Potluck celebrates international diversity at St. Kate’s

Photo of the St. Catherine International Student Organization (SCISO) at their annual International Potluck, an evening of education, fun, and entertainment to showcase all of the cultures represented at St. Kate's.

Katies from Zimbabwe: SCISO president Makabongwe "Maka" Ngulube '16 and club liaison Nicole Chimbetete '16. Photo by Pauline Oo.

Each year, students in colorful traditional clothing welcome guests to the International Potluck hosted by the St. Catherine International Student Organization (SCISO). This year was no different. About 35 students toting flags in an opening procession hailed from a host of countries, including Germany, Honduras, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

“We’ve been planning this event since February,” says Linh Nhu ’17, the SCISO treasurer from Vietnam. “And we’re very happy with the attendance. More than 350 people are here tonight — and I know this because we ran out of plates!”

Nhu, who is also the president of St. Kate’s Southeast Asian Student Association (SEASA), notes that the free public event is an opportunity for students to share their culture with the broader community and, more importantly, to learn leadership and event planning skills.

“When I first arrived on campus, I was confused [by the American way of doing things] and didn’t feel like I fit in,” she explains, “but then I went to a SCISO meeting and felt right at home. SCISO is open to everyone. You don’t have to be an international student to join. You just have to have an interest in other cultures.”

Guest were treated to 13 performances, including a poem by SCISO president Makabongwe Ngulube ’16, a “Wisconsin Milk Song” by Olivia Kopecky ’16, an Indonesian dance by the SEASA club and Taiko drumming by St. Kate’s Taiko Ensemble.

Festivities aside, the evening was tinged with a little sadness. It was Norah Hoff’s last potluck. Hoff, associate director of Multicultural and International Programs & Services (MIPS) and SCISO advisor since 1996, is retiring from St. Kate’s in June. The SCISO board, along with Hoff’s boss, paid tribute to her three-fourths of the way through the evening.

“How many of you know Norah?” asked MIPS director Donna Hauer — to which nearly half the people in the audience raised their hands. “Norah has been at St. Kate’s for 23 years, and she’s been organizing this potluck for 20 of those years. She makes it all look so easy with all the students. Norah, you will be greatly missed.”

Like years past, Hoff could be seen tirelessly working alongside her students. (For example, she was among the volunteers serving dinner — a bountiful mix of Chinese, Indian, African, Mexican and Hispanic dishes — catered from four local restaurants.) And cheerfully mingling with guests, who included American families in St. Kate’s Friendship Family Program.

There are 48 international students, including three semester or 12-month exchange students, attending St. Catherine University this 2015–16 academic year.

See more photos on St. Kate’s Flickr.

By Pauline Oo