Cultural presentations offered to schools across Western North Carolina

WCU Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar (foreground) and university staff members and students participate in a flag procession before the annual International Festival. The international flavor of the university will be going on the road as WCU groups provide presentations in classrooms around Western North Carolina.

WCU Provost and Scotland native Alison Morrison-Shetlar (foreground) joins university staff members and international students for a flag procession before WCU’s annual International Festival. The international flavor of the university is going on the road as groups provide presentations in classrooms around Western North Carolina.

Teachers and administrators from K-12 schools across Western North Carolina can schedule in-school presentations focusing on international cultures through an outreach program offered by Western Carolina University’s Office of International Programs and Services.

Teams composed of WCU students and faculty and staff members, along with international cultural “hosts” from the university, are available to visit schools in the region to give presentations on various cultures, said Ling Gao LeBeau, director of the WCU office. “IPS is the hub of international activities at WCU,” LeBeau said. “We are truly proud of our leadership and advocacy for international programs and activities on campus and the local community.”

During the spring semester, teams of WCU students from an intercultural communications class taught by Jim Manning joined with their hosts – WCU international exchange students – in giving presentations on various cultures at Cullowhee Valley School and Smoky Mountain High School in Jackson County. Manning, an associate professor in WCU’s Department of Communication, coordinated the visits.

One presentation for a class at Smoky Mountain High focused on the culture of Brazil, with the WCU contingent demonstrated the traditional dance style known as Samba. “I am so grateful that WCU can bring the world to my students,” said the class’ teacher, Suzanne Tompkins. The WCU students helped the high school students, who were learning about world languages, come out of their comfort zones, she said.

Smoky Mountain students taking art classes taught by Gayle Woody learned about art forms such as origami and calligraphy during a presentation on Japanese culture. Woody said the students’ class time was enriched by their contact with Asian international students from the university. “WCU is a great resource for our schools, and we are thankful to have such a cooperative relationship with faculty like Dr. Manning,” she said.

WCU student Darren Blackwell looks on as Ling LeBeau, director of WCU's Office of International Programs and Services, talks about Chinese culture with a class at Cullowhee Valley School.

WCU student Darren Blackwell looks on as Ling Gao LeBeau, director of WCU’s Office of International Programs and Services, talks about Chinese culture with a class at Cullowhee Valley School.

Several groups from WCU visited the classroom of second-grade teacher Eileen Richards at Cullowhee Valley School to talk about life in countries such as India and China. “I want my students to always remember that we are all people,” Richards said. “The more they know, the less they will judge.”

Also during the spring semester, WCU international students from Iran, China, Bulgaria and Greece visited Haywood County’s Waynesville Middle School and Tuscola High School. The international students said they enjoyed the opportunity to see how American schools operate on a day-to-day basis. “Our student from Bulgaria was so excited to see the bright yellow buses lined up at the end of the school day. Apparently, yellow buses are stereotypical American,” said Marg Basehart, WCU international adviser. “The international students from WCU learn just as much as the students attending the presentations. It truly is rewarding to watch.”

The cultural presentations are offered at various times throughout the semester, depending on student availability and the countries represented on campus during a particular semester. WCU’s International Programs and Services will work to meet as many requests as possible, LeBeau said. School teachers and administrators around the region who are interested in scheduling presentations should contact WCU’s Office of International Programs and Services at 828-227-7494 or international@wcu.edu.