International Education Week: Feb. 14 – 18, 2022


by CPH’s International Studies Students

Global Engagement Begins at Home

This year’s keynote speaker, Mary Akpovi, who was born in Nigeria but has lived most of her life in California, inspired us to be both local and global citizens. While Akpovi has spent most of her career in public accounting, her true passion, in recent years, has been charity work. Having been involved with several charity organizations here in the United States and abroad, she has a lot of wisdom to offer.  

Photo courtesy of Mary Akpovi

In California, Akpovi was previously a board member for the Exceptional Children Foundation, an organization that provides services to children and adults with learning and developmental challenges. She also worked with Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, an organization that assists people experiencing homelessness. 

Her international work has been centered in Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Kenya. She has been instrumental in opening vocational training centers in these countries and continues to support several vocational schools, primarily in tailoring, catering and salon care. 

When asked where her passion for charity work comes from, she said it was the support she received in her own life, from her father, her religion, and from others.  Now, she is paying it forward by mentoring, and it is at the heart of everything she does. In her opinion, it is one of the best investments a person can make. She hopes participants got the overall message that everyone has potential. That potential can be fostered by encouraging one another, being intentional, and “staying in your lane,” a phrase that Akpovi holds close to her heart.

by Rachel Hood

Movement and Identity

In light of forced displacements, violence, and complex geo-political issues, Dr Tani Sebro (PSCI) explored the cultural performances that have served the critical function of Myanmar’s refugee population in her session “Aesthetic Nationalism: The Dance of War and Exile along the Thai-Myanmar border.” 

In the context of conflict and exile, music, dance, and the performing arts play a pivotal role in creating a sense of national and community, according to Sebro. As a cultural ethnographer who also underwent training in the traditional performance arts called Jaad Thai, Sebro was able to experience how dance and performing arts made life possible outside the contemporary nation-state system for exiled people. In essence, physically synchronized rhythmic movement promotes a strong sense of unity within all cultures, religions, and nations. It also holds potential for expressing ethnic identity for refugees, especially for the Tai living in a time of danger.  

by Johnny Mendoza

IEW Highlights Black Voices 

On Feb. 14, Professor Maxwell Schnurer kicked off International Education Week with a presentation about the music and activism of Fela Aníkúlápó Kuti, a Nigerian Pan-Africanist and musician. 

During his life, Kuti reinvented African culture as a revolutionary act to subvert colonialism and reassert his autonomy as a Black person. “I never thought about it, being African as such,” Kuti said in an interview from the 1970s. “It didn’t mean anything to me until much later in my life.”

Schnurer deconstructed the sociology of colonialism to provide a framework for cultural appropriation, a phenomenon that exploits indigenous Black cultures in particular. Colonialism is a kind of discourse that perpetuates a narrative of European superiority. 

“You’re born out of the womb into a world of discourse,” Schnurer said. “Your grandparents, your aunts and uncles had language on this planet, before you arrived.” 

Umoja Center for Pan-African Academic Excellence Coordinator and International Studies alumnus Doug Smith also spoke, sharing his ongoing master’s research about Pan-African identity. 

“For many people of color, the use of English as a language, as a means of communication, is very tied into their history and engagement with colonialism and settler colonialism,” Smith said. 

by Emma Roberts and Lex Valtenbergs 

Levels of Connection

International Education Week helps inform us about the issues that connect us wherever we are in the world; two presentations made this point very clear. 

COVID-19 is perhaps the most immediate example of how globalization affects our daily lives. Economics professor Beth Wilson brought this idea closer to home by looking at the impact of the pandemic on education. 

Wilson’s information-packed presentation examined the different ways that the pandemic has affected the lives of one billion students worldwide, particularly in developing countries with little access to technology. Short term decisions made by local authorities will have long term economic consequences Wilson argued that “COVID-19 is the biggest education disruption in history.”  

To finish out the week and bringing the world back to Humboldt, alum Viridiana Preciado discussed the work done by the Sovereign Bodies Institute, an organization that helps locate missing and murdered Indigenous women. 

Preciado’s presentation highlighted the injustices that indigenous communities face on a daily basis and talked about the work SBI has done locally with the Yurok tribe and offered ways people can support this effort. She concluded her presentation by pointing out that she got her job after meeting the CEO of her organization at an IEW session two years ago. 

“I just followed my heart and introduced myself after the session. I told her I really wanted to help make a difference and here I am,” said Preciado. 

by Laura Gurney

Following the Flow: Coffee and Gold

We are very fortunate here at Cal Poly Humboldt to have professors who are passionate about the work they have done, and who want to share their knowledge and experience. International Education Week offers faculty from across the university the opportunity to showcase their work. 

Gordon Ulmer and Noah Zerbe traced the “social life” of two very different commodities economically and culturally. 

Together, they explored the impact of global markets for gold and food (and specifically for coffee) on local communities around the world. Each of these common goods ties together different social, cultural, political, and economic ideas. They also asked us to think about our own responsibility in that global exchange. 

“Starting my day with a cup of coffee connects us, connects me, connects all of us to these broader economic, political, cultural, environmental questions,” Zerbe said.  

by Abby Reina-Guerra 

Only 1% of College Students Study Abroad – Stand Out from the Crowd

Despite COVID-19 and lockdowns, Cal Poly Humboldt is beginning to plan for study abroad again. Five different sessions during International Education Week helped students prepare for their trips. Videos are available on the IEW website ( where you can hear from students about their own experiences; from budget planning and cell phone plans to what it was like to be a student of color in a strange place. 

Professors Matthew Dean and Joseph Diémé also hosted a session to talk about their Leon, Spain and Nantes, France programs scheduled to take place this summer. They discussed the appeal of faculty-led programs, including the ease of transferring credits and even the possibility of gaining a minor. More information can be found on the Humboldt Study Abroad website, which also includes information about other programs through the CSU or third-party providers. All programs are available to any student at Humboldt regardless of major. 

A final look at study abroad was presented by Jonathan Maiullo of College of the Redwoods, who discussed the importance of recognizing the impact you have in the communities where you travel. He stressed the importance of “responsible storytelling” as a way to share your experiences with others while respecting the culture you visit. If you are thinking study abroad is not for you because of cost, there are a number of scholarships with deadlines coming soon. 

Stand out from the crowd – study abroad:

by Debora Rios

A World of Love, Education and Grief

Kicking off on Valentine’s Day, it seemed natural for anthropologist Mary Scoggin to speak of love in the context of China.She discussed the many different ways in which we understand and express our affection, and how even our most cherished emotion is rooted in our own cultural history. 

Educating the next generation is deeply rooted in culture. Vincent Biondo, Department Chair of Religious Studies at Cal Poly Humboldt, talked about Islam and citizenship education in Europe. Biondo addressed the question of how Europe should respond to diversity and incoming migrant communities, specifically Muslims. Biondo argued that Europe should invest in schools that teach pro-social values. 

“There’s a lot of evidence that shows that people solidify their prejudices by the time they’re in middle school,” Biondo said. 

In other words, if one educates students at a younger age about diversity, communities would become more accepting. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Kerri Malloy of San Jose State discussed a workshop he was asked to help host in 2019 on promoting and protecting civil and human rights. That year the seminar was exclusively designed for members of the US civil service like ICE and FBI agents. Perhaps more importantly, it took place at the Auschwitz concentration camp as organizers felt there was no better place to talk about the erosion of human and civil rights. 

As Malloy showed multiple pictures of the camp, he asked his audience to consider these images not simply as foreign, but to think of places here in California that are also places of violence. 

As he repeatedly observed, “These places were built to last – they have a permanence – they mark the landscape forever.”   

by Haley Rodden and Cataleena Tchieng

Work Around the World 

International careers offer an extraordinary experience for anyone to branch out of their comfort zone and explore the world. Through your experience abroad you can gain a stronger understanding of other types of cultures, peoples, environments, and governments depending on the work you choose. People who work in an international setting are often pushed to confront extraordinary new elements that open any number of lifetime options. 

Careers extend from working on a campus to help students to build their own international experience. Nora Montoya of Cal Poly Humboldt’s Academic and Career Advising Center took time to work for the Peace Corps, and Ryan Gliha worked for the State Department. He has since spent his career helping build strong relationships between the United States and other nations around the world. Now, as the diplomat in residence for California, Gliha is helping students join the foreign service. 

Even while still in college there are ways to build a strong international profile. For example, the State Department has remote internships around the world and every government department hosts internships that could help you build your career. 

“International work is an opportunity like no other,” Gliha said. “It will change your life”. 

For support or more information contact ACAC and Nora Montoya (, John Keller, Peace Corps ( or Ryan Gliha, State Dept (

by Leslie Ortiz

About International Studies

Photo courtesy of the International Studies dept.

International studies is an interdisciplinary major that examines the drivers of globalization. The goal is to better understand the forces that shape the world so we can make changes in that world. Students study other languages and are required to study abroad as part of their own exploration of the interconnections between people and places local and global. 

International Education Week, now in its 23rd year at Humboldt, is a 1-unit colloquium crossed-listed by six majors and open to the community, but required for international majors. This year, IEW brought together faculty and staff from across Humboldt, California and the world via Zoom to present 30 hours of programming to well over 700 attendees. 

Students in this year’s international capstone class acted as hosts for each session and wrote this report of the week’s events. We are honored to be guest reporters for The Lumberjack and hope this helps you feel less distanced in a time of COVID-19. We are rooted in this community but still reaching for the world.

If you have any questions about IEW or international studies, my door is always open. 

Professor Alison Holmes ( 

International Education Week would like to thank its sponsors and all of our presenters. The full schedule and videos of sessions from 2022 (and 2021) can be found online:

International Studies Capstone Class Spring 2022
Laura Gurney, Rachel Hood, Johnny Medoza, Leslie Ortiz, Abby Reina Guerra, Debora Rios, Emma Roberts, Haley Rodden, Cataleena Tchieng, Lex Valtenbergs

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