ECU begins International Education Week with Parade of Flags, International Awards Ceremony

To kick off International Education Week, East Carolina University’s Office of Global Affairs held its first Parade of Flags during the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 9. Members of the ECU community carried 73 flags during the walk that represented international students or scholars currently at the university

ECU mascot PeeDee led the parade and carried the American flag. More than 100 participants began the walk the Office of Global Affairs on Ninth Street and processed through campus to the cupola located on the Main Campus Mall.

At the conclusion of the walk, the Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization by NAFSA: Association of International Educators was formally presented to ECU Chancellor Phillip Rogers and Provost Robin Coger. The organization announced that ECU was a recipient of the honor on Feb. 14.

“People always comment about how they like the flags we fly in front of the International House, whether they are from the country or perhaps just enjoyed a visit there at one time,” said Dr. Jon Rezek, assistant vice chancellor for global affairs.

One of the countries represented in the parade was Kenya, with Nairobi native George Okoth carrying his nation’s colors.

Dr. Jon Rezek presents ECU Chancellor Phillip Rogers and Provost Robin Coger with the Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization. (ECU photo by Rhett Butler)

Dr. Jon Rezek presents ECU Chancellor Phillip Rogers and Provost Robin Coger with the Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization.

“To be able to represent my country is a privilege,” said the freshman dance and business double major. “It means a lot just to be here and be able to interact with other cultures and learn about how other people are.”

Faculty and staff members also participated in the parade, with Dr. Marame Gueye, associate professor of African and African Diaspora Literatures, carrying the flag of her home country of Senegal.

“It means everything to be able to participate in this parade,” said Gueye. “It’s wonderful to see my country represented in the community and seeing how ECU embraces diversity. Even though I’m from a small country, we’re everywhere.”

Winning the Simon Award was the culmination of years of hard work and an increased emphasis on expanding international opportunities available to students.

“The Simon Award is probably the most prestigious award in the field of international education and represents the culmination of five-plus years of strategic moves to make ECU a more internationally engaged university,” said Rezek. “This is a big deal in the field – a national championship so to speak – so we wanted to do something special to celebrate.”

After receiving the award, Rogers expressed appreciation for the efforts of groups across campus whose collective efforts made the award possible.

“I can think of no better way to kick off this special week than to have this ceremony celebrating this award, which is a big deal in American higher education,” said Rogers. “I can think of no better joy than to look across this campus on this warm day than to see over 70 flags representing the great depth of diversity on our campus across many nations in our world coming to East Carolina University and adding tremendous value to campus life and the culture of this institution. From a national perspective, the Senator Paul Simon Award is at the center of international higher education awards.”

Rezek believes that the Simon Award will continue to enhance ECU’s enrollment and appeal to both domestic and international students.

“At ECU our vision is to be a national model for student success, regional transformation and public service,” said Rezek. “Internationalization crosses all three of those areas. International experiences have been shown to improve student outcomes. International engagement and international connection lead to investment and economic growth. And some of the most impactful public service ECU participates in occurs in rural communities around the globe.”

“I think the award helps to build that national reputation,” continued Rezek. “This award says we are a globally engaged university. Students from abroad should consider ECU for their studies. Domestic students who want to study abroad should consider enrolling at ECU. Faculty who want to do impactful research that benefits our region and other areas of the globe can have successful careers at ECU.”

Later Thursday evening, ECU recognized faculty, staff and students for their outstanding work in pursuing international opportunities during its International Awards Ceremony held at Harvey Hall in the Murphy Center.

A total of 1,108 students participated in international experiences during the 2022-23 academic year. Included in that number were 409 students who went on short-term study abroad programs, 73 on semester exchange programs, 68 who participated in the ECU Tuscany program in Italy, and just under 500 students who participated in International Virtual Exchange courses, which are known at ECU as Global Understanding.

Dr. Linda Darty, director of the Italy Intensives program at ECU Tuscany, was honored with the Award for Achievement in International Teaching; Dr. Patricia Slagter Van Tryon, an associate professor in the Department of Math, Science, and Instructional Technology Education, and Dr. Calvin Mercer, a professor of religious studies, received the Award for Achievement in International Research and Creative Activity; and Dr. Lester Zeager, professor of economics, as well as Dr. Stacy Warner, professor of sport management, received the Award for International Service and Engagement.

Kevin Williams was presented with the Staff Award for Achievement in International Service. Williams is the director of undergraduate programs in the College of Business.

Betül Küçükardalı Cansever earned the Overall Outstanding International Student Award presented by Dr. Angela Lamson. (ECU photo by Rhett Butler)

Betül Küçükardalı Cansever earned the Overall Outstanding International Student Award presented by Dr. Angela Lamson.

New to the program in 2023 was the recognition of Campus Internationalization Champions. Dr. Linda Kean, Yasmim Correa Bezerra, Sharonda Buck and Aaron Lucier were selected as the first winners.

Three international students were recognized for their service to the community and academic achievement. Elznaz Pezeshki, a graduate student in coastal studies from Iran and Majoie Desire Mendouga Ngandi, an undergraduate student majoring in software engineering from Cameroon were recognized with the International Student Award. The Overall Outstanding International Student Award was presented to Betül Küçükardalı Cansever, a Medical Family Therapy doctoral student from Turkey.

For Küçükardalı Cansever, the award is proof that her hard work and relocation to Greenville has paid off.

“It’s recognition of the hard work, time, effort, that I’ve put in. It recognizes that this is meaningful not just to me but to others as well. I knew about ECU and I chose it because of the great faculty members that are here.”

To support student travel, the Office of Global Affairs awards three scholarships. The Thomas W. Rivers Foreign Exchange Scholarship, ECU’s most prestigious global studies scholarship, was awarded to Alexandre Barbe, Caroline Bridges, George Claude, Kara Dubois, Sydney Evans, Erin Gyr, William Kile, Rosslyn Koch, Wesley Matusik, Samuel Sewall, Andrew Sutton and Laquan Wright. Wright was also the recipient of the Harold H. Bate Study Abroad Scholarship.

An additional six students earned either the Bate Study Abroad Scholarship or the Staton Scholarship Award, worth $1,000 each.