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Coming of Age Ceremony Brings Japanese Tradition, Pittsburgh Community Together

Most of the Japanese students hadn’t packed colorful and elaborate kimonos in their suitcases when they came to Pittsburgh — they were limited to carrying one bag apiece.

About 25 students from Yasuda Women’s University in Hiroshima, who were at the University of Pittsburgh for five months learning English, were away from home in January, missing out on the annual Coming of Age ceremony, a national holiday in Japan.

So, Pitt’s Asian Studies Center threw a party — kimonos included.

“This Coming of Age ceremony seems like the perfect confluence of the University, our Japanese students and the community to celebrate together,” said Lynn Kawaratani, the center’s acting associate director. Members of the Pittsburgh community, the Japanese Nationality Room Committee and the Japan America Society of Pennsylvania all loaned kimonos for the students to wear. The Asian Studies Center has been partnering with Pitt’s English Language Institute for about a year, developing programming for these international students as well as Pitt students.

The age of 20 is considered the beginning of adulthood in Japan, and the national holiday — with roots dating to 714 A.D. — officially recognizes this transition in grand style. Preparations for the Pittsburgh ceremony began in the early afternoon of Jan. 10 as the women began arriving at the University Club’s Gold Room to be dressed in silk kimonos.

Kimono dressing, or kitsuke, is an art unto itself. Pitt alumnus Evan Mason, who graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Japanese and anthropology, is an expert and scholar of kitsuke. He joined several Japanese women from the Pittsburgh area in quickly and efficiently outfitting the women by wrapping, tucking and folding the kimono’s colorful silk layers. The first step is an under-kimono. A narrow sash is put through a wide loop that extends from its collar and wraps around the body. Then, the main silk garment is put on and the length adjusted. Wooden clothespins are temporarily clipped onto the garment as at least three narrow sashes are wrapped around the body and knotted.

“They hold the garment in place,” said Mason. “We have no buttons, snaps or zippers.”

The stiff sash called the obi is wrapped around the middle of the body with another layer and sash on top. Then, more tucking and smoothing out of the fabric. Next, the musubi, the decorative bow on the back of the garment, is knotted in place. It took three people nearly 30 minutes to outfit one woman. As they finished being dressed, the women retreated to a nearby alcove to do their hair and makeup, some applying colorful hair ornaments.

“Now I feel more confident,” Yasuda student Nika Tanimoto said at the ceremony.

Participant Aarthi Pookot, a Pitt freshman majoring in Japanese, demonstrated Japanese calligraphy on a large banner. “I wrote ‘Congratulations, new adults,'” she said.

“I realize I have more responsibility now,” said Yasuda student Manami Wada, as she was handed a bouquet of flowers. “I have to become independent. I can’t rely on my parents anymore.”

Though many of the participants chose to wear kimonos, others opted for dressy Western-style attire. In addition to the Yasuda students, Pitt students who are learning Japanese and Japanese exchange students at Chatham University were encouraged to take part. The students each walked to the stage and accepted a small gift. An easel in the room displayed a large photo of a cherry blossom tree, its lower branches bedecked with pink ribbons, that was planted in Pittsburgh’s North Park by members of the Pittsburgh Sakura Project as a gift to the visiting students.

“So many people support me here in Pittsburgh,” said Nanami Moriyasu, a Yasuda student majoring in English literature. “This ceremony was satisfying.”

Pitt Among Top Fulbright Grant Producers

The University of Pittsburgh is one of the nation’s top producers of Fulbright students and scholars for the 2017-18 academic year, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Pitt is among only 16 institutions in the country to be named a top producer in both the Fulbright U.S. Student and Scholar programs. The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Its U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study and research projects for English Teaching Assistant Programs. The U.S. Scholar Program offers awards for teaching, research or both in over 125 countries to college and university faculty as well as other professionals. Pitt affiliates earned 10 student and six scholar awards this year.

The Chronicle of Higher Education highlighted the achievement on Sunday.

“This designation, which just 15 other institutions across the nation received, speaks to the University of Pittsburgh’s extraordinary capacity to attract student scholars,” says Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “We are proud of their success and grateful that they are helping to advance Pitt’s mission of leveraging knowledge for society’s gain.”

This is the seventh time in eight years Pitt has earned this distinction for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

“We are extremely proud of our students’ success with Fulbright scholarships,” says Brian Primack, dean of the University Honors College. “The fact that we consistently maintain our status as a Top Producing Institution demonstrates Pitt’s commitment not only to high quality instruction and research but also extending our global reach.”

Eight Pitt alumni are currently on Fulbright English Teaching Assistant grants in host countries around the world: Tiffani Anne Humble and Amber Montgomery in Jordan, Melissa Kukowski in South Korea and Marjorie Tolsdorf in Russia, while John McGovern, Daniel Snyder, Sophia Winston and Benjamin Zhu are teaching in Brazil.

Two Pitt graduate students — Emilie Rose Coakley and Trevor Thomas Wilson — are on Fulbright research grants in Indonesia and Russia.

Pitt also was the only Pennsylvania institution on the list of top producing Fulbright U.S. Scholars. They are:

  • Caitlin Bruce of the Department of Communication within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences is researching a project called Citizens Voices in Aerosol: Leon’s Graffiti Worlds at the Ibero-American University in Mexico.
  • Lauren Jonkman of the School of Pharmacy will support teaching and research at a primary clinical pharmacy practice at the University of Namibia School of Pharmacy.
  • Lisa Maillart of the Swanson School of Engineering last fall lectured and conducted research on Markov decision models for health care maintenance optimization at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.
  • Mary Rauktis of the School of Social Work last fall lectured and conducted research on measuring the restrictiveness of living environments at out-of-home care for children and youth at the University of Porto in Portugal.
  • Vanessa Sterling of Pitt Study Abroad and the University Center for International Studies will attend the Fulbright’s U.S.-Taiwan International Education Administrators Program in Taipei, Taiwan, this spring.
  • Amy Williams of the Department of Music within the Dietrich School is lecturing and researching a project called Two Music Courses and an Original Song Cycle in Irish at University College Cork in Ireland.
Studying Migration, Refugee Issues at Oxford University, Alumna Draws on Personal History

Migration and the experience of refugees have played a large role in Bhavini Patel’s (A&S ’16) life.

It's a role that's informed her educational choices and shaped her career goals, driving her to pursue an Oxford University scholarship and to plan a return to Pittsburgh to help the city's immigrants.

The daughter of an immigrant herself, Patel spent most of her childhood in multicultural neighborhoods throughout the United States, which were bustling with people “adjusting or blending in with the American fabric of ‘normal,’” she said.

Her mother, who came to the U.S. from India, moved the family around the country, depending on where she could find work. Among the communities they lived in, Patel said “there was a pure sense of joy in that experience of community bonding.”

There were also worries, however — of deportation, of finding well-paying work, of fitting in to their new country. Those fears left a mark on young Patel, who came to Pitt to triple major in international and area studiessociology and Africana studies. She also earned a certificate in African studies.

As a first-generation student at Pitt, she began researching responses to migration and refugees in the African diaspora. Through college, she also served as editor-in-chief of the Pittsburgh Undergraduate Review, was a member of the Student Health Advisory Board and volunteered as a tutor at the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.

“I was familiar with Pitt's emphasis on staying connected to the community through service-based learning. This was appealing to me as an avenue to practically apply the skills and knowledge I would gain through coursework,” she said.

Working with the University Honors College’s Community-based Research Fellowships, now called the Academic Community-based Transdisciplinary Research Fellowships, Patel also worked with local faith-based and non-profit
organizations to advocate for health care access for Pittsburgh’s African immigrant community. What’s more, Patel became proficient in Swahili.

As she finished her time at the University, Patel interviewed for the prestigious Rhodes scholarship to continue her studies in United Kingdom. While the interview didn’t turn out the way she’d hoped, Patel was determined to study at Oxford University anyway.

She applied to the university independently of the scholarship, hoping to earn a Master of Philosophy degree in international relations with a focus on refugee and migration issues, and was accepted. But then came the challenge of paying for the schooling. That’s where Jeff Klink and the Global Grant Scholarships for Rotary District 7300 came in.

“She was extremely focused on what she wanted to do,” said Klink, who facilitates the Western Pennsylvania scholarship program. The funds will help pay her room and board, as well as other living and studying costs.

Patel’s ultimate goal is to return to Pittsburgh and help the groups she’s also enmeshed herself with. She remains a board member of Civically, a Wilkinsburg-based nonprofit organization committed to fostering self-reliance among residents and contributing to regional economic growth. She’s also a founding member of the Alliance for South Asians in Pittsburgh, a collective that represents and advocates for the needs of the South Asian community in Pittsburgh. According to Pitt's Center on Race and Social Problems, about 70 percent of Pittsburgh citizens of
Asian descent are foreign-born and may face challenges similar to those Patel saw throughout her childhood communities.

“Her passion for social work and social justice is very evident, and she shows it in the way she works,” said Bibhuti Aryal, the chair of the Governor's Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs who has worked with Patel. “She always learns something from others, and she applies that into practice.”

Patel credited Pitt with providing an environment to delve deeply into the issues she cares most about.

“Pitt ultimately helped me find and refine my voice on issues I am passionate about as well as gave me the courage to translate my thoughts into effective action,” Patel said.

Marcela Gonzalez Rivas Creates Partnership Connecting Local and Global Issues

Assistant Professor Marcela Gonzalez Rivas, PhD, from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs is partnering with the Nine Mile Run Watershed Authority to provide a real-life learning laboratory for students and international visitors.

CLAS Alumni Named Fulbright English Teaching Assistants

Three recent recipients of Certificates in Latin American Studies, John McGovern, Daniel Snyder, and Sophia Winston, will serve as Fulbright English teaching assistants in Brazil.

John McGovern, of Media, Pennsylvania, is a 2016 graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a Portuguese minor. He will be a teaching assistant in São Leopoldo, Rio Grande do Sul at UNISOS (Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos).

Daniel Snyder, of Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, is a 2017 graduate with a Bachelor of Science in economics and a Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic languages and literatures, and a Portuguese minor. He will be a teaching assistant at Universidade Federal do Piauí (UFPI)/Federal University of Piauí.

Sophia Winston, of Merion, Pennsylvania, is a 2016 graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and in urban studies, and a Portuguese minor. She will be a teaching assistant at Viçosa, Minas Gerais at the Federal University of Viçosa.

UCIS Staff Receive Chancellor’s Award

Two members of the University Center for International Studies are 2017 Chancellor’s Staff Award recipients.

Katherine von Lehman, compliance coordinator in the Office of International Services, will receive the Award in the Innovation in Advancing Administrative and Operational Efficiency. Sarah Wagner, director of the Vira I. Heinz Program, will receive the Excellent Mentor Award.

The Innovation in Advancing Administrative and Operational Efficiency Award recognizes staff members who have made exceptional contributions toward effectiveness and efficiency in the workplace, including implementation of innovative approaches to improving productivity or developing cost-saving plans.

Von Lehman has been with Pitt’s Office of International Services since 2011. Chancellor Gallagher lauded her dedication in implementing and customizing the Sunapsis database, streamlining a previously paper-based system for submitting and tracking immigration documentation. Her efforts improved processing times for multiple tasks, including a reduction from three-to-four weeks to eight days for initial student documents.

“Your work has played an important role in helping the University position itself as a leader in international education,” said Gallagher.

The Excellent Mentor Award recognizes staff members who serve as role models and mentors to their colleagues, helping them to develop or improve their skills, acclimate to new positions, or learn new processes so that they can achieve success in their careers at Pitt.

Wagner has been director of the Vira I. Heinz Program for the two years, previously serving as the program’s coordinator since 2008. As she administers the program at 15 member institutions, one of her many responsibilities is to provide guidance and mentorship to program coordinators. She also plans and executes fall and spring leadership retreats for VIH scholars, who are new to study abroad opportunities. 

Chancellor Gallagher emphasized Wagner’s impact on her colleagues’ careers as she encourages them to develop the skills they need to succeed. He
also highlighted the program’s impact upon students at Pitt’s regional campuses, “opportunities they would not have had if you did not provide guidance and support to the Regional Campus Program Coordinators,” he said.

The awards will be officially presented at a ceremony on December 14, 2017. Both von Lehman and Wagner will receive monetary awards and will be included on a permanent plaque displayed in William Pitt Union.

Kudos for Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership

The Vira I. Heinz (VIH) Program for Women in Global Leadership received an honorable mention for the Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion in International Education (EDIIE) Awards institutional category in recognition of its commitment to prepare female students, who have never been abroad, for tomorrow’s global challenges. The award was presented at the 5th Annual Diversity Abroad Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on March 22, 2017. 

The EDIIE honorable mention recognizes the VIH Program’s innovative on and off campus partnerships, curriculum, programming, and outreach that increases access and fosters diversity and inclusion in international education and exchange for targeted female students. Funded by The Heinz Endowments, the VIH Program offers an unparalleled opportunity for international experiences, leadership development, and community service. Every year, a cohort of 45 awardees is admitted into the leadership development program and receive a scholarship to fund a summer international experience, which may include study abroad. The Program has a proven success rate for attracting and retaining diverse students, who develop linguistic, technical, and cultural skills.

The annual EDIIE Awards are granted by the Diversity Abroad Network, the leading professional consortium of educational institutions, government agencies, for-profit and non-profit organizations dedicated to advancing diversity and inclusion in global education. Diversity Abroad awards highlight outstanding achievements of institutions and organizations that have developed practices that either foster diversity and inclusion in international education and exchange or promotes an inclusive environment for international students on campus.

2016-2017 Sheth International Achievement Awards Announced

Awards Ceremony at the University of Pittsburgh on Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Jump to Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu.

Pitt Nursing Professor Richard Henker recognized for promoting best practices and academic exchanges in Nurse Anesthesia in Asia and Latin America

March 3, 2017 – University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing Professor Richard Henker, PhD, RN, CRNA, FAAN, is a leading researcher and practitioner in nurse anesthesia. Dr. Henker has devoted his career to the promotion of best practices for nurse anesthetists, both in the US and overseas, providing academic and technical assistance to universities and governments around the world. He is also a respected voice in the study of risk factors in pre- and post-operative situations as well as an expert in team performance.

In recognition of his academic and professional contributions to furthering international education in the field of nursing, Dr. Henker is to be awarded the 2016-2017 Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement.  Dr. Henker will receive his award at a reception at the University of Pittsburgh on Wednesday, April 5, 2017.

A native of Wisconsin, Dr. Henker has established a series of academic exchanges and professional activities to promote nurse anesthesia in Southeast Asia and Latin America. He developed clinical rotation programs for Pitt students at Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap, Cambodia, a country where he also developed nursing practice guidelines in collaboration with the country’s public health authorities. In Thailand, Dr. Henker lectured on teaching methods at Siriraj Hospital Mahidol University and contributed to faculty development at the Boromarajonani College of Nursing. In addition, he helped to forge academic exchanges with Harbin Medical University in China. In Japan, Dr. Henker delivered a series of invited lectures on simulation and advanced practice nursing at a dozen universities. In Belize, he represented Health Volunteers Overseas to develop a nurse anesthesia program.

Dr. Henker’s research focuses on risk factors for the development of opioid-induced side effects in postoperative patients, with specific interest in genotypes that affect post operative pain responses, development of persistent postoperative pain, opioid induced respiratory depression, opioid induced sedation, and postoperative side effects.  His research also includes the evaluation of simulation teaching methods including team performance, and temperature measurement during the perioperative period.

His professional service includes positions as a member of the American Nurses Association Committee on Nursing Practice Standards and Guidelines, Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee for the Nurse Anesthesia Overseas section of Health Volunteers Overseas organization, and the Program Director for the Cambodia and Bhutan Nurse Anesthesia Overseas sites. His teaching acumen at the University of Pittsburgh has been recognized with the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006 and School of Nursing Dean’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1998.

Dr. Henker holds a BS degree in Nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a Master of Science in Medical-Surgical Nursing from the University of Arizona, a Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia from the University of Pittsburgh, and a PhD in Nursing Science from the University of Washington. He currently teaches nurse anesthesia at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, with faculty practice at UPMC-Presbyterian. He is also a clinical preceptor for nurse anesthesia students at UPMC-Presbyterian, Angkor Hospital for Children, and Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital. 

 

 

Law School Alumna Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu from the Republic of Kosova Promotes Democracy and Human Rights

Pitt School of Law alumna Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu achieved success at a young age and did so while working in the traditionally men’s world of politics in the Republic of Kosovo.  Since graduating two years ago with a SJD in Law, Dr. Osmani-Sadriu has become a respected voice in Kosovo’s political circles as well as in international organizations.  She has the distinction of receiving more votes than any other women in the history of parliamentary elections in Kosovo and she was the second-most voted for official in her party, the Democratic League of Kosovo.

In recognition of her academic and professional accomplishments in the establishment and consolidation of democracy and human rights in her homeland, Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu is to be awarded the 2016-2017 Sheth International Young Alumni Achievement Award.  Dr. Osmani-Sadriu will receive her award at a reception at the University of Pittsburgh on Wednesday, April 5, 2017.

A native of Prishtina in Kosovo, Dr. Osmani-Sadriu served in roles as Chief of Staff, Foreign Policy Advisor, and Legal Counsel to the President of the Republic of Kosovo from 2006 to 2010.  During this period, she was the President’s representative on the Constitutional Commission, the body that drafted the first Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo.  She was also a member of the legal team at the International Court of Justice in the advisory proceedings related to Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence.

In 2011, Dr. Osmani-Sadriu was elected to the national parliament of the Republic of Kosovo and is now completing her second term in office. As a member of parliament, she has served as Chair of the Committee for European Integration and Vice Chair of the Committee for Constitutional Reforms in Kosovo. The European Parliament has adopted a Resolution recognizing and welcoming the initiatives developed by Dr. Osmani-Sadriu to foster cross-party dialog. In addition, the United Nations Development Program named her the 2011 Social Inclusion Champion for her role advocating for social inclusion and welfare in Kosovo.  

Dr. Osmani-Sadriu holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Prishtina, and Masters and Doctorate degrees from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. She currently teaches at the University of Prishtina, at the American College of Kosovo, and at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law as a Visiting Professor. Her research focuses on the rule of law, foreign policy, human rights, and social and equality issues.

About the Sheth International Awards:

Founded in 2012, the Sheth International Awards are a result of a gift from Madhuri and Dr. Jagdish N. Sheth (Business ‘62G, ‘66G) through the Sheth Family Foundation.  The awards are administered by the University Center for International Studies at Pitt. The Sheth International Young Alumni Achievement Award acknowledges a University of Pittsburgh alumnus for contributions to the international community through professional achievement and societal impact.  The Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement recognizes the contributions of a current University of Pittsburgh faculty member to furthering international education.

Graduate Student Sloane Davidson Helping Refugee Resettlement

“How You Can Help Refugees in the United States” is the headline of the New York Times article on February 17, 2017 in which Pitt student Sloane Davidson’s refugee resettlement efforts are featured. Ms. Davidson has created a national database to promote refugee resettlement and immigration service agencies in the Pittsburgh region. She is also building a website—Hello Neighbor—to pair volunteers with arriving refugees.   

Ms. Davidson is looking for “a diverse group of passionate neighbors” with a “figure it out as we go” attitude to act as mentors to refugees coming to Pittsburgh. The Hello Neighbor website is accepting financial donations that directly support refugee resettlement and foster the mission to build bridges and breakdown barriers. Sloane Davidson is a Master’s in Public Affairs student at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh.

Fulbright Scholar Grant Awarded to Vanessa Sterling

Vanessa Sterling, Associate Director at the Study Abroad Office, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to participate in the 2017 Fulbright International Education Administrators seminar in Taiwan. For two weeks in March 2017, Dr. Sterling will join a team of 12 US colleagues who will attend briefings with faculty and administration, government officials, and leading educational experts at public and private institutions. The program includes campus visits to a cross-section of Taiwanese universities and colleges, and tours of historical and cultural sites. She will also have an opportunity to connect with a Pitt student currently on a study abroad exchange program at National Taiwan University.

The two-week intensive seminar is designed for US international education professionals and senior-level university administrators whose current role includes a substantial responsibility for enhancing the international dimension of their campus. As a Fulbirght Scholar, Dr. Sterling will have the opportunity to learn more about the Taiwanese education system and make connections with peers at universities and colleges in Taiwan. She will return to Pitt with an enhanced ability to encourage prospective study-abroad students as well as a new networks of US and international colleagues.