A display of 71 international flags lined the academic quad last week as a traditional part of International Education Week.
Sean Cornell, Shippensburg University geography and earth science professor, began organizing the event at its inception 11 years ago.
“I sit on the international education advisory board, and I’ve always been inspired by all things international,” Cornell said.
His admiration for international subjects is just one of Cornell’s reasons for starting the flag display. When he began organizing the event, Cornell wanted to get younger students involved as well.
“I was looking for a way to get the elementary students on campus involved in International Education Week,” Cornell said. “So, I decided to make international flags.”
For the first few years he organized the event, Cornell had the fifth-grade students from the Grace B. Luhrs Elementary School make a flag for each country that someone at SU came from. The event grew quickly, and there were too many flags for the students to make so the university started purchasing them.
However, having too many flags to make was not the only reason the university started buying flags. While the flags were displayed one night, someone stole nearly half of them. Cornell was afraid that the elementary students would be upset if they saw their flag was stolen, so he decided to take the flags down each evening and have the students help hang them again in the morning.
“This is the first year the fifth graders haven’t participated and that’s because of COVID-19.” Cornell said. “They always had a blast with it.”
Although the flag display can stand alone, it serves a purpose for International Education Week.
“When we’re all on campus, it’s a great signal to let everyone know that it is International Education Week,” Cornell said. “So many people walk through the heart of campus, it’s an awareness thing.”
Diversity has been a major subject at SU. From students and faculty meeting to discuss race relations to the university hosting its first diversity week, there is no shortage of diverse opportunities on campus. Ultimately, for Cornell, the flags embody the diversity movement.
“To me, it’s really a visual representation of the diversity of our campus,” Cornell said. “I feel this week, and having the flags out, is a way to uplift everyone. We’re richer together because of our diversity, not in spite of it.”
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