by Courtney Corbetta
Last year, Niagara University welcomed Dr. Abdiwelli Ali to campus to talk about his time as prime minister of Somalia, and his experiences in rebuilding his nation.
This year, Niagara is upping the ante, with plans to showcase the campus community's Vincentian impact throughout the entire world.
The university will hold an international celebration on Nov. 21 with events throughout the campus. "Niagara Reaches Out to the World" will consist of presentations, panel discussions, food and entertainment.
"It's not often that a student can say that they have been taught by an ex-prime minister of a country," says Dr. Peggy Choong, associate professor of marketing at Niagara University. "This event will serve to inspire students as they learn about the tremendous impact that Niagara University has made in the world. It is such a privilege to be able to help organize such a celebration of our mission."
The one-day summit will commence with panel discussions throughout the campus. Niagara's philosophy students will be featured on the panels as they discuss their experiences and perspectives as students making a difference in the global community.
Dr. Amelia Gallagher, associate professor in the department of religious studies, states, "So many students in the Ph.D. program already have so much experience; they're coming to this with a lot of diverse backgrounds, a lot of international experience."
Throughout the day, students will be able to participate in table talks with community organizations. Groups such as the Global African Village and the Somali Bantu Community will be stationed in the Gallagher Center explaining to students how contributions can be made.
Students will be given the opportunity to take part in international music with the LAMPI KER Drum Circle. Basic drum rhythms and songs as well as the history of drums and drumming in Western Africa will be presented. Caribbean Extravaganza, a steel drum band from Trinidad, will also perform that day.
Shemika Charles, also known as the "Limbo Queen," is a member of the band. She holds the world limbo record and has appeared on the morning show "LIVE with Regis and Kelly."
The event will conclude with the keynote reception from 5:40 until 8:30 p.m. in the Castellani Art Museum. Niagara welcomes guest speakers the Rev. Sy Peterka and Edward Brennan to share their experiences with the global community. Peterka has practiced Vincentian work in Africa. He is also the chair of Build Fellowship, an organization developed to assist people in recovery. Brennan is a 1978 College of Business graduate from NU. He is the cofounder and chairman of the Hand in Hand for Haiti Charity. The organization's goal is to raise money and build schools for Haiti following the 2011 earthquake.
"We are so happy to welcome him back on campus, because he is a successful alumni, and he has impacted communities significantly," Choong says.
Niagara faculty and staff have been busy planning this event for many months. The late Dr. Brian Martin Murphy, chair and associate professor in the communication studies department, contributed to the event in many ways before his sudden passing this past summer.
"He was the one that planned the first showcasing of Ali's importance as prime minister of Somalia," Choong says. Throughout his time spent in Africa, Ali internationalized the Vincentian mission by creating a parliament for a country in need.
Murphy traveled to South Africa and spent most of his time studying the politics and the state of African nations.
"Brian was so involved in African issues because he witnessed the hardships that many people faced there," says Mark Barner, chair of the communication studies department. "He dedicated a large part of his life to helping get their stories out to the rest of the world so that things might change for the better there."
NU plans to make "Niagara Reaches Out to the World" an annual event during the school's International Week. Faculty, staff, students and the public are encouraged to attend and support this globalized Vincentian tradition.