The Engage the World program is bringing cultural diversity education to the Pullman community with the help of international student volunteers.
WSU alumnus Elisha Grange (CQ spelled it), Interim International Coordinator, started the Engage the World program in an effort to create a more grounded network of international student speakers that is more available for educational purposes. What began as an effort to internationalize WSU students has turned into a community-wide educational opportunity, she said.
The brand new program, based on one similar in Oregon, achieved an unexpected and overwhelming response, with about 35 volunteers varying from freshman, Ph.D. students, and Fulbright scholars, Grange said.
“We exist to bring together international and domestic students in fun and interactive ways,” Grange said. “They are all here because they want to share their culture with American students. It is truly amazing.”
Sophomore Pre-Nursing major Katherine Noratto (CQ spelled it and studyabroad101.com) was born and raised in Peru.
“When I moved to Washington, I saw that (Pullman) is a very small town and I was sure that there weren’t many Peruvians,” Noratto said. “My culture is very special to me and I want to share it with everybody.”
It is Noratto’s hope that her involvement in the program will inspire students to study abroad, she said.
“…International students like us go to schools in the area or even classes at WSU and talk about their culture and the things that make them unique,” Noratto said.
Tesfaye Deboch (CQ spelled it and school of econ website), a third year PhD. student in economics, came to WSU from Ethiopia interested in the opportunity to illuminate misconceptions Americans may have about foreign cultures and to highlight WSU’s diversity.
“I feel like most students don’t know much about Ethiopia or have a one-sided story about its culture,” he said. “I want to contribute to the understanding of diversity at WSU. Students need to know about every part of the world and I feel like I can contribute to this.”
The goal of the Engage the World program is not just to internationalize WSU, but to give international students the opportunity to interact with domestic students as well, Grange said.
Fifth year material science and engineering international Ph.D. student Amlan Datta (CQ spelled it and material engineering website) joined the program for the chance to draw comparisons between U.S. and foreign cultures.
“I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to see the American culture in the classroom and let them experience how India’s culture and traditions compare,” Datta said.
The Engage the World program is an educational experience for all those involved.
"These students come to America and they see Americans having preconceptions about other cultures…they are desperate to share their perspective and cultural insights with Americans," Grange said. "(Engage the World) provides a venue for that.”