The importance of learning about other cultures and perspectives was celebrated during the sixth annual Flag Ceremony at Tusculum College on Thursday.
The Flag Ceremony is part of the International Education Week activities on campus. The ceremony celebrates the international diversity on campus and officially commemorates the addition of new flags to the International Flag Display over the main entrance of Niswonger Commons representing the home nations of current students of the college and alumni.
Five new flags are to be added this year representing the nations of the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Malaysia, Norway and Sri Lanka. With the addition of the new flags, the display now includes the symbols of 45 different nations.
In welcoming students, faculty and staff to the ceremony, Dean of Students Dr. David McMahan noted the importance of having international students on campus and studying abroad.
Noting that while there are divisions in the United States over some issues as shown by the national election on Tuesday, learning about people from other countries and cultures can help Americans understand different perspectives and be more open to each other’s viewpoints, he said.
Dr. Geir Bergvin, director of the Center for Global Studies, said that more Tusculum students were able to study abroad in the 2011-12 academic year than ever before and this current year offers as many opportunities for students for international travel.
“Students when they travel abroad come back saying that ‘it was an experience of a lifetime; ‘it changed my life forever,’ or ‘it made me appreciate more what I have here,’” he said. “It is a great opportunity for students to learn about other cultures.”
Steven Hollingshead, president of the Student Government Association, shared the history of the flag display. The display was the idea of students in the International and Multicultural Association six years ago to provide international students a remembrance of home on campus, and the students raised the funds for the purchase of the first flags included. Tusculum has continued the tradition, adding flags each year to represent home nations of new students that are not already in the display.
As a liberal arts college, the presence of international students helps Tusculum fulfill its mission as it provides all students an opportunity to learn from others who come from different backgrounds and have different experiences, Hollingshead said.
Samantha Underwood, the president of the Study Abroad and Global Awareness student organization, encouraged international students to share their culture and perspectives with their fellow students.
“Learning from each other is some of the most important learning we can do,” she said.