If upcoming events at Johnson C. Smith University feel surprisingly international, they were planned feel that way.
On Friday, Ronald Carter will be installed as JCSU’s 13th president, so a major event surrounding his inauguration will spotlight one of his primary goals — to give the school and its students more of a global perspective.
The university will host a “Passport to the World Cultural Extravaganza” on Friday, April 16. Visitors will sample exotic foods, entertainment and vendors showcasing Africa, Asia and Latin America. The event is free and open to the public.
Then on May 3, Daud Hari, who escaped the Darfur region of Sudan and later wrote a book about his experience, will deliver the school’s 142nd commencement address.
JCSU spokesman Benny Smith said the events are no coincidence. Since Carter arrived in July 2008, Smith said, the new president has worked to build a faculty and student that is more culturally diverse.
“We are a multicultural society,” Smith said. “College is kind of a staging environment for the real world. You can’t learn everything you need from a book.”
The JCSU student body is more than 90 percent African American.
To nudge more JCSU students toward global thinking, Carter earlier this year found money to buy passports for more than 300 students who signed up for one, many of them first-time passport holders. Seven of those who signed up were selected to go on a JCSU-paid trip to Rome in June.
Carter also started a global studies program and hired an instructor fluent in seven languages.
As JCSU recruits a more diverse faculty and student body, Smith said, the public needn’t worry that the school will lose its sense of history.
“We are a historically black college,” he said. “We’re never going to lose that. We just want to make sure we open up. It can only help us to bring in different types of students an staff. That’s the whole thing right now, communicating in a multicultural world.”
Aside from events that stress multiculturalism, the university also will sponsor several events this week that are free to the public. Smith said the events are part of Carter’s continuing effort to build a stronger relationship between the school and the Charlotte community.
And for the first time, Smith said, graduation ceremonies this year will be held on campus, and the public is invited. Commencement activities in the past were held at
the former Cricket Arena, now Bojangles’ Coliseum.
To see a complete schedule of this week’s inauguration events, including those open to the public, go to www.jcsu.edu.