More than 500 members of the Syracuse University community came together to share a meal on Nov. 18, as the University held its 37th Annual International Thanksgiving Celebration. Guests enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving dinner together in the Schine Student Center’s Goldstein Auditorium this year, after the event was moved to a virtual format last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chef and student turkey carving

Joe Sidoni, associate director of catering with Food Services, poses with a student after the traditional carving of the turkey.

The celebration was started at the University in the 1980s by the Rev. T.E. Koshy as a way to bring international students together and introduce them to the American Thanksgiving tradition. For many years, students, faculty, staff and alumni have come together to enjoy a meal and learn more about one another.

The event opened with a greeting by co-host Juan Tavares, director of the Center for International Services, and invocation by Baptist Chaplain Devon Bartholomew. Welcome remarks were offered by co-host Dr. Ruth Chen, Professor of Practice in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and Chancellor Kent Syverud.

“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.”

Regina Jones, assistant director of the Native Student Program and a member of the Oneida Nation’s Turtle Clan, offered the Native American Blessing.

Staff from Food Services prepared and served traditional Thanksgiving foods—including turkey, stuffing, mashed and sweet potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, and apple and pumpkin pie, as well as vegetarian and Halal meals.

Students at tables

Students gather together before the start of the dinner.

The carving of the turkey by Catering Services Associate Director Joe Sidoni—an annual tradition—was one of the highlights. The Hendricks Chapel Choir, under the direction of Peppie Calvar, performed musical selections and the benediction was offered by Muslim Chaplain Amir Duric.

Joy Nyokabi, a graduate student in Pan African studies in the College of Arts and Sciences from Nairobi, Kenya, was happy to be a part of the celebration in the African American studies department.

“I was so pleased to have been invited to the International Student Thanksgiving, I thought it was such a great initiative to bring international students together, make them feel like they belong and share with them a small piece of American culture,” she says. “I was so full at the end of the night but still wanted to have more turkey with cranberry sauce!”

Ze Zeng, a senior from Beijing, China, double majoring in business analysis and finance in the Whitman School, was glad to be there as well.

“It is awesome that Syracuse University is hosting the dinner for international students,” he said. “This is a great time to meet new friends and connect with the University community.”

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