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Montana State hosts ‘Building Bridges’ event to foster cross-cultural dialogue

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BOZEMAN—A two-day event hosted by Montana State University’s Office of International Programs and the MSU student chapter of the United Nations Association will aim to create cross-cultural dialogue and engagement with the work of the United Nations on April 27-28 on the MSU campus. 

The “Building Bridges” event will include faculty presentations, a panel of international students and professionals, a discussion of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals and global cultural presentations. Sessions will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 27, in Room 233 of the Strand Union Building and at 4 p.m. Friday, April 28, in Norm Asbjornson Hall’s Inspiration Hall. Both days are free and open to the public and refreshments will be provided. 

“We are incredibly happy to see the UNA-USA Montana State Bozeman Chapter host a series of panel discussions about (Sustainable Development Goals) and involve several MSU community members, including international students, to share their perspectives, insights and traditions of their home country cultures,” said Kristof Zaba, dean for global engagement and international programs. “This event is a wonderful learning opportunity and a great platform to come together, recognize our differences and learn from each other.”

At the April 27 session, titled “A Cross-Cultural Dialogue on Sustainable Development,” attendees will hear from Roland Ebel, an assistant research professor in the College of Education, Health and Human Development, whose work focuses on agroecology and horticulture. Ebel will talk about his research into food system resilience and ethnobotany and applications of his work on a larger scale, including how it aligns with the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Alongside Ebel, a panel of graduate students and professionals from seven nations will address the Sustainable Development Goals from their own perspectives, examining how they relate to their degrees, future careers and backgrounds. The panelist lineup includes:

  • Fatemeh Aflatounian – mechanical and industrial engineering (Iran)
  • Francesco Bakhos – innovation and management (Lebanon)
  • Ayomide Foluso – community health (Nigeria)
  • Giorgio Morales – computer science (Peru)
  • Farshina Nazrul – electrical engineering (Bangladesh)
  • Adriana Reyes de Merkle – professional social worker (Colombia)
  • Johnathan Reyes de Merkle – ecology (United States)

“We believe that this event will portray not only the importance of core topics like sustainability but also how these are seen and portrayed through the lenses of MSU students from different countries but also from diverse majors,” said Flor Vega-Castillo, the vice president of MSU’s chapter of the United Nations Association and an international graduate student from Peru. “I will be leading the panel of MSU graduate students from North and South America, Western Asia, South Asia and West Africa, and I am very excited about hearing from them and learning how their experiences and aspirations align with some (Sustainable Development Goals).”

The April 28 session, titled “Global Voices: Perspectives from Around the World,” will feature presenters from various countries including Lebanon, Peru and Turkey, sharing their unique experiences and offering a glimpse into their cultures and traditions. The event will also feature stations where students will display cultural items and educational materials. 

“The upcoming ‘Building Bridges’ event presents an exciting opportunity for attendees to engage in meaningful conversations and learn from diverse perspectives from around the world,” said Bakhos, who is a Fulbright Scholar from Lebanon and a graduate assistant in the Office of International Programs. “We are thrilled to see such initiatives that promote cultural understanding and education, and we believe this event will help create a more interconnected and harmonious global community.”

The event is also sponsored by the MSU Diversity and Inclusion Student Commons.

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