University of Pittsburgh appoints new director of Nationality Rooms
The University of Pittsburgh has appointed a new director of Nationality Rooms and cross-cultural exchange programs – someone who is very familiar with the many benefits students can derive from grassroots culture.
Kati Csoman, who received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Pitt, took on the role on Tuesday. She succeeds E. Maxine Bruhns, who ran the Nationality Rooms program from 1965 until her death in 2020.
“She took me under her wing,” Csoman said of Bruhns, who she said was a mentor during her undergraduate studies. “She has modeled behavior that is appropriate in cross-cultural studies.”
Csoman’s relationship with the Nationality Rooms dates back to her undergraduate years, when, in 1988, she received a scholarship from the Hungarian Room Committee. Csoman – a Hungarian-American whose father came to the United States from Hungary in 1957 – was able to visit the country for a study trip abroad thanks to the scholarship.
“It opened up the world to me,” she said of the experience, which allowed her to study Hungarian language and culture. She also met relatives who lived in a village east of Budapest.
Due to her ties to the program, Csoman said she knew the new role would be a perfect fit.
“It was a position and it’s a unit of the university that I have always felt this deep affiliation and affinity with,” Csoman said. “When the position became available I felt very compelled to apply for the position because I care so much about myself. “
After completing her undergraduate studies, she spent a year working at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest on a State Department scholarship. She returned to earn an MA from Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.
Csoman then spent approximately 20 years at Juniata College in Huntingdon, becoming Dean of International Education. In this capacity, she chaired the International Education Committee and the Global Village Advisory Council and won the McDowell Pinnacle Leadership Award 2017, among other accolades. She also completed a three-year term on the Board of Directors of the Association of International Education Administrators.
She has long been active in the Hungarian-American community in the Pittsburgh area, previously chair and secretary of the Hungarian Pitt Hall committee.
Between Juniata and Pitt, she worked as Associate Director for Global Program Innovation and Assistant Professor at Penn State University.
In his new role, Csoman will lead the operations of Pitt’s 31 museum-grade classrooms and cross-cultural programming which includes tours, student groups, scholarships, faculty grants, and cultural and cultural programs and programs. educational.
“At a time when international education is rethinking the field, there is no doubt that Kati’s vision for a community-based, creative and critical approach to advancing future Nationality Rooms projects, programs and activities will make critical interventions that s ‘align with Pitt’s mission. and strategic priorities, ”said Ariel C. Armony, vice-president for global affairs and director of the University Center for International Studies. “Our team is delighted to welcome Kati to the UCIS family.”
The concept of the Nationality Rooms was conceived by Pitt Chancellor John Gabbert Bowman in 1926, the year construction crews inaugurated the 42-story Cathedral of Learning. They were meant to function as classrooms while presenting the cultures of Pittsburgh’s immigrant populations.
Among the first dedicated rooms were the German, Russian, Scottish and Swedish rooms in 1938, followed by the Czechoslovak, Yugoslav, Hungarian and Chinese rooms in 1939 and the Polish and Lithuanian rooms in 1940.
Visits to nationality rooms are currently carried out online. In-person visits are scheduled to resume on September 1 by appointment.
While Csoman has said she looks forward to getting back to business in person, she said she also aims to make good use of virtual programming.
“It’s great because I think virtual engagement also opens it up to a wider geographical range of participation and also to people with reduced mobility or more comfortable in their own space,” she said. declared.
Thematic tours – which tackle themes ranging from fairy tales to the women represented in the rooms – are available online.
Csoman said she hopes to incorporate more activities for children visiting the rooms on family trips or field trips. She said she wanted to find new ways to involve the community in a “wonderful treasure that is so important to the university”.
While nationality rooms are an important part of the Pitt community, she said she wanted to make sure everyone in the wider community feels welcome to visit the rooms as well. In addition, she said, she hopes to expand ties with other institutions and organizations across the region.
“I want the community to feel welcome and engaged – not that they haven’t been – but to welcome and engage the campus community and, more broadly, the community, in Pittsburgh and beyond. “said Csoman. “It’s such an incredible cultural treasure.