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The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

UWL’s 59th International Banquet celebrates diversity and achievements in global education

Chinese Fan Dance: Folktune from Yimeng – Dance Group of La Crosse Area Chinese Association. Photo taken by Jackson Skarp.

On Saturday, April 20, International Education and Engagement (IEE) put on the 59th Annual International Banquet, open to UWL students, faculty and community members interested in the international culture at UWL.   

According to their website, IEE’s mission is to support success by facilitating equitable access to global experiences for students, faculty, staff and the community. IEE facilitates the study abroad programs at UW. The program sends students from our community to other countries and welcomes students from around the world to our campus. The International Banquet was their biggest event of the year.  

The International Banquet was an opportunity to share and celebrate the collection of cultures and traditions housed within our UWL campus. The banquet featured a Global Citizen Showcase, a meal with international cuisines, performances that showcased several cultures represented by UWL students and an awards ceremony recognizing those who have made a substantial contribution to education abroad at UWL and throughout the La Crosse community.  

The evening began with the Global Citizenship Showcase where international students, study abroad students, faculty and community members set up presentations with items and pictures from their homes to provide a brief look into their cultures and traditions.  

After doors opened and attendees found their seats, the La Crosse and District Pipes and Drums played while international students from the La Crosse area processed in. The students carried their national flags to the stage and planted them along the back, providing a background for the performances that occurred later in the evening.  

Director of IEE Karolyn Bald welcomed attendees to the banquet and spoke to the international students in attendance.

“We would like to thank you for your contributions to UWL and the La Crosse community. You bring so much richness to our campus culture and learning, thank you for choosing UWL and being a part of the UWL education family,” said Bald.  

International Student and Scholar Advisor Miranda Panzer was next and presented the International Student Academic Excellence and Internationalization Award. This award is presented to a graduating student who showcases academic excellence and has contributed to the internationalization of UWL.  

Three graduating students were presented with the award; Rene Faun, a biology major from Malaysia with a focus on biomedical science and a chemistry minor; Vanessa Mbuyi Kaja, a graduate student from the Democratic Republic of the Congo getting their masters in cellular and molecular biology; and Shutu Kumada, a student from Japan majoring in computer science with a focus on cybersecurity and a minor in mathematics.  

Panzer then presented the W. Carl Wimberly Founders Award for International Partnerships, an award given to someone who has greatly contributed to excellence in international programming. This year the award was given to the Dean of the School of Education Dr. Marcie Wycoff-Horn for her unwavering commitment to furthering international education.  

The final awards of the night were the Altman Awards for Leadership, Community Service, and University Service. The Altman Award for Leadership was given to someone who has demonstrated leadership in their field of international education and in their career. This year the award was given to the Chair of the Management Department Dr. Nicole Gullekson.  

The Altman Award for University Service was awarded to someone who goes above and beyond to provide a good experience for all those on our UWL campus. , and t This year the award was given to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Police Department for their embodiment of community and inclusion.  

Finally, the Altman Award for Community Service was awarded to those who show dedication and passion to the advancement of international students and internationalization in the La Crosse community. This year it was awarded to Hampton Inn and Suites of La Crosse, Wisconsin, for offering their space to UWL international students and their families as they adjust to new environments. 

The next part of the evening was the dinner, a mix of dishes that represented some of the many cultures showcased by the international community at UWL. The dinner opened with a Chickpea Salad from Bangladesh, Gentse, a chicken soup from Belgium and Ugandan Street Style Samosas. The entrée consisted of Doro Wat, a spiced chicken dish from Ethiopia and Vegetable Korma from Inda. Dessert was a German Black Forest Cake.  

Vanessa Mbuyi Kaja and Rene Faun were the banquet’s emcees; they introduced the performers who brought pieces of their culture to share through the arts of song and dance.   

Performances included “Shanghai in the Night,” a dance performed by the Group of La Crosse Area Chinese Association, followed by adult and child variations of Kuchipudi, a dance by the Cultural Heritage Association of India. Other performances were Chinese Fan Dance: Folktune from Yimeng, a dance performed by the Group of La Crosse Area Chinese Association and “Hào Khí Việt Nam”, a song performed by Khang Duong. These were just some of the performances featured during the banquet. See the full list at the bottom of this article. 

AJ Bierwirth, an administrative assistant to IEE, said, “This is the second year we’ve been able to put on the banquet since COVID has happened, and it’s been a really great one. We went from four or five performers last year to thirteen, it’s one of the biggest events our office puts on.”  

“We are one of the few UW campuses that has managed to come back with both sending students abroad and having international students here,” said Bierwirth.  

According to Bierwirth, international education is important even for students who aren’t studying abroad. She explained that students who study abroad experience a more global perspective compared to students who don’t study abroad. 

“Events like this are one of the few ways that students can engage with international students, community members and community members who have had the ability to go abroad,” said Bierwirth.  

Panzer, Being a part of this campus, this vibrant opportunity, helps people to think in different ways and see different perspectives and to be a stronger individual as a global citizen.”  

Panzer also said, “We would love for more students to attend the International Banquet or events like it. Just to get to learn about and meet the other individuals that are on our campus, a lot of times these events bring people together to showcase how many different connections we have here in our own community that we might be unaware of.”  

When asked what some of the benefits are to having such an international presence on campus, Bald said, “I think tonight was evidence of how valuable it is to have an international campus and an international community and how much we can learn from each other while embracing what makes us similar and what makes us different. We’re just lucky they choose our campus.” 

More information about International Education and Engagement can be found on their website, as well as information about upcoming events and how to get involved in an education abroad program

 Full list of performances and performers: 

  1. “Shanghai in the Night” – Group of La Crosse Area Chinese Association – Dance 
  2. Kuchipudi: Adult Variation – Cultural Heritage Association of India (CHAI) – Dance 
  3. Kuchipudi Children Variation – Cultural Heritage Association of India (CHAI) – Dance 
  4. The Coolest Folk Style – Hongying Xu & La Crosse Area Residents originally from China & friends passionate about Chinese culture – Dance 
  5. Defying Gravity – Ianna Tan & Joseph Louis – Sing w/piano 
  6. “Frühlingsglaube,” – Melia Fretwell – Sing w/piano 
  7. Chinese Fan Dance: Folktune from Yimeng – Dance Group of La Crosse Area Chinese Association – Dance  
  8. Bollywood Medley – Shanyu Chandana – Dance 
  9. “Hào Khí Việt Nam” – Khang Duong – Sing w/music 
  10. Bharatanatyam – Swasthika Selvakumar – Dance 
  11. Tzi Zhen La Mu (Tibetan dance) – Wendy Clemment – Dance 
  12. Arran Boat Song & Musical Priest –  Emily Warnke – Music 
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About the Contributor
Jackson Skarp
Jackson Skarp, Student Government Reporter
  • Year at UWL: Sophomore
  • PGPs: He/Him/His
  • Hometown: Cottage Grove, MN
  • Major: Communication Studies
  • Minor: Legal Studies and Philosophy
  • Other Campus Involvement: Pre-Law Society Member
  • Future Plans after Graduation: I plan on attending law school after graduation
  • Favorite activity in La Crosse: Finding new coffee shops to study at.
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