oman, Iraq, Pakistan, Ghana, Senegambia, Egypt, and the "Grow N Know" Group.  

The format of an exhibition fair was intended to immerse participants in a social setting designed to encourage inquisitive conversation. A series of tables, each representing a country or culture, allowed attendees to view a variety of artifacts, clothing, and arts and crafts while engaging in age-appropriate activities.

Exhibits were organized by cultural consultants made up of international students, OHIO faculty, and language instructors. Students from the Teacher Education Department’s “Issues in Global Affairs” course provided pedagogical strategies intended to be enjoyable and educational. 

“Participants were given a world map and a passport at the check-in table. Students were expected to ‘tour’ each of the different ‘countries’ and to complete cultural learning activities at different levels to earn a visa stamp.  Once all the stamps were collected, then students would be granted a certificate of Global Education,” said Associate Director of the Center for International Studies Dr. Catherine Cutcher.  

Examples of activities available included a listening station where attendees could listen to Ghanaian music and learn about the cocoa industry, a taste test comparing American mashed potatoes to Bangla spicy mashed potatoes, and international students writing attendees’ names in Arabic and Thai.

An intended benefit of the social setting provided presenters an opportunity to connect to the Athens community, which can be an issue for many international students and their families.  

“On the other side, I know that the international students here on campus can feel isolated in their community. They have their friends on campus, but they have limited access to the community. I think this is a great opportunity for international students to reach people like K-12 teachers, the parents and also children, and students. So, once they realize their cultures will be more acceptable to the other cultures, I think they will create friends,” said Dr. Yuchun Zhou, associate professor in the Patton College of Education.

Kopish pointed out the fairs’ opportunity to reduce stereotypes and myths associated with the Asian and Pacific Islander community pertaining to their untruthful association with COVID.

“Some of the victim blaming that took place with respect to the monikers that were used to describe COVID were pretty racist. So again, we're trying to dispel myths, dispel stereotypes, but provide a very safe informational hands-on cultural experience for all ages,” Kopish said.

There were a few moments that stood out for Cutcher that confirmed these events were a welcomed addition for many in attendance.   

“There were lots of smiles, laughter, and moments of connection and fun. I enjoyed talking with teachers, parents, and grandparents and hearing their impressions.  I also appreciated meeting with the principals of Athens High School and Athens Middle School during the event, and hearing more about how they would like to integrate this into their school-day activities in the future,” Cutcher said. “I learned a lot while listening to them as they reflected on the challenges and the needs of diversity and inclusion, and social and emotional learning and education in today's climate.”

Because the Global Education Fairs offered an invaluable educational experience, event sponsors are currently in discussion about future plans, reflecting on what they have learned, and examining survey data collected from K-12 teachers, parents, international students and teacher education students to address ways to potentially improve the experience.

Anyone interested in learning more about this community-based educational experience is encouraged to contact Zhou at, or Cutcher at

April 5, 2023
Staff reports