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University Community Members Share Traditional Fare for International Thanksgiving Celebration – Syracuse University News

Nearly 700 first-year international students and members of the University community recently came together to celebrate the University’s 38th Annual International Thanksgiving Celebration, a beloved University tradition. The event, sponsored by the Chancellor’s House and the Center for International Services, was held in the Schine Student Center’s Goldstein Auditorium and the Schine Underground on Nov. 17.
Started by the University in the 1980s by then-Evangelical Chaplain Rev. T.E. Koshy, the celebration is intended to introduce new International Students to the American Thanksgiving experience. For nearly four decades, the event has served as a celebration of cross-cultural friendship, international community and fellowship. It is believed to be the only celebration of its kind on a college campus in the United States.
Students gather around Joe Sidoni, Associate Director of Drumlins Food and Beverage, as he carves the ceremonial turkey on the Goldstein Auditorium Stage. (Photo by Angela Ryan)
“The spirit of the dinner is the true meaning of giving thanks,” says Dr. Ruth Chen, Professor of Practice in the College of Engineering and Computer Science and co-host of the event. “As we come together to share this special meal, the action of gratitude is taking place.”
Many international students cannot travel home for the holidays, says Director of the Center for International Services Juan Tavares, event co-host. “This event gives international students an opportunity to feel that they are home, being able to come together and share dinner with so many fellow international students,” he says.
University Catering prepared and served a family-style meal with all the traditional fixings—including 600 pounds of turkey, 300 pounds of dressing, 16 gallons of gravy and 150 pumpkin and apple pies (with whipped cream, a delight for many of the students). Kosher and Halal turkey and vegetarian options were also served. Vendors from the greater Syracuse area donated all of the food, linens and table decorations.
In addition to the logistics of preparing and serving such a large and important meal, Catering staff dealt with an unexpected challenge. Twenty minutes before the dinner’s 6:30 p.m. start time, the elevator to the auditorium broke down. All staff, including employees from the Schine food court, worked to push hot boxes out the front door of Schine, down the Einhorn Family Walk, down the ramps in front of Bird Library to Waverly Avenue and up the ramp into Goldstein Auditorium.
Regina Jones, member of the Oneida Nation Turtle Clan, who recently retired as Assistant Director of the University’s Native Student Program, helps a student during the dinner portion of the event. (Photo by Charles Wainwright)
A highlight of the evening was the ceremonial carving of the turkey on the Goldstein Auditorium stage. Students, with phone cameras in hand, eagerly crowded around Associate Director of Drumlins Food and Beverage Joe Sidoni as he carved the turkey—an annual tradition at the event.
As dinner was served and enjoyed, table hosts—faculty, staff and community members—engaged attendees in conversation and answered questions surrounding the traditions of Thanksgiving.
“Thanksgiving is about counting your blessings and appreciating your connections with others. Here at Syracuse University, we are blessed to have international students as part of our student body and our global network of alumni,” said Chancellor Syverud. “You bring unique perspectives that help us nurture a global outlook. You inspire dialogue across cultures and languages and traditions. You make friends with people who grew up very differently than you have. We learn as much from you as you do from your professors and mentors.”
Baptist Chaplain Devon Bartholomew gave the invocation. Native American Blessing was given by Regina Jones, member of the Oneida Nation Turtle Clan, who recently retired as Assistant Director of the University’s Native Student Program. Muslim Chaplain Amir Duric gave the benediction.
The Hendricks Chapel Choir, under the direction of José “Peppie” Calvar, performed two songs, “Run Toboggan Run” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain.” (Photo by Angela Ryan)
The Hendricks Chapel Choir, under the direction of José “Peppie” Calvar, Associate Professor of Applied Music and Performance and Assistant Director of Choral Activities in the Setnor School of Music, performed two songs, “Run Toboggan Run” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain.”
David Ojo, a graduate student in Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, says the dinner was his first Thanksgiving experience but certainly not his last. “It was quite an experience, the food, the atmosphere and above all the opportunity to connect with people of diverse cultures and backgrounds was something special to me,” he says. I understand the dinner is a long-standing tradition at SU, I hope it’s kept for a long time. God bless the organizers and all who have helped in keeping it going.”
“I enjoyed myself at the International Thanksgiving Dinner,” says Ameya Wakankar, a second-year Chemical Engineering graduate student in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. “The dinner was well organized and the food was delicious. I got a taste of the American Thanksgiving traditions and also got to meet some interesting people. I had a great time attending the event.”
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