By Michelle Davey
Every member of the Ohio University community has a unique life story that has been shaped by the success they have achieved, the hardships they've overcome and the people who have touched their lives. Sharing those stories is what brings a community together.
That's exactly what planners of the 2008 International Week celebration had in mind when selecting this year's festival theme.
"Your World, Your Story" will honor the international customs and culture that enhance life in Athens. Scheduled for May 11 through 18, the annual festival traditionally attracts thousands of students, faculty, staff and community members who participate in a wide range of educational and cultural events.
As always, the week will culminate with the much-anticipated International Street Fair, an event featuring food, dance and dress from around the globe.
Amanda Yusko, an international student adviser in the university's International Student and Faculty Services office, said the committee wanted to focus on some of the individual stories that add to the campus' cultural diversity.
"There are so many wonderful and engaging stories among our students, faculty and staff, that it was very difficult to choose just one," Yusko said.
So they didn't.
Committee members opted to feature nine individuals from the Ohio University community in its promotions for the week, incorporating stories from Singapore to South Africa and from Afghanistan to Australia.
"International Week is about celebrating the richness that our university enjoys in the classrooms and residence halls, on the playing fields and in the research labs," Yusko said. "We feel as though we've found a unique and appropriate way to highlight that."
The featured individuals also will share their experiences at a storytelling session titled "Tales from Abroad, Afar, and Beyond," from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, May 16, in Baker University Center's 1804 Lounge.
The "Your World, Your Story" theme also will be carried through the week's keynote address by Marcus Dahn, an Ohio University alumnus and deputy minister of administration in the Liberian ministry of posts and telecommunications. Titled "A Long Road from Nimba: One Man's Journey to Ohio University and Beyond," Dahn's address will highlight his experiences as an international student and, later, as a leader who affected change in his homeland.
"He'll be here to tell a little bit about his story and how that led him to Ohio University and back to Liberia to play a prominent role in the government and the rebuilding of the country," Yusko said.
The address is at 7 p.m. Monday, May 12, in Baker Center Ballroom.
In addition to Dahn's visit, the documentary "Liberia: A Fragile Peace," which tells about the Liberian people and their struggle to rebuild after violent civil war, will be shown in Baker Center Theatre at 9 p.m. Sunday, May 11.
The documentary was created in 2006 by Ohio University Professor Steve Ross and graduate student Andrew Carlson. Ross is interim director of the university's School of Film and Carlson is a doctoral candidate in the School of Media Arts and Studies.
International Week traditions, such as the annual talent show, still will be among the staples of the weeklong celebration. Performers from the International Student Union will sing, dance and perform other cultural entertainments at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 15, in Baker Center Theatre.
The annual International Street Fair will again wrap up the celebration. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 17, Court Street will be transformed into an international bazaar featuring the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of cultures from around the globe.
"The Street Fair is important for all the international student and community groups because they get to show off what they do," said Stefani Greathouse, a past participant in the Street Fair who is working with International Student and Faculty Services to coordinate this year's event. "They get to show the students of OU and the Athens area about their culture and what they are doing here at Ohio University.
"I'm looking forward to seeing everyone having a great time together," Greathouse added. "It's going to be especially fun for the children who come."
About 40 student and community groups will participate in this year's fair, by far the largest number in several years, Yusko said.
Performers include International Jamming, Athenian Eastern Dancers, the Indonesian Saman Dancers and more. Most of the participating groups will have stands set up, and some will sell food and crafts as fundraisers for their organizations.
Visit the International Week Web site for more information and a full schedule of events.
To speak with a media representative regarding this story, please contact Katie Quaranta at 740-593-0858 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated at 9:18 a.m. May 7, 2008, to add information about the documentary filmmakers.