By Matthew Early
On Saturday, March 12, the Tiffin University Office of International Affairs and the International Dinner Committee reinstated a long-standing tradition on campus, one that was sorely missed during the pandemic – hosting the famed International Dinner. The event’s reputation precedes it, always having been a staple at TU. As the name suggests, the University takes this time to honor and celebrate its rich and diverse student, staff and faculty population with an evening of socializing, good food from around the globe and of course, live entertainment. Representatives from each of the 31 countries composing the Dragon Family were in attendance, with many TU-friends, community and executive board members also joining in on the fun. Caitlyn Bass, Manager for International Affairs spearheaded the event’s planning and execution, with the help of Scott Saracusa, Executive Director of International Affairs and Business Development. Together, the pair did an outstanding job, and the event was met with an overwhelmingly positive response.
“It’s always a lot of hard work, this year being no exception, but the effort was worth it in the end, especially after seeing how much fun everybody had,” says Caitlyn. “This time, it was especially rewarding since we haven’t hosted a seated event in three years because of COVID. We knew we had to make this event memorable, remind everyone of how much fun it is, and I think we did just that.”
Caitlyn kicked off the evening with a brief invocation before introducing the night’s speakers, including Tiffin University President, Dr. Lillian Schumacher and Ms. Nadia Lewis, M.S., SHRM-CP, Vice President for Human Resources and the Center for InterculTUral Excellence, who both greeted the event’s attendees. Caitlyn then introduced the emcees for the evening – TU professor Nick Reinhard and Saffie Jobe, a graduate student and Assistant in the Office of International Affairs. Originally from Gambia, Saffie also does recruitment work for TU, focusing on her home country and surrounding areas.
After the opening remarks and salutations, attendees were invited to partake in the extensive spread of ethnic foods made available, including dishes such as butter chicken with basmati rice, miso soup with kombu seaweed and tofu, fried plantains, tabbouleh salad and other cuisines from around the world. A personal favorite among guests was the Greek dessert, baklava. Anybody returning for second helpings of the pastry was sure to be disappointed, because it did not last long! A group of international and local student volunteers, all of whom involved with the International Dinner Committee, served attendees.
After everybody settled in with their meals, the evening’s performances began, with Brigitte Galauner, the TU Reference and Instruction Librarian first taking the stage to perform a “European Symphony” dance medley.
“My performance was a rhythmic tap piece that utilized European classical music. I have been tap dancing for over 15 years, and it felt wonderful to perform in front of a live audience again and honor my European heritage. As an attendee and a performer, it was great interacting with other attendees both onstage and in person. This was my first International Dinner at Tiffin University, and I am grateful to have had this opportunity to showcase my abilities!”
A number of additional acts, both solo and group followed suit, with Michael Seda, a TU-undergraduate up next. Michael celebrated and shared his Latin heritage by singing and playing the guitar to the songs “El Viaje” and “Chocolatito.” Following Michael was the German / Swiss music group based in Columbus, Ohio, Alphorn Gruezie, taking the stage to play their namesake instruments. Many attendees were shocked to learn that authentic alphorn instruments are over 10 feet long on average!
Next to perform was undergraduate student, Dixita Patel, who showcased a style of dance called Garba, part of an Indian folk tradition that honors, worships and celebrates the feminine form of divinity. Following her was Ruby Santiago, TU alumna and current Assistant Director of Housing Operations. Ruby is Puerto Rican by descent and sang three musical pieces total.
“I choose to participate and represent the Latin community singing songs sung by Puerto Rican, Mexican and Cuban artists,” said Ruby. “The first song ‘Preciosa’ was written back in 1937 as a patriotic composition by Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernández Marín. The second song, ‘Bidi Bidi Bom Bom’ was a personal favorite that I grew up listening and singing to, and was written by the Mexican ‘Queen of Tejano music,’ Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. This song is one of love. ‘Bidi Bidi Bom Bom’ does not represent anything other than the sound Selena believed her heart made at the thought of her lover. The third song, ‘Quimbara,’ was actually written by a 20- year-old, Junior Cepeda from Puerto Rico and was performed by Cuban singer Celia Cruz and Dominican artist Johnny Pacheco.”
Following Ruby was a group of male undergrads from the TU Saudi Club, who performed Ardah, a folkloric style of dance and vocalization originating in the Arabian Peninsula. The dance is traditionally done by two rows of men opposite of one another, with several members holding either swords or canes. Ardah is a tradition of celebration, typically performed at weddings or other culturally significant events and festivals.
Last but certainly not least was two groups from TiffinArts, the first of which being a TU undergraduate choir, performing “Singabahambayo Thina,” a South-African hymn, both in its original language and an English reprise. Roughly translated, the title reads, “We Are Marching for Freedom.” The hymn was originally written as a reaction to the South African people’s struggle against the apartheid. It is widely viewed as a piece about hope and perseverance.
Following the choir to close the event was the TU undergraduate cast of the upcoming musical theater production of “RENT,” performing two teaser pieces to entice audience members to attend their upcoming performances of the musical.
The Tiffin University community would like to congratulate the Office of International Affairs and members of the International Dinner Committee on another resoundingly successful event, and would like to extend its sincerest thanks to all student and staff volunteers who helped make this wonderful event possible. Here’s looking forward to next year!