I - WORLD Spring 2016
Newsletter for Alumni and Friends of International House Philadelphia
International House Philadelphia
ta b l e o f contents 1
Projects for peace: Ravi Shrivastav
RESIDENT PROFILE: Kristine Alarcon
ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Tanya Storch
Dear IHP Alumni, Over the years, I’ve met a great number of you when you were students and scholars studying in Philadelphia. For many of you, it was your first time in Philadelphia and America. When you arrived at I-House, you brought more than luggage – you brought a desire to share your cultures and traditions, and diverse global perspectives, which is what makes our community so vibrant and enriching. Through your residential experience and numerous programs and activities, you learned that we are one community, a place where inclusion is a way of life.
I-World Editorial Staff Founding Editor
And when you left and moved on to the next exciting chapter in your lives, you knew that you would stay connected with your I-House friends for a lifetime. Many of you became supporters and ambassadors for I-House and its mission. Thank you!
Fatih Akay IHP alumnus (Turkey, 2000s)
Editor Shekeya Watkins Alumni Relations Manager Senior Writer
Matthew Doherty Director of Communications and Marketing
Graphic Designer Julio Perez Photographer
KOEUN KIM IHP Resident (South Korea)
Cover Photo: 2016 Alumni Reunion at International House Philadelphia, June 4, 2016.
In recent weeks, we said “goodbye” to many residents when they graduated, as you did before them. Now, we are already preparing for the fall semester, when students that are new to Philadelphia and I-House will discover 3701 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia for the first time. I can’t wait to meet them, and to create a wonderful experience for them with our I-House team of staff, board members and volunteers. There are so many ways that you, as alumni, can enhance the experience of our new and returning resident-members. One great way is by coming back and sharing your stories with them. So I invite you to return to I-House whenever you can to mentor our residents, to reconnect with your I-House friends, to reminisce about your memorable times here, and to network with other alumni and members of our Board of Trustees. I enjoyed seeing some of you at our recent Alumni Reunion in Philadelphia, and I hope that you will enjoy the photos and story about the reunion in this issue of I-World. As always, I invite you to join us at the many upcoming events and programs that we offer at International House throughout the year. I hope to see you soon. Sincerely,
Tanya Steinberg President & CEO, International House Philadelphia Treasurer, International Houses Worldwide Treasurer, Global Philadelphia Association
International House Philadelphia
Friends, Fun, History and Memories at the 2016 Alumni Reunion in Philadelphia There’s no place like this home. Everyone at the 2016 Alumni Reunion in Philadelphia on June 4 shared that sentiment and many fond memories as alumni, guests, current I-House residents, trustees and staff came together to celebrate the positive and enduring impact that International House has had in their lives. The alumni represented seven decades, from the 1950s through the 2010s, as well as 19 countries of origin. Some of them traveled from their homes in Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Maryland; Greencastle, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
The reunion was filled with opportunities to catch up with old friends during breakfast, walking tours of the House and Philadelphia, a picnic lunch on the outdoor patio, a cheerful cocktail hour at the new Innovation Plaza adjacent to I-House, and a delicious gourmet dinner that capped the festivities. Board Chairman and Alumnus Ludo Scheffer (The Netherlands, 1980s) welcomed everyone to the dinner and shared some of the highlights of his time at I-House, where he enjoyed his lifechanging experience. He recalled moving into International House in 1988 when he arrived for school. Ludo lived in J-House. “Fridays and Saturdays we cooked up a storm, which set off the fire alarms,” he admitted with a big smile. “This place enables you to start interacting in a very close environment with people that come from very different parts of the world. They may share similar ideas of what they want to accomplish, but they come with different ways of thinking about it,” Ludo continued. He recounted what it was like at I-House in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War. “We had Iranians, Iraqis and Kuwaitis in the building,” Ludo said. “They were the ones who helped all of us understand what was going on there and why it mattered. Different people from around the world and parts of the Middle East could actually live and work together (at I-House) and think about this in a way that people outside of our I-House community could not fathom.”
From left: Jennifer Scheuerman, Harry Kyriakodis, Liwen Ma, Beni Levy (Israel, resident) and Stefan Kratounov (Bulgaria, 2000s)
International House Philadelphia
IHP Chairman and Alumnus Ludo Scheffer (The Netherlands, 1980s)
From left: IHP President and CEO Tanya Steinberg and James Musoke (Uganda, 2000s)
Ludo, the first alumnus to serve as a Board Chairman, added that he even got married at I-House, where his wedding reception was held in the South America Room, the site of this year’s reunion dinner.
Ludo took a few moments to recognize the two guest speakers that represented the 1950s at the Reunion and shared their first-hand recollections, Chandrakant “Chuck” Gupta (India) and Enrico Lamet (Austria), who received warm applause.
Ludo noted that alumni from the 1970s had the distinction of being among the first to live at the newly-built International House on Chestnut Street after it opened in 1970. That decade produced the highest number of Reunion attendees this year, including Maria Basterra (Peru), Jan Colijn (The Netherlands), Jay and Marian Fishman (United States), Lisa Heyman (United States), Nadia Kuntz (Switzerland), and Dan Kurtzman (United States).
In his remarks, Chuck Gupta said, “Many people like me have been helped by International House.” Chuck started attending social programs at I-House after enrolling at Temple University. Over the years, he has remained a generous supporter of the organization and its mission to support international students when they come to America to pursue their academic dreams. Chuck, who created a scholarship fund for International House residents, urged his fellow alumni to support I-House.
Another distinguished alumnus from the 1970s, David Teece (United States), could not attend the Philadelphia Reunion, but Ludo announced that David generously contributed $5,000 toward the publication of a future book on the history of International House Philadelphia. The book is expected to focus on the recollections and memories of people who have lived at I-House over the years, with a planned publication date of 2020 – the 50th anniversary of the Chestnut Street building and the 110th anniversary of International House Philadelphia.
From left: Margot Rowley, Chandrakant Gupta (India, 1950s) and Felipe Cesar (Brazil, resident)
Before introducing Ludo, Tanya Steinberg said, “This is a very special night for us because it’s an opportunity to meet with so many of you. You touched our lives and I know that you’re here because International House made a difference in your lives as well.” Tanya added, “International House is an incredible place that brings people together under different circumstances, and after a while, all of the differences fall apart and people find and share common ground. They carry these friendships and experiences through their lifetime.”
From left: IHP Chairman and Alumnus Ludo Scheffer (The Netherlands, 1980s), Jan Colijn (The Netherlands, 1970s), Sarah Griffith and Daniel Kurtzman (United States, 1970s)
“For many of us, the impetus was to make a home away from home, which was very unique,” said Sarvelia, who served as a Resident Assistant. She recalled being part of a close-knit group of resident-leaders that cared very deeply for the House: “The mission of the House really resonated with us and we did a lot for it to live up to its potential.”
From left: Abraham Marthan (Morocco, 1960s) and Sarvelia PeraltaDuran (Mexico, 2000s) Throughout the day, alumni shared their recollections and perspectives on what makes International House unique. Jan Colijn, (The Netherlands, 1970s) was one of the first residents of the current I-House at 3701 Chestnut Street, which opened in 1970. He served as a Resident Fellow at a time when the building wasn’t completely finished. “We broke new ground with this building. Our job was to get this place and 400 people all together and to crank up the system of what we do here,” he said, adding that one of his fondest memories was playing Monopoly with friends from Egypt, Poland, Israel and France every Friday night. Jan, who retired two years ago after serving as a dean at Stockton University for a quarter century, currently resides in Philadelphia, not far from I-House. “The lasting friendships I made here have done a whole lot of good in my life,” he said. Richard Knebel (Norway, 2000s) and his wife, Cigdem (Turkey, 2000s), lived at International House when Cigdem was enrolled at Drexel. “We met people from all over the world. It was great,” he said. “I came to this reunion because I wanted to see old friends.” Abraham Marthan (Morocco, 1960s) shared memories of attending dances and enjoying meals with I-House friends when it was located in the former Whittier Hotel at the corner of 15th and Cherry Street. “I-House helped us adjust to the American way of life.” Mohammad Salehi Sadaghjiani (Iran, 2010s) said one of the wonderful things about living at I-House was the opportunity to enjoy cultural celebrations, especially Thanksgiving dinner. Echoing other alumni, Sarvelia Peralta-Duran (Mexico, 2000s) said her experience living at I-House was one that she will cherish always. She remembered being welcomed right away and becoming close friends with fellow residents from Scotland, Bosnia, Colombia and Turkey.
Enrico Lamet (Austria, 1950s) led a program at the Reunion in which he shared personal recollections of life at International House in the early 1950s. He said it was a special place where he would make lifelong friends after his family moved from Italy to the United States and Philadelphia five years after the end of World War II. Many young men and women of different nationalities and religious backgrounds would meet at I-House for dances and social activities on Friday and Saturday nights, he said. In those days, International House was located in the former Potts mansion at 3905 Spruce Street. Many of the young people that first met at I-House became couples and later married, recalled Enrico, who was an engineering student when he first came to I-House. Enrico said he forged a particularly strong bond with a group of men and women that would later meet every month for decades, no matter where they lived. Enrico also discussed his book, A Gift from the Enemy, a memoir that chronicles his childhood before and during World War II. Enrico’s family fled from Austria to Italy in 1938 when he was just eight-years-old, after Nazis troops marched into Vienna, the city where he was born. Enrico said his family lived in an Italian village under “free internment” until the town was liberated by American soldiers in 1943.
Julio Correa (Colombia, 2000s) and his daughter
From left: Jay Fishman (United States, 1970s), Marjan Fishman (The Netherlands, 1970s) and Daniel Kurtzman (United States, 1970s)
From left: Sarto Schickel (United States, 1980s), Carole Parker and Sun Hee Lee (South Korea, 1980s)
Lisa Caputo (United States, 2000s) and husband Rick Caputo with their sons
From left: Si Nae Pitts, Vladislav Pilyavsky (Russia, 1990s)
Nat Bender (United States, 2000s) and his son
International House Philadelphia
Resident Life Farewell Party & Awards Reception Spring is bittersweet for the staff of I-House because it is a time when we say “goodbye” to many of our residents as they receive diplomas from local universities and leave to begin the next chapter of their lives. It’s an annual rite of passage that International House Philadelphia celebrates each year with the Farewell Party and Awards Reception, an inspiring event in which we recognize residents that have distinguished themselves as leaders through their involvement in programs and activities. At this year’s reception, President & CEO Tanya Steinberg emphasized that International House is committed to helping residents become dynamic leaders who foster cultural understanding, give back to others and make the world a better place. “International House is a very special place,” Tanya said in her welcoming remarks at the April 22 reception. “It’s an organization where traditions and history are made by people like you. You are developing yourselves, you’re developing your paths, and we are here to support you.” Guest speaker Julio Correa (Colombia, 1990s) congratulated residents on their achievements and said his experience at International House changed his life. “It’s exciting to be back home. This is a home away from home for me, and I truly feel that way,” he said. Julio moved into I-House in 1998 after enrolling at Drexel University, where he went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and his MBA. Since graduating from Drexel, he works for Dow Chemical while staying connected with International House as a member of the Alumni Council. He has also dedicated his time and talents to organizations serving the Hispanic community.
In her remarks to residents, Alumni Relations Manager Shekeya Watkins summed up the feelings of fellow staff members, saying: “Many of you will be leaving, and that makes us sad. Your time as residents may have been short-lived, but your time as alumni of International House will be forever. You will always be part of our global community.” Other speakers included Chief Operating Officer Glenn Martin, Resident Advisor Shailly Saini (Canada), Board of Residents President Felipe Cesar Sousa e Silva (Brazil), and Resident MinhAnh Nguyen (Vietnam), a departing Fulbright scholar at Drexel. Echoing other residents, Minh-Anh expressed his gratitude to the I-House staff: “People at International House supported me all year long. I want to thank you for making my Pennsylvania experience beautiful. I will take this with me everywhere I go and this will make me a better person in the future.” Award recipients this year included: Kristine Alarcon (United States), who received the Most Involved Resident Award; Kinde Wubneh (United States), who received the Resident Community Spirit Award; and Saif Al Saudi (Iraq), who was named Resident Advisor of the Year. The reception, which included a delicious dinner buffet and refreshments, filled the South America room, where the residents expressed their warm appreciation with applause, laughter, hugs and tears, marking the unofficial end of another academic year at I-House.
International House Philadelphia
Projects for peace: R av i Sh r i va s tav IHP 2014-PRESENT, Nepal The inspiration for his project, Stitch for Peace, came from his mother, who lives in Nepal. “She has worked in the community for many years and she recognized the need for a program that could teach women practical skills,” he explains. According to Ravi, his project entails setting up a training center in the Rupandehi district of Nepal, purchasing sewing articles and equipment, and recruiting training staff and volunteers, followed by the launch of training programs. Nepalese women in local villages will be surveyed to identify interested participants. Then, as many as 60 women will be taught how to design, create, finish and make items ranging from handbags, scarves and neckties, to handicraft, dresses and Dhaki topi, a traditional Nepalese hat. Training is expected to commence in late July. “After 30 days of training, the women will possess new skills that they can also share with their families and communities,” Ravi says. “The long-term goal is that this project will encourage women that have been trained to form their own cooperatives.”
Ravi Shrivastav is thousands of miles away from his homeland of Nepal, but being a resident of International House is making it possible for him to help the community where he lived prior to coming to Philadelphia in 2014. This summer, after graduating with a Master’s degree in Biomedical Science from Drexel University, the soft-spoken 27-year-old will implement a program to train Nepalese women in sewing, tailoring and handicraft works so they will possess new skills to earn income and support their families. His program will be funded by a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant that was awarded to Ravi this year. Created in 2007 through the generosity of Kathryn W. Davis, an internationalist and philanthropist, Projects for Peace is a program that is open only to students living at International Houses around the world and to students at partner schools in the Davis United World College Program. One of the most important goals of Projects for Peace is to encourage student initiative, innovation and entrepreneurship focused on conflict prevention, resolution or reconciliation. “My project will help women become stronger economically and more independent, which can help reduce conflicts and promote peace,” Ravi says. “I’ve always wanted to do something for my community, so this is a great opportunity to do that.”
Ravi emphasizes that the project is important because many women in the community are underprivileged and have lesser opportunities of involvement. Being a Projects for Peace recipient is an honor that surprised Ravi, who submitted his proposal in January 2016 with support from Glenn Martin, Chief Operating Officer at International House Philadelphia. Kathryn W. Davis and her husband, Ambassador Shelby Cullom Davis, both lived at International House New York in 1929-30 while attending Columbia University. Mrs. Davis died in 2013 at 106 years of age, but her legacy lives on through Projects for Peace and through grant recipients like Ravi. As he prepares to leave International House this August to pursue a career in Biomedical Science. Ravi says that living here has been an unforgettable experience. “When I came to Philadelphia in 2014, I had never seen such skylines, and everything was technologically advanced; it is very different from Nepal,” Ravi admits. “I’m not as shy as I was then because I have interacted with people from all over the world in this diverse environment, and I’ve made new friends.” Ravi concludes: “Most of all, I’ve had the chance at International House to learn about many cultures, not only American culture. I think cultural understanding is a key to fostering peace around the world.”
International House Philadelphia
RESIDENT P ROFILE : K RISTINE ALARCON IHP 2015-PRESENT, UNITED STATES In November 2015, her interest in both public health and media led her to the Hepatitis B Foundation in Philadelphia, where she’s serving as a social media intern. “Social media is really a powerful tool for teaching and informing people, but it’s not always accurate, so you have to be careful about where you’re reading the information,” Kristine advises. Kristine’s parents were both born in the Philippines, but she’s a native Californian. She was born in San Jose and returns to Stockton, California periodically to visit her family. After enrolling at Drexel, she learned about International House through a friend, who was living in Philadelphia: “I chose to live here because I-House is a diverse community where cultures are shared, which I think is very important.” Once she arrived in Philadelphia, Kristine became a very energetic member of the I-House community. She started working at the Front Desk, joined the Arts Ensemble and served on the Board of Residents, where she chaired the Communications committee, naturally. Like many of her peers, Kristine Alarcon enjoys watching movies, television and videos, but the 22-year-old resident of I-House is focused on turning her passion for media into something that could make a difference in people’s lives. Kristine is exploring a potential career in entertainment education, with the goal of raising awareness of health issues through film, video and music. It’s a logical combination for Kristine, whose passion for communication and helping others is evident to everyone at International House, which has been her home away from home since 2015. Kristine moved from California to Philadelphia to attend Drexel University, where she is pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Health. Her avid interest in entertainment education was cultivated at the University of San Francisco, where she majored in Biology, minored in Music and participated in the school’s Performing Arts and Social Justice Program. That program sparked her interest in using her talents to help society, which she hopes to accomplish by creating awareness about health causes. “I was always interested in medicine and film, and I love writing and watching movies and TV shows,” says Kristine. “I’m reviewing literature at Drexel to see where entertainment education stands. It’s a fairly new field, so I’m working on expanding my knowledge and learning more about research in this field.”
Her commitment to making a positive difference at I-House was recognized at the Annual Farewell Party and Awards Reception in April, when she received the “Most Involved Resident Award.” “I was surprised to receive the award because I was just being myself. I like helping people and getting involved in events,” Kristine says. “International House is a special place where residents can explore their interests and broaden their horizons while living with peers from many different countries and cultures.” Kristine has one more year to go at Drexel before she graduates. After that, she may pursue a doctor degree in Public Health or Health Communications. “In the future, I’d like to work in creating awareness about health issues in Asian countries and addressing stigmas like AIDS, hepatitis and mental health,” Kristine says. Until then, Kristine is making the most of her stay at I-House, which includes occasional breaks from her busy schedule of studying and volunteering to enjoy films, especially romantic comedies. “I’m an optimist,” Kristine professes with an engaging smile. “I always have hope for everything, not just love.”
International House Philadelphia
1st Annual International Entrepreneurs Summit
Egypt’s Secret Side, with Karin Muller
INTERNATIONAL ENTREPRENEURS SUMMIT
EGYPT’S SECRET SIDE
Greenberg Traurig, LLP and International House Philadelphia partnered to present the 1st Annual International Entrepreneurs Summit of Philadelphia on March 22. Held in the Ibrahim Theater, this free event featured a number of distinguished panelists, who shared their expertise on how to launch new businesses and ventures in the Philadelphia region.
National Geographic explorer and filmmaker Karin Muller shared and discussed her newest documentary, Egypt’s Secret Side, on March 1 in a special event presented by the Geographical Society of Philadelphia and International House. Her film took the audience on a dramatic, fast-paced and unforgettable journey through a side of Egypt that few Westerners ever see.
Greenberg Traurig Counsel and IHP Board Member Nataliya Rymer conceived this idea and served as one of the panelists. “Philadelphia is becoming an international hub for scholars, researchers, and entrepreneurs from around the world,” she said. “The goal of this Summit was to inform them about opportunities and success stories in Philadelphia and connect them with people and resources so they will pursue their entrepreneurial dreams in this region.” Following the panel sessions, attendees had an opportunity to network with entrepreneurs, investors, government representatives and other professionals. Participating organizations included The Science Center, SELECT Greater Philadelphia, Temple University, Drexel University and Robin Hood Ventures. The Summit panelists included Tulio Albuquerque, Chief Executive Officer Partner of Initbridge; Beth Cohen, Director of Global Emerging Growth Services, Greenberg Traurig; Amir Fardshisheh, Co-Founder and CEO of Herban Quality Eats; David Gitlin, Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig, where he leads the firm’s Emerging Technology Practice; Marc Kramer, Executive Director of the Private Investors Forum, which introduces entrepreneurs to Angel investors; Jeanne Nevelos, Vice President of Business Expansion Services at SELECT Greater Philadelphia; Dhairya Pujara, Founder and CEO of Ycenter, where he has created community-centered projects in Mozambique, Africa and India; Karina Sotnik, Digital Portfolio Manager, PCI Ventures; and Ellen Weber, who serves as Executive Director, Robin Hood Ventures, and Executive Director of Temple University’s Fox School of Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute.
Nowruz Persian New Year Celebration
NOWRUZ I-House hosted a celebration of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on March 29. Open to the community, this festive event attracted more than 100 guests and International House residents, who enjoyed authentic Middle Eastern food, traditional Persian music and dancing, and egg decorating. At the center of the celebration was the Haft-Seen, a tabletop arrangement of seven symbolic items that are traditionally displayed at Nowruz. In conjunction with the Nowruz celebration, I-House presented an art exhibit highlighting the work of Iranian artist Medhi Saeedi.
Seijun Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter
CULTURE & CUISINE
Keiichi Tanaami, one of Japan’s most prominent and influential pop artists, and famed British pop artist Derek Boshier came to International House in March to discuss their cinematic work as part of a special film series, Pop: On Screen and Around the World, which International House presented through mid-May in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and its International Pop exhibit.
The Board of Delegates invited I-House residents, members and friends in the Philadelphia community for an evening of Culture & Cuisine at Brauhaus Schmitz, a popular German restaurant on South Street, where the authentic cuisine, including Bratwurst and Sauerbraten, was served family-style.
In April, I-House presented the Smithsonian’s touring retrospective of films by legendary Japanese director Seijun Suzuki. Co-organized with the Japan Foundation, the program featured groundbreaking films by Suzuki from the 1950s and 1960s. Tom Vick, Curator of Film, Freer and Sackler Galleries at the Smithsonian Institution, visited International House on April 2 to sign copies of his new book, Time and Place Are Nonsense: The Films of Seijun Suzuki, at a screening of The Sleeping Beast Within. He also introduced Youth of the Beast, one of Suzuki’s breakthrough films. Through Indian Eyes: Native American Cinema, a landmark touring program featuring 20 films directed by and about Native Americans, opened at the Ibrahim Theater in May. This remarkable event, which shattered stereotypes perpetuated by Hollywood for decades, was organized by the UCLA Film & Television Archive and supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Through Indian Eyes: Native American Cinema
Culture & Cuisine at Brauhaus Schmitz
SPECIAL EVENTS International House Philadelphia was proud to host Penn Nursing’s event on March 24 to honor Dr. Denis Mukwege, a physician who has risked his life to mend thousands of women that have been raped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where warring militias have used mass rape as a weapon of terror. The Nobel Peace Prize nominee came to Philadelphia to receive Penn Nursing’s Renfield Foundation Award for Global Women’s Health. Dr. Mukwege inspired the audience in the Ibrahim Theater as he fielded questions about his humanitarian work, his stand against violence toward women, and his compassionate commitment to restoring hope and dignity in the lives of women.
International House Philadelphia
ALU M NI S P OTLIG H T: TANYA STORCH IHP 1992, RUSSIA “When we came to the United States, we ended up living in Albuquerque because my husband happened to have a Jewish friend who lived there. After we arrived, we were on television and in the newspapers because there were very few Russian refugees in Albuquerque. We were as interesting to them as an elephant with six tusks,” recalls Tanya, who displayed a warm, expressive personality during a recent visit to International House. It was in Albuquerque where she and her family watched, on a small television, the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991 as Mikhail Gorbachev resigned his post as president of the Soviet Union, leaving Boris Yeltsin as president of the newly independent Russian state. “That was indescribable. It didn’t seem real,” says Tanya, whose family received support from Catholic Charities when they arrived in New Mexico, before settling into a two-bedroom apartment that she described as “paradise.” Before leaving Russia, she earned a Master’s degree in East Asian Studies from the University of St. Petersburg. After arriving in the United States, she eventually decided to pursue a PhD in East Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, which brought her to Philadelphia and I-House, while her family remained in New Mexico.
Tanya Storch’s long journey to the United States and International House began when she fled her homeland of Russia with her husband and their two young sons in 1989, shortly before the collapse of the former Soviet Union and its communist government. “By that time, I had been detained and interrogated several times because of my religious studies,” she recalls. “To me, my beautiful homeland had become like one giant prison under the communist regime. When we left, we were religious political refugees. We were allowed to take only two suitcases each and I wasn’t permitted to take any of my dictionaries and artworks.” Using Israeli visas secured from a distant relative, their first destination was Vienna and then they went to Rome, where they lived for 1½ years with an Italian family that took them in until they were granted permission to enter the U.S. “We were refugees and they hosted us out of the goodness of their hearts,” says Tanya. During her family’s time in Rome, Tanya was a research fellow at the Italian Institute of Oriental Studies. After being interviewed by the U.S. Embassy in Rome, Tanya’s family eventually got the news they had been waiting for – they would be allowed to go to America, where they started their new life in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city far removed from Russia.
“I stayed at International House in 1992 after enrolling in the doctorate program at the University of Pennsylvania,” Tanya recalls. “It wasn’t my original plan, but when my dorm room at Penn wasn’t ready, I turned to I-House, where I found a very welcoming and comforting environment and the support that I really needed. I-House saved this international scholar when I had no place to stay.” Since graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1995, Tanya has had a distinguished career in teaching and as an author of numerous articles, publications and books. Today, she is a Professor of Religious Studies at University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where her spiritual journey continues. Where are you from originally? I was born in the city of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg. As a Professor of Religious Studies, what are your scholarly interests? My interest in studying religions has always been from a comparative perspective. I research and teach various subjects in people’s religious lives and activities, so that people can better understand each other and so that, ultimately, we will lead a peaceful and respectful life in all of our societies.
How would you describe the essence of Buddhism and what it means to you?
When you’re not teaching, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
My specific interest in Buddhist traditions involves studying moral precepts, scriptures, meditation, compassion, and the idea of oneness of all life. I seek to understand the Buddhist-based pedagogy and the ways in which mindfulness can be taught in the classroom.
I travel across the world to meet new people and learn new things. I love reading. I am a certified practitioner of Reiki and Zen meditation. I also enjoy being with nature. My husband knows every plant, bird, and animal in Northern California, so I enjoy walking with him in the Sierra Mountains. I also like to spend time with students outside of the classroom, teaching them how to meditate and visiting local Buddhist, Confucian and Hindu temples. Personally, I’m always seeking spirituality and a new way of seeing the world.
Can you share a few highlights of your career path? My career path has been spectacularly varied. I’ve been a Research Fellow at the St. Petersburg Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, a Lecturer at the Department of Middle Eastern and Asian Languages at the University of Pennsylvania, an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and now I’m a full professor at University of the Pacific, in California. I’ve also held exciting positions in research, travel, and teaching. America has been very good to me. Tell us about some of your published works… I have written more than 30 academic and artistic publications in the field of East Asian Studies. The most recent include The History of Chinese Buddhist Bibliography: Censorship and Transformation of the Tripitaka; Buddhist-based Universities in the United States: Searching for a New Model in Higher Education; and Mastering the Five Elements. In The History of Chinese Buddhist Bibliography, I demonstrate the importance of the Chinese Buddhist scholars’ contribution to the formation of scriptural canon. In Buddhist-based Universities, I examine pedagogical principles that are now in use at four distinguished universities: Naropa University, University of the West, Soka University of America, and Dharma Realm Buddhist University. In Mastering the Five Elements, I explain a complex system of energy movements and phases of natural and personal evolution, which are commonly referred to as the Five Elements, including water, wood (which I translate as “tree”), fire, earth, and metal. What is your fondest memory of living at I-House? The time I spent at International House was crucial for an international scholar like me. It’s a place that fosters cultural understanding, which is so important to me. Everyone at I-House gave me so much encouragement and support, which I really appreciated because my family was back in New Mexico when I enrolled at Penn. My fondest memory was feeling safe at International House and being greeted and supported by the wonderful staff and other international students there. I also remember eating lots of cereal and tomato soup from a food pantry, which I honestly didn’t like very much!
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be? If I could change one thing in the world, it would be human consciousness. Only when each and every individual understands that individual happiness depends on happiness of all others, will we truly solve our problems.
International House Philadelphia
CLASS NOTES 1950 s
Chandrakant “Chuck” Gupta (India) helped organize this year’s 24th Annual Philadelphia International Cricket Festival, which was held on May 1st at the Germantown Cricket Club (GCC) in Philadelphia. Chuck revived the game of cricket at GCC in 1991. Under his management, the Club’s team won the finals in 1997. He played for the team until 2004. Chuck was also instrumental in organizing and managing Temple University’s first cricket team, created in 1959.
Gunter Seidel (Germany) and Bernadette Seidel (France) recently visited I-House after flying to Philadelphia from Germany to attend the Alumni Reunion of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Their visit to International House brought back warm memories for the retired couple. Gunter and Bernadette both lived at the House and participated in the Host Family Program. Gunter credits the program for introducing him to Bernadette. “We met at a dinner given by our host families, Gladys Saldana and Dr. Francis Schuman. We both lived at the House, but had never met prior to the dinner. We have been together since then and it started here,” Gunter shared.
Gabriel Siri (El Salvador) and his wife, Maxine, visited I-House in April. Gabriel is a former Director of Mexico’s subregional headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. He says that he and Maxine are now retired and enjoying life. “International House is a great place. I met my wife here,” Gabriel said during his visit. Maxine never resided at International House, but she and Gabriel both frequented the café at the House, which is where they met. The couple now resides in Rockville, Maryland.
Patricia Le Foll (France) is the founder and owner of A l’Ecole Française, a French language school for adults that she opened in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania in 1994. Patricia’s school is still thriving after 22 years. After leaving I-House, she married, and moved from France to the United States, where she became a U.S. citizen in 1994 while remaining a citizen of France. Patricia says she worked for seven schools, including ten years at Temple University, teaching French, French for Business, and organizing plays in French. “I still feel I-House is the birth house of my American life, and have only good memories of the time I lived there,” she says. “I keep my old I-House card in my wallet. Voila!”
Hiroko Kubota (Japan) returned to International House for the first time in 25 years while touring Philadelphia in April, accompanied by her husband, Hiroshi, and their daughter, Ayako. Hiroko says she has so many fond memories of I-House that she had to stop in. Hiroko’s family currently resides in Tenafly, New Jersey after moving from Japan due to her husband’s work. She says they are adjusting nicely and plan stay in the United States for two years before returning to Tokyo.
Quy Cory Quach (United States) now calls Hong Kong home! He is currently working as a Professor of Fashion and Luxury Marketing at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Hong Kong. When he isn’t working at the university, Quy is building his own fashion and food brands.
Selection Advisory Board of the GreenLight Fund; the Steering Committee for Project U-Turn; and the Philadelphia Continuum of Care Advisory Committee. She is also a member of the Forum of Executive Women. Simran is a 2009 graduate of LEADERSHIP Philadelphia. She was named to the 40 Under 40 award by the Philadelphia Business Journal in 2009. She was a speaker at TEDx Philadelphia 2014.
Simran Sidhu (India, 1990s) has served as executive director of YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School since 2002 and as president of the YouthBuild USA Affiliated Network. YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School has 21 years of experience helping young people rebuild their lives. The school has a unique, one-year program that provides high school dropouts with a chance to earn their diplomas while learning vital job skills and providing valuable community services. In addition to working for YouthBuild, she serves on the Speakers Bureau and the Campaign Cabinet for United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey; the Board of The Reinvestment Fund; the
In April 2016, IHP President & CEO Tanya Steinberg visited the YouthBuild school and saw Simran in action. This visit was coordinated by Michael Imperato, a member of IHP’s Board of Delegates and Director of Postsecondary Career Development at YouthBuild. Simran spent three years at I-House in the early 1990s while pursuing her graduate studies in Journalism at Temple University. She made many friends at I-House, most of whom were graduate students. While at I-House she was a Café RA, which helped her to make friends and become more social. Simran’s connection to I-House are very personal. She met her husband through a friend that lived at I-House. Her sister-in-law also lived at I-House for more than two years on her recommendation. Simran currently resides in Philadelphia with her husband and their two children.
Kagan Irez (Turkey) received his PhD from Columbia University in New York, and is now working at Karadeniz Technical University’s Electrical and Electronics Department in Trabzon, Turkey. Kagan says his experience at I-House allowed him to gain lifetime international friends. Before moving to Turkey, he returned to International House many times to visit friends, until they all departed to different locations around the world. “Staying at IHP was a decision I’ll never regret,” Kagan says.
Zohra Omar (Pakistan) resides in Bogotá, Colombia, her home for the last five years. She currently works at the Ministry of Education as an advisor to the Vice Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, and manages one project at the national level. Zohra enjoys spending her free time dancing Cuban Salsa in a dance academy. She is now fluent in Spanish, her third language, and she’s is interested in meeting up with other alumni that plan to visit Colombia.
Kaichin Chang (China) and her friends are running a small non-governmental organization, Handshake 302, in an urban village in Shenzhen, China. She is also working as an artist and art organizer for public art projects and events. Kaichin says she still keeps in touch with her friends from I-House, and is sure they will remain lifelong friends. “Living and working with people from all around world at International House was a unique experience,” she says. “I still benefit from that. I learned how to respect differences and appreciate them.”
Seth Glassman (United States) is the proud owner of Funky Fresh, a natural fermentation company that he started in 2015. After opening his first store last October, he has also started selling his products in coffee shops, bars, markets and restaurants. Though he is extremely busy running every aspect of his business, Seth says that he finds his work extremely gratifying and fulfilling. After leaving International House seven years ago, Seth held a number of different jobs and traveled. While in California, he stayed on an organic self-sustaining eco farm, which illuminated a new way of life for him. Upon returning to Philadelphia in the fall of 2013, Seth started delving into the world of wild fermentation, which led him to start Funky Fresh. “I am so glad that my first years in Philadelphia began with I-House as my home. It was an amazing environment to cultivate creativity and inspiration. I feel very lucky,” he says.
International House Philadelphia
Yilmaz Kaymak (Turkey) says his time at International House and the University of Pennsylvania helped him refine his life and career objectives. After leaving I-House in 2006, he returned to Europe to continue working as a Business Development Manager for SHV Holdings, a private equity-backed group with interests in transport, retail, energy, oil & gas, and financial services in the Netherlands and Turkey. Yilmaz says he soon realized that “I had the power and courage to really understand how I would live my life moving forward.” So in 2008, he returned to Philadelphia and pursued his graduate degree at University of Pennsylvania. In 2012, he received an MBA/MSE degree in finance and technology management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and School of Engineering. Today, he works for Novocure, a biotechnology company that researches and develops novel technologies for the treatment of cancers. Yilmaz enjoys being involved with the Wharton/Penn community, where he mentors students, stays active in the Penn Center of Innovation and the Wharton Club of Philadelphia, and attends conferences such as the Wharton Private Equity and Venture Capital Conference and the Wharton Healthcare Business Conference. In his free time, he enjoys running, biking and traveling. “It’s amazing that every weekend when I am in Philly, my friends and I explore there is something that we never knew before – like new cultural events, new restaurants, arts, and music.” He also enjoys studying modern arts.
Vishnu Sivakumar (India) says that some of his fondest memories of Philadelphia are of his time as a Resident Advisor at International House. “As a graduate student at Penn, away from Bangalore, India and my family for the first time, I-House became my home away from home,” he recalls. After leaving I-House, Vishnu moved to San Jose, California to work as a Software Engineer at Cisco Systems. Later, he moved back to Bangalore, India to work for his family business. Reflecting his strong bonds with friends he made at International House, two of Vishnu’s fellow former Resident Advisors, Priyanka Gulati (Germany) and Ari Yasunaga (Japan) traveled to India for Vishnu’s wedding in 2013, six years after they left I-House. Vishnu and his wife, Yashoda, now reside in the United Kingdom, where he recently met another I-House alumnus, Yulia Guzairova (Russia), for breakfast to reminisce about the good old times. “They say the world is a small place, but when you’re an I-House alum, it is even smaller… a friendly face from I-House is always just a few steps away,” he concludes.
Italian training company. Upon returning to Italy, she began an internship at Eyes, and is now the new project manager of the Master courses that they organize in Philadelphia. “I hope to come back in September with the new students this year. I miss International House so much,” she says.
Rao Kaza Sreen Vasu (India) reports that he is presently a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Khoula Hospital in Muscat, Oman. “My memories at IHP are very vivid and wonderful,” he says. Rao stayed at IHP during his International Society of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology (SICOT) fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Obielumani Ideh (Nigeria) visited International House in April after leaving more than a decade ago. After living at I-House, she went to Buffalo, N.Y. for her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and then returned home to Nigeria, where she got married, had three children and worked for public, private and non-profit organizations. “It was such a thrill to walk through the doors of I-House doors again. Everyone needs to come back at least once if they can. I’m glad I did,” she says.
Cristiana Musu (Italy) returned to Rome after completing the Master course in Philadelphia in Digital Business Management, organized by Eyes Srl, an
Jingyi Sun (China) has received an acceptance letter from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she plans to continue her education this fall. She has enjoyed traveling to places such as the Bahamas, Yellowstone National Park, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and Los Angeles, where she was visiting a friend. Jingyi plans to spend this summer in China before returning to the United States for the fall semester. “I have lots of great memories at IHP, especially volunteering for Global Gala Korea,” she says. “I miss the International House staff and my friends. I will go back some day to say ‘Hi’ to all of you.”
A lu m n i Am ba s s a d o r s Needed Minji Kim (South Korea) says she has many wonderful memories of I-House and that looking back on those memories makes her smile. She misses working with her best friend and fellow alumna, Kinde Wubneh (United States), a former Community Advisor at International House. Minji now spends much of her time in South Korea at the library studying to accomplish her dream of one day becoming a certified public accountant. “I think International House is the place where people can have a dream and prepare to make that happen,” she says. “My thoughts deepened through the experiences I had at the House, and now I am working hard to make my dream come true, like many other alumni.” Taje Daniel (United States) recently graduated from Community College of Philadelphia with an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts. Taje plans to attend Central Penn College this fall to pursue a degree in criminal justice.
Would you like to reengage with International House Philadelphia? Would you like to reconnect with alumni around the world? Are you the type of person who enjoys contributing your time and talent to a worthy cause? If you answered yes to those questions, we’ve got a wonderful opportunity for you! We’re looking for enthusiastic alumni volunteers that would be willing to represent IHP in various geographical regions as Alumni Ambassadors. Alumni Ambassadors support the IHP Alumni Relations Department in bridging the gap between International House Philadelphia, alumni and potential residents. If you found living at IHP to be a life-changing experience that broadened your horizons and helped you forge lasting friendships with fellow residents, we hope that you will consider joining our team of IHP Alumni Ambassadors. Please contact Shekeya Watkins, Alumni Relations Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her at 1-215-895-6598 to learn more.
Our Ambassadors: • Correspond regularly with alumni to encourage engagement in planned activities; • Spearhead alumni initiatives in their geographical region, including planning reunions and outings; • Serve as a point-of-contact and resource for IHP alumni living in or visiting their region.
From left: Si Nae Pitts, Vladislav Pilyavsky (Russia, 1990s), Beknazar Abduvalieva (Kyrgyz Republic, 2010s) Stefan Kratounov (Bulgaria, 2000s) and Jennifer Scheuerman
3701 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
From left: Saniya Ossikbayeva (Kazakhstan, 2016, Tanya Steinberg, Hasti Atash Shirazi (Iran, 2016) and Banu Yeszhan (Kazakhstan, resident)
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