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Conference brings world diplomats to campus: Conference opens with free International and Intercultural Food Festival
Brie Maaske
Antelope Staff

The whole world is coming right here to UNK.

Next week, March 7–9, UNK will be hosting the annual James E. Smith Midwest Conference on World Affairs. This year’s conference is titled, “Creating Hope, Positive Responses to Global Challenges.”

Delegates and consulates from all over the world will share their experiences with students and faculty including representatives from 16 embassies and consulates and Fulbright scholars from Oman, Finland, India and Vietnam.

Ann Marie Park, study abroad coordinator and coordinator of the World Affairs Conference said the Fulbright scholars will share their education and experiences from work completed in this highly prestigious government scholarship program.

Each year the conference brings in people from universities across the state as well as universities and agencies from abroad. “We have had Mary Robinson, who was a past president of Ireland. Each year the speakers are diplomats from embassies and consulates located here in the U.S., but they’re representing their homeland,” Park said.

The World Affairs Conference first began in 1964 to educate UNK’s students about other countries and the problems they are facing. “Being in the Midwest, in a landlocked state, we get so concentrated on our own lives and what’s going on around our immediate surroundings that we lose sight of what’s going on around the rest of the world,” Park said.

The conference begins at 4 p.m. on Sunday, with the Scott & Cheryl Morris International and Intercultural Food Festival in the Health and Sports Center where international students to gather together, prepare native foods, wear their native dress and do performances. Park said that this festival is open to the public, as well as UNK students and faculty.

There are speakers throughout the day on Monday and Tuesday, as well as key note speakers at night. Monday night Chris Abani, a Nigerian award winning author will speak at 7 p.m. in the Meriam Drake Theater in the Fine Arts building. Tuesday night will be Tamera Banks, a journalist from Colorado, who has had a great deal of international experience, especially in Sudan. She will be speaking at 7 p.m. as well, in the Pondarosa Room E.

Students not only have a chance to hear these delegates speak, they also have the chance to take them to lunch. Park says that students just need to contact Barbara Amundson, who will set them up with a delegate. Then on Monday, the students will meet in the union, be introduced to their delegate and be able to spend a lunch getting to know them.

Students can become involved in other ways. Park said she could always use more volunteers. “We have an information table that we will have in the Atrium of the student union, and it will have World Affairs Conference tablecloth. We like to have someone sitting there in case there’s a conference guest who has a question or if they need information,”  Park said.

Many of the conference speakers also make visits to classrooms to speak to students, and Park said they need people to be runners, to take the speakers to the classrooms.

For more information on volunteering or about the conference, contact Ann Marie Park at or visit


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