Nestled on what was once a Georgia experiment station, the University of Georgia Griffin campus has evolved since those early days to embrace a multicultural, international community of researchers from all across the globe.
The modest, 123-acre campus is home to more than 300 faculty, students and staff representing nearly 30 different countries — all coming together in one place to pursue their passions.
To celebrate this abundant cultural diversity and enhance the local sense of community on campus, the Griffin Student Advisory Council (SAC) decided to organize an international potluck dinner, dubbed Taste of Nations, as a way to unite people around a common connection — food.
Made up of graduate students from UGA's Center for Food Safety, including SAC president Ikechukwu Oguadinma, vice president Revati Narwankar, treasurer Rawane Raad, secretary Julianna Morris and advisors Misty Smith, Lee Taylor and Cherry Rawlins, the team encouraged faculty, students and staff from all cultures to share foods inspired by their native cuisines at the event, which was held in March.
“We wanted to celebrate the cultural richness on campus and bond over food,” Oguadinma said.
Attendees dressed in cultural attire gathered for the event, which was hung with flags from the home nations of the international community on campus. Tables were festooned with more flags and with “passports” that served as ice breakers: Each attendee was encouraged to talk to as many others as possible at the event to get their passports “stamped” with the other person’s home country. A slide presentation flicked across a big screen, offering interesting cultural facts about all of the nations represented while attendees played a rousing game of Kahoot, all designed to both entertain and educate, Oguadinma said.
“It was important for us that when they walked in they saw their flag,” said Smith. “You could see them look around the room to find it.”
Then there was the food.
Oguadinma, a native of Nigeria, brought jollof — rice steamed in tomatoes — a side of fried plantains, and a “hunters platter” featuring lamb and goat. SAC member and graduate student Rawane Raad brought Lebanese stuffed grape leaves and mankoush — also known as mankousheh and manakish — which she compared to pizza with thyme, sesame and olive oil.
Oguadinma and Raad said participants enjoyed trying the global sampling of foods, adding that the foods from Mexico and Nepal were hits at the party.
Both Oguadinma and Raad have have helped students from their native countries discover the path to becoming international students and were pleased to see that the event helped to unite the Griffin community more deeply. Organizers hope to make Taste of Nations an annual event that will continue to grow.
Raad, who hails from a small town in Lebanon, praised the Griffin campus as an easy place to study and to be involved in the community. Oguadinma, too, feels an affinity for the area.
“We want people to get involved and to enjoy the community,” Oguadinma said. “They don’t have to go to the Athens campus to have these experiences. They can have them right here in Griffin.”