International Week Highlights Global Reach

Cruz in a blue shirt in front of a vibrant yellow wallFor Betty Cruz, helping the region’s immigrant population has become her life’s work.

A daughter of immigrants, she earned a master’s degree in public administration at Pitt in 2011 and now is director of Change Agency, a local social enterprise. Its flagship project is All for All, which builds on efforts to welcome and support immigrants throughout Allegheny County.

“One general crosscutting challenge for immigrants is being able to make meaningful connections, the type that leads to increased opportunity and advancement,” said Cruz, who splits her time between community meetings and the agency’s working space in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. “We hear this from newcomers in general but it’s further amplified when you’re a person of color or an immigrant.”

Cruz’s work to create a welcoming community will be featured in Pitt’s International Week, which takes place Oct. 14-21. The annual event, which launched 15 years ago, is a weeklong celebration of Pitt’s global influence, showcasing Pitt’s multicultural diversity, the benefits of a global education and the University’s international accomplishments.

Hosted by Pitt’s University Center for International Studies (UCIS), this year’s events — with the theme of displacement — will provide a closer look at people’s forced migration due to climate, war or persecution. The week includes dozens of events, including workshops, musical performances, panel discussions, exhibitions and special guest speakers.

Takei in a gray suitCruz will help to facilitate a workshop, “Language Access for Migrants and Refugees,” on Thursday, Oct. 19, in 302 Cathedral of Learning. Language attainment, she said, is another roadblock facing immigrants, because many don’t have the luxury of time to commit to recurring classes, while still providing for their families.

Other highlights of the week include:

  • An Evening with George Takei, where the former "Star Trek" actor and activist will share his experience in a Japanese internment camp during World War II.
  • A talk by Julissa Arce, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico as a child and built a successful career on Wall Street.
  • Hidden Children of the Holocaust, a presentation by Keith Sachs (BUS '65), who will share the legacy of his late wife Renée L. Sachs, one of a small group of Jewish children in Europe who survived the Holocaust.
  • A select series of films focusing on the displacement theme from different angles.

“By structuring several events around a core theme, we are able to connect this critical world issue to the campus community, educating all students — not just those who choose to study abroad or pursue a certificate through UCIS,” said UCIS director Ariel Armony, also Pitt’s vice provost of global affairs. UCIS staff will have informational tables at many International Week events. 

Pitt’s Study Abroad Program played a key part in organizing the Global Engagement Fair as well as the Global Drop-in Hours and the Global Company Tour. The “tour” provides students with the opportunity to meet employers, company representatives and Pitt alumni who can help them consider ways to launch a global career.

Hailu in a purple shirt That’s just what Pitt junior Eden Hailu wants to investigate. Participating in the Pitt in Tanzania program this past summer was “an eye-opener,” said the Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, resident.

Even before she began pursuing a certificate in African studies, Hailu had a special interest in the education of young girls in rural parts of East Africa. In Tanzania, she learned that, typically, household chores such as cooking and cleaning are girls’ responsibility, which leaves them little time for studies.

Hailu’s five weeks in Iringa, Tanzania — interviewing students and professors about education roadblocks facing young women, speaking Swahili and enjoying the town’s fruit markets, baskets and colorful textiles — affirmed her research focus and desire to work in East Africa.

“I was trying new things every day, like forcing myself not to use English, but to start up conversations with people in Swahili,” she said, adding that the experience did wonders for her self-confidence.

“Now I want tips on how to use my experience to my advantage when I apply for jobs,” said Hailu, who spends 10 hours a week interning in the Study Abroad Program office at the William Pitt Union.

It’s a classic example of Pitt’s impact on a young person and their globally focused skills, Armony said, and the value of this week, which coincides with the federally endorsed International Education Week.

“There are more schools and units collaborating on International Week than ever before,” he said. “International Week now reaches almost all corners of campus, and we’re hoping that’s just the beginning.”

Highlights of Other Recent Global Initiatives at Pitt

The new student platform myPittGlobal is a single point of entry for students for all international programming and courses.

Pitt to You is a new program that sends current Pitt students to foreign countries to bond with new incoming international students.

Pitt faculty members now have a new platform for managing and streamlining the process for international partnership agreements.