International connections strengthened through cultural celebrations

Panamanian students in traditional dress at the Burd Center

Brenau University held a number of events during the fall semester to celebrate diversity and global awareness while highlighting the university’s international partnerships.

For Panamanian Cultural Day on Nov. 29, Brenau welcomed guests from a number of partner institutions in Panama, including the Ministry of Education, financial aid organization IFARHU, Specialized University of the Americas (UDELAS) and the University of Panama. The partnership with IFARHU has brought 36 Panamanian students to Brenau, with the next cohort expected in the spring. 

President Anne Skleder recently traveled to Panama to expand Brenau’s current partnerships. 

“At Brenau, we seek to prepare students to enter and impact the global stage,” Skleder said. “Higher education is transformative for so many people and communities. This is why we are pleased to continue to develop our relationship with Panama, as the government’s goal is to have their students serve as ambassadors for their nation and return home to serve as leaders in their communities.”

A celebratory event featured a showcase of Panamanian culture, including traditional dances and clothing, prepared and performed by the students at the Burd Center. Panamanian student art was also on display in Castelli Gallery that evening.

“My experience at Brenau has been special. Even though I’m far from home, Brenau has given me a new place to call home.”

Panamanian student Xavier Bosso

Xavier Bosso, a member of the second cohort, said he was glad to share what he loved about his homeland with the Brenau community during Panamanian Cultural Day.

“It was an honor to be part of this event because I like to represent my country and I like that people know about my beautiful country and everything it has to offer,” Bosso said. 

During the Panamanian Cultural Day, students raised money for the Loma Bonita school that Brenau student ambassadors visited over the summer. Throughout the day, students, faculty and staff celebrated Panamanian culture with a special lunch menu in the dining hall, complete with dancing and music.

Skelder also traveled to Costa Rica this fall for the launch of a new program, Impulsa, in partnership with the country’s trade ministry to promote gender equality in business. 

In November, College of Business and Communication faculty traveled to San Jose, Costa Rica, to host leadership workshops for more than 100 female business owners. The event was in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce of Costa Rica, the Gender Parity Initiative (IPG) and PROCOMER, an external commerce accelerator. 

Embracing culture through learning experiences

Nov. 14-17, Brenau’s international focus shifted to the east as Brenau students, faculty and staff celebrated Asia during the annual International Week. Activities emphasized life and culture of the region and included presentations, experience sharing and DIY. 

Claudia Wilburn, department chair and professor of Art & Design, offered a hands-on look at the connection between indigo dyeing and Asia.

“American industry is known for its use of indigo, specifically in the denim industry. Indigo has been cultivated in the United States since the 1500s with the new world colonies,” Wilburn said. “India seems to be the first place where the plant was domesticated for use in dyeing textiles and was traded to Medieval Europe through means of the Silk Road. While indigo has traveled the world, the techniques we’re using to dye fabric today are specifically from Asia.”

Participants dyed cotton or silk bandanas by hand and created patterns using the Japanese shibori fabric dyeing technique, which is similar to today’s popular tie-dye methods but uses wooden blocks and folding to create white space.

Students also had the opportunity to learn about the Japanese art form of Manga and how to make their own zine, hear from those who had spent time or lived in east and Southeast Asia, and experience tangible elements of the cultures with music and snacks.