University of Utah Kicks off International Education Week with First-Ever Flag Parade


Amen Koutowogbe

Group of participants holding flags on campus at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, on Nov. 14, 2022. (Photo by Amen Koutowogbe | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Kayleigh Silverstein, Special Projects Managing Editor, News Writer


Nov. 14-18 marks International Education Week in 2022, and the University of Utah has 14 events planned on its Salt Lake campus and 8 events on its campus in Incheon, South Korea.

“It broadens the possibilities for students really after they leave the University of Utah if we can give them a taste of the world while they’re here,” said Cecily Sakrison, the marketing manager for the Office for Global Engagement. “It opens a lot of doors for students.”

The week is an initiative by the U.S. Department of State and Department of Education, with this year’s theme being “Open for Opportunity.”

106 Flags

The U’s Salt Lake campus kicked off the week with a flag parade. The new director of International Student and Scholar Services, Anastasia Fynn, brought this tradition to the U from her previous university. 

Members of the U community waved flags to represent the home countries of the international student population, as a drumline from Alta High School followed the parade from the John R. Park Building to the J. Willard Marriott Library.

“I think for students it represents where they’re from, it shows diversity on campus and we wanted them to have an avenue to showcase all the different countries — there’s 106 countries that are represented at the U, which I think is phenomenal,” Fynn said.

Cheri Daily, the director of external relations and development at the Office for Global Engagement, said it was a beautiful day to have the parade. 

“Today’s event is a kickoff live and in person so we’re very excited to be doing all this in person for the first time in a few years of International Education Week, which is an opportunity for the University of Utah to highlight all the international opportunities on campus for students but also the myriad cultures that exist on this campus,” Daily said.

Shenrui Yang is an international student from China as well as student staff at the Office for Global Engagement. She is getting her doctorate in educational leadership and policy and said the parade was a great opportunity to represent her country. 

“We have a lot of international community here,” she said. “I feel very supported.”

After the students paraded to the library, Brian Gibson, the U’s chief global officer, shared a few words, starting off by saying every week should be IEW. 

“The University of Utah is committed to fostering global engagement, meaningful educational and cultural experiences,” Gibson said. “This engagement affords all of us an opportunity to experience diverse populations residing here in our community, and also to interact with people who may have ancestry connections and affiliations that span the globe.”

Gibson mentioned the week is intended for those who are culturally isolated to be exposed to new cultures. 

“We realize through these interactions that while we may hail from different origins, we share much in common through our connections as citizens of the world and our shared humanity,” Gibson said. 

Debbie Adebunmi, a master’s student in healthcare administration from Nigeria, said the event was about inclusion and being seen. 

“There were some people carrying flags that were not even their countries,” Adebunmi said. “And that was great. Just seeing that people actually believe and want to support in the idea of equality, and inclusion and diversity.”

Adebunmi said Utah is getting more diverse, and many people want to see this happen.

“And it’s not only in education, also in healthcare and just generally because people do really want to know more, want to see more, and just literally learn about different cultures,” Adebunmi said. “And I think it’s an amazing avenue for us to get that started. And this is just the beginning. It’s gonna go all the way.” 

The Week

There are various events throughout the week that hope to continue the celebration of international education. 

There will be panel discussions with Mexican filmmakers, a Zoom cooking class with a Ghanaian chef and a K-POP Dance Fest, to name a few. 

Sakrison said the dance fest is “an opportunity to kind of bring a little taste of Korea to Salt Lake City.”

The week ends with International Night, which has not been done in person since before the COVID-19 pandemic, Sakrison explained.

Hosted by the International Student Council in tandem with International Student and Scholar Services, International Night is a community event for participants to share their cultural heritage. 

“It’s just a really fun celebration of cultural heritage through song, dance, fashion show, food — It’s a big party, really,” Sakrison said. “And so that should be a really fun one, that’s usually kind of the jewel in the crown of International Education Week.”

Going Global

For students who maybe aren’t able to study abroad, Sakrison urges them to explore ways to “go global” while staying in Utah. 

“We really try to create something for everyone because our goal is to show that there are a number of ways that you can engage as a more globally-minded citizen while you’re here at the university,” Sakrison said. “You don’t have to be an international studies major, right? You don’t have to already be in that lane to really broaden your perspectives globally.”

Students can watch recorded sessions from IEW on the U’s Asia Campus.

“International Education Week should not be dedicated just a week out of the year, I think it should be something that’s celebrated all the time — diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, globalization — is worth celebrating,” Fynn said. “It brings refreshing world views, and we get to create global citizens just by … welcoming international students. So it’s exciting and this is a very important way to kick off the week.”


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